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2021 What To Look For - Week 18

2021 What To Look For - Week 18

01/06/2022
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The final week of the 2021 regular season has arrived. Eighteen teams remain in contention for a trip to Super Bowl LVI, and several individual players stand within grasp of changing history.

There haven’t been more teams still alive for postseason berths entering the league’s final week since 2006 (20 teams). Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Cooper Kupp headline the names of those chasing individual milestones.

Continue reading to learn which single-season records have the chance to be broken this week:


PLAYOFF PUSH: All 16 games are divisional contests in Week 18 and there are still 18 teams in contention for a trip to Super Bowl LVI. There hasn’t been more teams still alive for postseason berths entering the league’s final week since 2006 (20 teams).

Six division titles have been secured, three of which feature a team that did not win their division in 2020 – the AFC North  (CINCINNATI BENGALS), NFC East (DALLAS COWBOYS) and NFC South (TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS).

The NFC West, coming down to the ARIZONA CARDINALS or LOS ANGELES RAMS, is also guaranteed to have a new winner in 2021, while the AFC East could have a new winner if the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS clinch the division this weekend.

This would be the second-consecutive season in which there are five new division winners.

Additionally, both Cincinnati and Dallas won their division after missing the postseason in 2020, while both the AFC East (New England) and NFC West (Arizona) can also have a division winner that missed the postseason last year. At least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 18 of the past 19 years.

Cincinnati clinched the AFC North after finishing in last place in the division in 2020. In 17 of the past 19 seasons, at least one team finished in first place the season after finishing in last or tied for last.

The PHILADELPHIA EAGLES also clinched a postseason berth this year after finishing in last place in their division last season.

Since 1990, at least four teams every season have qualified for the playoffs after failing to make the postseason the year before.


PASSING THROUGH THE RECORD BOOKS: Tampa Bay quarterback TOM BRADY enters the final week of the season leading the league in completions (456), passing yards (4,990) and touchdown passes (40). This would be his fourth season leading the league in passing yards (2017, 2007, 2005) and his fifth season leading the league in touchdown passes (2015, 2010, 2007, 2002). 2007 was the only other season in which he led in both categories.

Brady is also within striking distance of the all-time single-season records for both passing yards and completions.

The players with the most passing yards in a season in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

PASSING YARDS

Peyton ManningHOF

Denver

2013

5,477

Drew Brees

New Orleans

2011

5,476

Tom Brady

New England

2011

5,235

 

 

 

 

Tom Brady

Tampa Bay

2021

4,990*

*Entering Week 18

 

The players with the most completions in a season in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

COMPLETIONS

Drew Brees

New Orleans

2016

471

Drew Brees

New Orleans

2011

468

Tom Brady

Tampa Bay

2021

456*

Drew Brees

New Orleans

2014

456

*Entering Week 18

 

Brady, who had a career-high 5,235 passing yards in 2011, can join DREW BREES (five seasons) as the only players in league history with at least 5,000 passing yards in multiple seasons.

Second-year quarterbacks JOE BURROW – the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft – and JUSTIN HERBERT – the No. 6 overall selection last year – can also reach the 5,000-yard milestone on Sunday.

In Week 18, they can join PATRICK MAHOMES (5,097 in 2018) and Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (5,084 in 1984) as the only players ever to record at least 5,000 passing yards in one of their first two seasons.

The players with at least 5,000 passing yards in one of their first two seasons in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

PASSING YARDS

Patrick Mahomes

Kansas City

2018

5,097

Dan MarinoHOF

Miami

1984

5,084

 

 

 

 

Justin Herbert

L.A. Chargers

2021

4,631*

Joe Burrow

Cincinnati

2021

4,611*

*Entering Week 18

 

A sampling of other notable quarterback milestones that can be accomplished in Week 18:

  • Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS enters this week with 3,977 passing yards this season. With 23 passing yards at Detroit on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Rodgers will become the sixth quarterback ever to record at least 4,000 passing yards in 10 different seasons.
     
  • Seattle quarterback RUSSELL WILSON has 2,875 passing yards in 2021. With 125 passing yards at Arizona on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX), Wilson will become the second quarterback ever to record at least 3,000 passing yards in each of his first 10 seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING.
     
  • Indianapolis quarterback CARSON WENTZ has 10 touchdown passes against zero interceptions in seven road starts this season. With no interceptions at Jacksonville on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Wentz will become the first quarterback ever to start eight road games in a season without throwing an interception.


CATCHING HISTORY: Los Angeles Rams wide receiver COOPER KUPP leads the NFL in receptions (138), receiving yards (1,829) and touchdown receptions (15) this season and is within striking distance of the all-time single season record for most receptions and receiving yards.

