It’s no longer a question of if, but of who. And maybe even when and how many.
Drew Brees and Tom Brady continue to be on pace to shatter Dan Marino’s single-season record of 5,084 passing yards, while Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning are within range as well.
Brees, who leads the league with 4,368 yards, might seriously have a chance to surpass the mark before the final week of the season. To do so, he’d have to average 358 yards over his next two games. Over his last three games, he’s averaged 347 per outing, so that’s not out of the question. He only needs to average 239 yards over his final three games to break the record. Barring injury, that’ll happen — Brees hasn’t been below 258 once all season. Not once. And he plays his final three games — all of which should have importance — in domes (two at home, one in Minnesota, where he faces a 26th-ranked pass defense). In fact, the three defenses he faces to finish out the year are all ranked in the bottom half of the league against the pass.
Brady only has to average 270 yards per game, and all of his games will likely have importance too. That said, they’re all outdoors, and the elements could play a role in Denver this week and at home against Buffalo in Week 17. Plus, the Broncos defense is red hot, while there’s a chance the Pats cruise in blowout mode against the Dolphins and Bills. Brady’s gone over 325 yards in four of his last six games and has been under that 270 mark just three times, so he’ll probably pass Marino, but I can’t see him catching up to Brees.
Same goes for Rodgers, who fell just off pace after taking chunks of the second half off in a blowout victory in Week 14. With Green Bay wrapping things up and winning by wide margins, don’t expect Rodgers to maintain the pace. It also doesn’t help that Greg Jennings is likely to miss the remainder of the regular season with a knee injury. Rodgers would have to average 320 yards per game the rest of the way to break the record — a number he’s hit only once since Week 7. He probably won’t hit Marino’s 5,084 (and even so, he’ll definitely fall short of Brees and Brady) but there’s a decent chance Rodgers becomes just the fourth quarterback to ever throw for 5,000 yards in a season.
And then there’s Manning, who’s making a mad dash for the record with 1,153 yards in his last three outings. He’d need to average 327 yards over his last three games to reach Marino’s number, but his average has been well north of that the last few weeks (384). The problem is that Eli’s not exactly known for his consistency, and the schedule’s tough with the Redskins, Jets and Cowboys coming home (all outdoors at MetLife). Again, he won’t become the new record holder, but Manning might be hot enough to join Brees, Brady, Marino and maybe even Rodgers in the 5,000 Club. That’s a club his big brother might never join.
Of course it should be noted that, when Marino broke Dan Fouts’ record to set the new mark of 5,084 in 1984, the average team passed for 205.9 yards per game. This year, that number’s at 229.6. So your average quarterback passes for about 400 more yards now than he did then. It’s a different game, and it’s almost impossible to compare the two eras.
That’s why we’re not going all Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa circa 1998 on Brees and Brady. This is somewhat novel and definitely notable, but not monumental.
What’s really amazing is that Marino’s record has survived 27 seasons.