Four weeks into the NFL season, teams and players are starting to find their footing and establish their identity. A few have even laid the foundation for a potentially record-breaking season if they can keep their production up.
Running back Christian McCaffrey of the San Francisco 49ers and wide receiver Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings both fit the bill with prolific starts to their seasons.
McCaffrey has been thoroughly dominant for the undefeated 49ers, amassing 459 yards on the ground and 600 yards from scrimmage – both of which lead the NFL.
Yards per game
The all-time record for rushing yards in a single season was set by Hall-of-Famer Eric Dickerson in 1984, as a member of the Los Angeles Rams. Dickerson totaled 2,105 yards on the ground in 16 games, for an average of 131.6 per contest.
McCaffrey is helped by the recent change to the NFL schedule, with the addition of a 17th regular-season game allowing potential record-breakers an extra chance at making their mark on history.
In order to surpass Dickerson’s total, McCaffrey would need to average 123.9 yards per game – so he has to make a significant improvement to match the pace.
Something to consider: of the top five single-season rushing totals in NFL history, every season featured at least two games of over 200 yards of rushing in that campaign. McCaffrey has topped out at 152 so far this season, so he would benefit greatly from a few massive performances in the 13 remaining contests.
Games with 200+ rushing yards
Los Angeles Rams
San Francisco 49ers
McCaffrey’s 150.0 yards per game from scrimmage also have him in line to set a new mark in that category. He is on pace to total 2,550 yards from scrimmage, which puts him ahead of Chris Johnson’s record of 2,509 with the Tennessee Titans in 2009.
On the receiving side of things, two players have set a pace through four weeks that may end up threatening Calvin Johnson’s single-season record of 1,964, set in 2012 with the Detroit Lions.
Jerry Rice held the record for almost 20 years after he registered 1,848 yards receiving in 1995. The expansion of the passing attack in the NFL, mixed with the schedule increasing from 16 to 17 games ahead of the 2021 season has made the push for 2,000 yards receiving in a single season almost a foregone conclusion.
Johnson set the record with 122.8 yards per game, and Jefferson – who claimed the sixth-highest single-season receiving yards distinction last year with 1,809 – is currently at 135.8 this year.
Receiving yards per game
San Diego Chargers
Los Angeles Rams
Jefferson isn’t the only player threatening Johnson’s record early this season – Los Angeles Rams rookie WR Puka Nacua is currently on pace to easily surpass 2,000 yards receiving, while Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins has an outside chance.
In order to surpass 1,964 yards and claim the single-season receiving yards records, a player would only need to average 115.5 receiving yards per game. Jefferson has a 20 yards-per-game cushion to work with as the season continues.
Jefferson was sitting at 1,756 yards after 15 games last season and needed to average 104.5 yards per game over his final two contests, but a pair of rough days at the office left him far behind Johnson’s record as he tallied 15 and 38 yards respectively.
The NFL record for points scored in a single season is 606, scored by the historic Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos in 2013. The Dolphins offence has taken the league by storm and is positioned to take a run at that record this year.
Boosted by a 70 point performance against the Broncos in Week 3, the Dolphins lead the NFL in points scored with 150 and are currently scoring 37.5 per game – almost three clear of the next closest team, the Buffalo Bills.
Points per game
New England Patriots
Kansas City Chiefs
Green Bay Packers
While a points per game record will be very difficult to achieve, the Dolphins are on pace to surpass the points total of 606 by a comfortable margin: if they hold their current pace, they will finish with 638 points on the year.
In Weeks 3’s stomp over the Broncos, the Dolphins also set an NFL record for yards of offence in a single game with 726 – the Rams have held that record since 1951 with a 722-yard performance against the now-defunct New York Yanks.
Through four weeks, Miami is averaging a robust 511 yards of offence per game, which would dismantle the current record of 467.1, set by the New Orleans Saints in 2011. Miami is on pace for 8,687 yards of offence for the season, which would surpass the current record of 7,474 by more than 1,000 yards.
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