The players with the most receptions in a season in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

RECEPTIONS

Michael Thomas

New Orleans

2019

149

Marvin HarrisonHOF

Indianapolis

2002

143

Cooper Kupp

L.A. Rams

2021

138*

*Entering Week 18

 

The players with the most receiving yards in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

RECEIVING YARDS

Calvin JohnsonHOF

Detroit

2012

1,964

Julio Jones

Atlanta

2015

1,871

Jerry RiceHOF

San Francisco

1995

1,848

Antonio Brown

Pittsburgh

2015

1,834

Cooper Kupp

L.A. Rams

2021

1,829*

*Entering Week 18

 

A sampling of other notable wide receiver records that can be accomplished in Week 18:

  • Green Bay wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS ranks second in the league with 117 receptions, third with 1,498 receiving yards and fifth with 11 touchdown receptions. With a touchdown reception at Detroit on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Adams will become the sixth player ever with at least 12 touchdown receptions in four of his first eight seasons. 
     
  • Tampa Bay wide receiver MIKE EVANS enters this week with 946 receiving yards this season. With 54 receiving yards against Carolina on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), Evans will become the first player ever with at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first eight seasons.
     
  • Minnesota wide receiver JUSTIN JEFFERSON ranks second in the league with 1,509 receiving yards and fourth with 103 receptions. His 2,909 career receiving yards are the most-ever by a player in his first two seasons, while his 191 career receptions are the third-most. With 91 receiving yards against Chicago on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Jefferson will become the third-fastest player ever (33 games) to reach 3,000 receiving yards. Only ODELL BECKHAM JR. (30) and CHARLIE HENNIGAN (31) reached the mark in fewer games.

    With nine receptions, Jefferson can also tie JARVIS LANDRY (33 games) as the third-fastest player to reach 200 receptions. Only Beckham Jr. (30) and MICHAEL THOMAS (32) reached the mark the fewer games.


RECORD-BREAKING BACKS: Indianapolis running back JONATHAN TAYLOR leads the league with 2,076 scrimmage yards, 1,734 rushing yards, 20 scrimmage touchdowns and 18 rushing touchdowns. He is the first player in league history to record 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 scrimmage touchdowns in a season prior to turning 23.

Last week marked Taylor’s ninth game this season with at least 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown, the most in the league. If he accomplishes the feat again at Jacksonville on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Taylor will become the fourth player ever to record at least 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in 10 games within a single season.

The players with the most games with at least 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

GAMES

Shaun Alexander

Seattle

2005

11

Emmitt SmithHOF

Dallas

1995

11

Jamal Anderson

Atlanta

1998

10

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Taylor

Indianapolis

2021

9*

*Entering Week 18

 

Los Angeles Chargers running back AUSTIN EKELER ranks second in the league with a career-high 18 touchdowns (11 rushing, seven receiving) this season.

With a touchdown at Las Vegas on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC), Ekeler – who went undrafted out of Western State in 2017 – can surpass LEGARRETTE BLOUNT (18 touchdowns in 2016) and ARIAN FOSTER (18 in 2010) for the third-most touchdowns in a single season by an undrafted player in the common-draft era. Only PRIEST HOLMES (27 in 2003 and 24 in 2002) has more.

The undrafted players with the most touchdowns in a single season in the common-draft era:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

TOUCHDOWNS

Priest Holmes

Kansas City

2003

27

Priest Holmes

Kansas City

2002

24

Austin Ekeler

L.A. Chargers

2021

18*

LeGarrette Blount

New England

2016

18

Arian Foster

Houston

2010

18

*Entering Week 18

 

Ekeler also enters the season’s final week ranking fourth among running backs with 1,459 scrimmage yards (847 rushing, 612 receiving). With 41 scrimmage yards on Sunday night, Ekeler – who had a career-high 1,550 scrimmage yards in 2019 – can become the third undrafted player in the common-draft era with at least 1,500 scrimmage yards in multiple seasons, joining Foster (four seasons) and Holmes (three).


ROOKIE TAKEOVER: Last week, Cincinnati wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE recorded 266 receiving yards, the most in a single game by a rookie in NFL history. He now has 1,429 receiving yards on the season, surpassing JUSTIN JEFFERSON (1,400 in 2020) for the most by a rookie in the Super Bowl era.

With 45 receiving yards at Cleveland on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Chase will surpass BILL GROMAN (1,473 in 1960) for the most receiving yards by a rookie all-time.

The rookies with the most receiving yards in a single season all-time:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

RECEIVING YARDS

Bill Groman

Houston Oilers

1960

1,473

Ja’Marr Chase

Cincinnati

2021

1,429*

Justin Jefferson

Minnesota

2020

1,400

*Entering Week 18

 

Four rookies – Miami wide receiver JAYLEN WADDLE (99 receptions), Detroit wide receiver AMON-RA ST. BROWN (82), Cincinnati wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE (79) and Pittsburgh running back NAJEE HARRIS (70) – each have at least 70 receptions this season. The 2021 season is the first with four-or-more rookies reaching 70 receptions, surpassing the 2014 season (three players).

