When NFL expands length of season, single-season records obviously will fall

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The debate has begun and it could be raging by midnight, especially if Cooper Kupp gets the single-season receptions record or the receiving yardage record or if T.J. Watt breaks the single-season sack record. And while we won’t discourage the differing of reasonable minds as to what it all means, there is one undeniable fact about the grave danger that certain single-season records face.

The league chose to expand the regular season from 16 to 17 games. Barring something dramatic and unexpected, it’s never going back to 16. Thus, the league has opened the door for new single-season records based on 17 games. Whether they fall this year or next year or the next year or after the season inevitably expands to 18, the NFL controls the number of games. The bigger the season, the better the chance that someone will break a record set in a smaller season.

That’s the easiest response to anyone who wants to apply an asterisk to 17-game season records, a goofy concept premised on the notion that 2021 is some sort of experiment or temporary arrangement. It’s not. The 16-game season is dead; long live the 17-game season. Until it dies, too.

It happened in 1978 with the 14-game season. I followed the NFL as closely as I could in the pre-ESPN/pre-Al Gore’s invention days, and I can’t remember any arguments about records based on a 16-game season being inferior to records based on a 14-game season. They were just different. Indeed, when Eric Dickerson set the single-season rushing record in 1984, with fewer yards per game than O.J. SImson’s 14-game standard, no one complained.

Why not? Because the size of the season had changed. And it has changed again. And it will change one more time.

To counter the asterisk crowd, some will say, “Well, so-and-so missed one or more games, so he’s not actually playing in 17 games.” That doesn’t matter. The players pursuing single-season records today wouldn’t have the chance to do so if the season hadn’t grown by a week.

As time passes and the records reset, this shouldn’t be an issue. It shouldn’t even be an issue now, because it’s the NFL’s prerogative to expand the season. It has done so. That necessarily will result in new single-season records — unless and until all single-season records are redefined to be based on production per game, with a minimum number of games played.

If that didn’t happen when the season grew from 14 to 16, it’s not happening now. And it won’t happen when the season grows to 18.

6 responses to “When NFL expands length of season, single-season records obviously will fall

  1. One thing that has become pretty meaningless is the 1,000 yard rushing season. Over 17 games, that’s less than 60 yards per game.

  2. TJ Watt will have broken the sack record in 2021 in 16 games played (if he gets it done today). He deserves DPOY.

  3. I’m fine with records changing as the number of games increases, but it would be fun and interesting for the NFL to also include production-per-game records. It would honor and make older players known to new generations. You can learn a lot about NFL history looking at records. BTW, props to Night Trane Lane for still holding the interception record that he accomplished in a 12-game season!

  4. Watt has missed 2 games this year and thus, will have broken the sack record in 15 games played (if he gets it done today). #DPOY WINNER

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