Cold Hard Football Facts: A look at what records may fall this season
The Cold, Hard Football Facts copy of the 2007 NFL Record & Fact Book was so tattered and abused that we confused it with Dan Marino's playoff legacy.
So it was with great excitement the other day that we picked up the brand-new 2008 version of this Bible of NFL data.
Of course, not everybody can be bothered to actually read the NFL Record & Fact Book. Even hard-core football fans find it a little daunting. For most of you, it's like Vanity Fair or a book of modern art, something you stick on the coffee table so guests think you're sophisticated, but that you will never actually open and read.
But the compendium is truly an oasis of cool, refreshing knowledge. And the best part? We've done the work for you!
We tore through the pages of the brand-new 2008 NFL Record & Fact book this week, pulling out all the tastiest statistical gossip you need to know about heading into the new season. Naturally, these juicy morsels are highlighted by the records that fell last year and the new milestones likely to be set here in 2008.
Every football fan knows that if Brett Favre returns in 2008, he'll continue to pad some of the most impressive passing stats in history. He already holds records for virtually every volume stat, including passing yards (61,655), attempts (8,758), completions (5,377) and TDs (442).
But not every fan knows that Favre is also the most prolific turnover machine in league history, coughing up the ball so often Robitussin wants to sign him to a long-term sponsorship deal.
Favre's already the all-time leader in INTs (288), easily surpassing Dead Ball Era dinosaurs such as No. 2 George Blanda (277) and No. 3 John Hadl (268).
But Favre's no regular-season phenom.
He's just as prolific in the postseason, too. Favre's crushing INT in overtime against the Giants not only ruined, in true Favre-ian fashion, an otherwise amazing season for the Pack, it tied him with another postseason INT expert, Jim Kelly, for the most playoff picks in history (28).
But fear not, Cheeseheads. His oopsies are not limited to passes gone astray. Favre also needs to fumble just six times this season to tie Dave Krieg for second on the all-time fumbles list (153). With a truly sub-human effort of 14 fumbles befitting a soon-to-be 39-year-old who can't make up his mind, Favre can tie the career mark of 161 fumbles set by Warren Moon. Favre fumbled 16 times back in 2001, 14 times back in 2006, and a respectable 12 times last season. Moon's record is well within his reach.
Of course, we only make fun of Favre because 1) we love him and, 2) it's all true.
But keep in mind that Favre has also tossed a TD in a record 18 consecutive playoff games and, with 39 postseason TDs, is second all time to Joe Montana (45).
Tom Brady, by the way, is second behind Favre's postseason record, tossing TDs in 15 consecutive playoff games. Brady's also neck-and-neck with the greatest of Green Bay quarterbacks, Bart Starr, for the lowest postseason INT rate in history: Brady has tossed 12 picks in 595 playoff attempts (2.02 percent). Starr threw three picks in 212 postseason attempts (1.41 percent).
As the Cold, Hard Football Facts have long noted, the key to postseason success is for quarterbacks to keep the ball out of the hands of the opposing team. It's no coincidence, after all, that the two most successful quarterbacks in postseason history (Starr was 9-1, Brady is 14-3) also hold the records for lowest postseason INT rates.
As Cold, Hard Football Facts readers are well aware, we live in the Golden Age of the Passing game, and passing records are dropping like crazy this decade. All you need to know is that 16 of the top 20 all-time passer rating leaders were active last season.
Steve Young continues to hold the career passer-rating record (96.8), but active quarterbacks Peyton Manning (94.7), Kurt Warner (93.2) and Brady (92.9) are hot on his trail. It's conceivable that Manning or Brady could surpass Young's career mark sometime within the next two seasons. Manning even has an outside shot of catching Young this year. After all, Manning holds the single-season passer-rating record (121.1 in 2004), while Brady nearly matched him last year, with the second highest single-season mark (117.2).
Brady passed for 4,806 yards last year, third most in history behind Marino (5,084 in 1984) and Warner (4,830 in 2001). And, in case you hadn't heard because nobody really talked about it much, Brady's 50 TDs in 2007 set a new single-season standard.