Waddle’s 99 receptions are the second-most receptions by a rookie in league annals. With three receptions against New England on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), he would surpass ANQUAN BOLDIN (101 receptions in 2003) for the most receptions by a rookie all-time.
The rookies with the most receptions in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

RECEPTIONS

Anquan Boldin

Arizona

2003

101

Jaylen Waddle

Miami

2021

99*

Michael Thomas

New Orleans

2016

92

*Entering Week 18

 

 

 

 

Harris leads all rookies with 1,612 scrimmage yards (1,172 rushing, 440 receiving) this season and can become the fifth rookie in NFL history with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards.

The rookies with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

RUSHING YARDS

RECEIVING YARDS

Saquon Barkley

N.Y. Giants

2018

1,307

721

Marshall FaulkHOF

Indianapolis

1994

1,282

522

Edgerrin JamesHOF

Indianapolis

1999

1,553

586

Billy Sims

Detroit

1980

1,303

621

 

 

 

 

 

Najee Harris

Pittsburgh

2021

1,172*

440*

*Entering Week 18

 

 

 

 

 

Atlanta rookie tight end KYLE PITTS ranks third among all tight ends with 1,018 receiving yards this season and with at least 59 receiving yards against New Orleans on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX), will surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA (1,076 receiving yards in 1961) for the most receiving yards by a rookie tight end in NFL history.

Pitts has 66 receptions in 2021 and with four receptions, can become the third rookie tight end all-time with at least 70 receptions, joining KEITH JACKSON (81 receptions in 1988) and JEREMY SHOCKEY (74 in 2002).


SACK ATTACK: Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. WATT leads the league with 21.5 sacks in 2021, followed by Chicago’s ROBERT QUINN (18 sacks), San Francisco’s NICK BOSA (15) and Cleveland’s MYLES GARRETT (15). Cincinnati’s TREY HENDRICKSON (14) and Dallas rookie MICAH PARSONS (13) also have at least 13 sacks with one week to play.

The 2021 season has a chance to become the seventh season since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, and first since 1998 to feature five-or-more players with at least 15 sacks. 

The seasons with the most players with at least 15 sacks since 1982:

SEASON

PLAYERS WTH 15 SACKS

1989

7

1986

6

1998

5

1992

5

1984

5

1983

5

 

 

2021

4*

*Entering Week 18

 

With a sack at Baltimore on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Watt will tie Pro Football Hall of Famer MICHAEL STRAHAN (22.5 sacks in 2001) for the most sacks by a player in a single season since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic.

The players with the most sacks in a season since 1982:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

GAMES

SACKS

Michael StrahanHOF

N.Y. Giants

2001

16

22.5

Jared Allen

Minnesota

2011

16

22

Mark Gastineau

N.Y. Jets

1984

16

22

Justin Houston

Kansas City

2014

16

22

T.J. Watt

Pittsburgh

2021

14

21.5*

*Entering Week 18

 

Both Quinn and Hendrickson enter this week having recorded a sack in 12 games this season. If either player records a sack in Week 18, they will join DEMARCUS WARE (14 games in 2008), JUSTIN HOUSTON (13 in 2014) and CHANDLER JONES (13 in 2017) as the only players since 1982 to record a sack in 13 games within a single season.

The players with the most games with a sack in a single season since 1982:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

GAMES

DeMarcus Ware

Dallas

2008

14

Justin Houston

Kansas City

2014

13

Chandler Jones

Arizona

2017

13

 

 

 

 

Trey Hendrickson

Cincinnati

2021

12*

Robert Quinn

Chicago

2021

12*

*Entering Week 18

 

With two sacks at Philadelphia on Saturday night (8:15 PM ET, ESPN/FOX), Parsons can surpass JEVON KEARSE (14.5 sacks in 1999) for the most sacks by a rookie since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic.

The rookies with the most sacks since 1982:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

SACKS

Jevon Kearse

Tennessee

1999

14.5

Aldon Smith

San Francisco

2011

14

Dwight Freeney

Indianapolis

2002

13

Micah Parsons

Dallas

2021

13*

*Entering Week 18

 

In addition to Parsons, two other rookies have at least eight sacks this season – Miami linebacker JAELAN PHILLIPS (8.5 sacks) and New York Giants linebacker AZEEZ OJULARI (eight). This season can become the first season since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, in which three rookies recorded 10-or-more sacks.

 
The Pro Football Hall of Fame will recognize individual and team “Milestones” throughout the 2021 season. Joining the Hall in celebrating the year’s accomplishments will be 11 of the health systems that are network providers providing quality medical care and services across the country in partnership with Hall of Fame Health. They are Baylor Scott & WhiteVanderbilt University Medical CenterHonorHealthFlagler Health Tampa General HospitalOhioHealthNorthShore HealthSystemProvidence St. John’sHCA Gulf CoastUCSF Health and Array Behavioral Care
 
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