We’ve been here before. In fact, it seems like we’re here every year at about this time.
Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a single season has been under hot pursuit for much of the past decade, with the closest attempt coming when Drew Brees fell just 15 yards short of the mark in 2008.
Everyone seems to fall off pace in December, usually because of forced rest in meaningless games and garbage time of blowouts, but also because the elements become a factor as the temperatures drop.
But this year feels different. Maybe it’s because it’s been one of the most prolific passing seasons in NFL history, or maybe it’s because there are three players — instead of just one — with a realistic shot at hitting Marino’s 5,084.
Pace: 5,365 yards
Working in his favor: It’s very unlikely that the Saints will clinch anything until Week 16 at the earliest, which means every game might matter. Four of his final five games will be played in domes (with the other in Tennessee), so wind and snow shouldn’t be factors at all. He only needs to average 280 yards per game the rest of the way to get the record — he’s been above 320 in all but three games this season. And on top of all that, he’s made it known that it’s a goal of his to set the mark.
Working against him: He faces two top-10 defenses (Atlanta and Detroit). But this is us reaching, because he had 322 yards against the Falcons earlier this season and Atlanta’s actually ranked 23rd against the pass. It’s very hard to envision him not breaking the record at this point.
Pace: 5,275 yards
Working in his favor: It’s also unlikely that the Patriots have to play any meaningless games between now and the end of the season.
Working against him: His ridiculous start inflated his pace — he’s averaging just 288 yards per game since Week 3. He’ll also be outside and in the cold in all five of his games to finish the season, although in Brady’s defense that hasn’t really slowed him down in past Decembers. There’s also a chance his playing time is limited if the Pats build early leads in Weeks 16 and 17 against Miami and Buffalo (both at home). Oh, and he faces some hot defenses down the stretch (Denver, Miami and a scary Washington pass rush). It doesn’t look good. In fact, I don’t even think he’ll hit 5,000.
Pace: 5,054 yards
Working in his favor: They Packers don’t face another top-10 pass defense between now and the end of the year.
Working against him: There’s a good chance the Packers will have clinched the NFC’s top seed with a couple games to play. And all five of Rodgers’ remaining games will be played in the elements, too. And three of those games are at Lambeau, where one snowy game could ruin everything. This isn’t happening either — Rodgers would have to average 322 yards per game the rest of the way to break the record, but he’s only been able to reach that total once since Week 5.