Brady also set the all-time single-game completion percentage record when he connected on 26 of 28 passes (92.9 percent) against Jacksonville last season in the divisional playoffs. The regular-season record remains in the hands of Vinny Testaverde, with his 21 of 23 (91.3 percent) effort for the Browns against the Rams in 1993.
Brady's partner in awesomeness, Manning, boasts seven 400-yard passing games in his career, tied for second most all-time with Hall of Famer Montana and fraudulent Hall of Famer Moon. However, Manning has a long way to go to catch the No. 1 man on the 400-yard-game list: Marino reached that mark 13 times in his career. Manning's last 400-yard effort came against Houston in Week 2 of the 2006 season.
Ben Roethlisberger enters the 2008 season with a truly historic mark, averaging an amazing 8.13 yards per pass attempt for his career, the top mark in the Live Ball Era (1978-present) and behind only Hall of Famers Otto Graham (8.63), Sid Luckman (8.42) and Norm Van Brocklin (8.13).
However, Roethlisberger needs 64 pass attempts -- which he should reach no later than Week 3 -- to meet the minimum 1,500 career attempts required by official NFL records. With a good season, he could leap past Van Brocklin into the No. 3 spot all time in passing yards per attempt.
Officially speaking, Warner, who should be starting in Arizona over the ineffective Matt Leinart, is No. 4 all-time, with a career average of 8.11 yards per attempt.
Chad Pennington (65.51 percent career completion percentage) and Warner (65.09 percent) enter the 2008 season as the most accurate passers in NFL history.
Drew Brees dropped back to pass more than 40 times per game last year. His 652 attempts for the season stand at third most for a single campaign, behind Drew Bledsoe (691 in 1994) and Moon (655 in 1991).
But Brees was more accurate than either Bledsoe or Moon, however. His 440 completions last year set a new single-season record, blowing away Rich Gannon's 418 completions for Oakland in 2002.
If a miracle happens and Favre leads the league in TD passes this season, he'll have done so a record five times in his career (1995-97, 2003). He's currently tied atop the list with Johnny Unitas, Len Dawson and Young, each of whom led the league in TD tosses four times. Manning has already led the league in TD passes three times, so he can match the Dawson-Favre-Unitas-Young mark here in 2008.
If the Gridiron Gods deem yet another miracle in 2008, and Favre twice tosses four TDs or more in a game, he'll match Marino's mark of 21 games with four or more TD tosses.
Donovan McNabb remains one of the most widely criticized starting quarterbacks in football, by virtue of his erratic play and the general agony of Eagles fans, who last won a title at the end of the Eisenhower Administration.
But McNabb's among the best ever at keeping the ball out of the hands of his opponents. His career INT rate of 2.12 percent (79 INT in 3,732 attempts) is just a slimjim's width behind Neil O'Donnell's record of 2.11 percent (68 INT in 3,229 attempts).
But lest we forget, McNabb was sacked a record 12 times in a single game last year by the league's No. 1 Defensive Hogs in the Giants. He joined Bert Jones and Moon atop that ignominious leaderboard. No other players had been sacked 12 times in a game. (And, for the record, it only felt like Brady was sacked 12 times by those very same Giants in Super Bowl XLII. He was actually taken down a mere five times.)
Minnesota phenom Adrian Peterson's name is all over the record books after just one injury-filled rookie season. He set the single-game rushing record, of course, with his 296-yard outburst against San Diego last year.
He also averaged an amazing 5.63 yards per attempt in 2008 (238 for 1,341). He hardly comes close to qualifying for official career records (min. 750 attempts), and still (possibly) has a long career ahead of him. But that 5.63 average puts him well on his way to shattering the career record for average by a running back of 5.22 YPA, set by no less a figure than pro football's All-Time Alpha Male, Jim Brown.
Peterson's also just one of 18 ballcarriers in history with two 200-yard efforts in a single season. The career record for 200-yard games is six, by O.J. Simpson. So Peterson is well on his way to matching that mark.
Oh, and Peterson's 361 combined yards against Chicago last Oct. 4 was the third-highest single game total in history.
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