After 43 years of 16-game regular seasons, NFL owners have voted in favor of adding a 17th game to the schedule for the 2021 season. Adding one more game to the schedule was something that was included in the 2020 collective bargaining agreement, along with the expanded playoff field, which was immediately implemented.
From a historical standpoint, adding another game to the schedule will likely result in each of the league's previously existing single-season records being broken. And while the history books will not distinguish between 16- and 17-game seasons, the following records will -- at least unofficially -- forever stand as the NFL's individual records for a 16-game regular season. Some of these records (specifically the passing records) could be broken as early as this season. Eric Dickerson's rushing record, however, may continue to stand as the all-time record for quite some time.
Here's a look at the notable individual NFL records for a 16-game season, records that are now frozen in time.
Passing yards: Peyton Manning - 5,477 (2013 with Broncos)
- The league's MVP that season with the Broncos, Manning broke Drew Brees' previous mark (set in 2011) by a single yard. Prior to Manning's 2013 season, the NFL's greatest passing season belonged to Dan Marino, who threw for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns (astonishing numbers for that time) in 1984.
Passing touchdowns: Peyton Manning - 55 (2013 with Broncos)
- Manning's 55 touchdowns broke the previous record held by Tom Brady, who threw 50 touchdowns during the Patriots' perfect 2007 regular season.
Passes intercepted: Vinny Testaverde - 35 (1988 with Bucs)
- The all-time record is held by George Blanda, who tossed 42 picks during the 14-game 1962 season. Hall of Famers Fran Tarkenton (32 in 1978 with Vikings) and Ken Stabler (30 in 1978 with Raiders) along with Richard Todd (30 in 1980 with Jets) and current Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (30 in 2019 with Bucs) were the only other quarterbacks to throw at least 30 interceptions during a 16-game season.
Rushing yards: Eric Dickerson - 2,105 (1984 with Rams)
- A few were close, but no running back was able to break Dickerson's 16-game rushing record set with the Rams. The closest anyone came to catching Dickerson was Adrian Peterson, who finished with 2,097 rushing yards in 2012 with the Vikings.
Rushing touchdowns: LaDainian Tomlinson - 28 (2006 with Chargers)
- A fantasy football legend, Tomlinson's 28 touchdowns in 2006 broke a tie between Shaun Alexander (2005) and Priest Holmes (2003) for the all-time record. Tomlinson was named league MVP during his record-breaking season.
Rushing attempts: Larry Johnson - 416 (2006 with Chiefs)
- Considering the NFL's current running backs-by-committee trend, Johnson's record may go unchallenged for a while.
Receptions: Michael Thomas - 149 (2019 with Saints)
- The current Saints receiver broke Marvin Harrison's previous mark of 143 catches set during the 2002 season. Antonio Brown and Julio Jones are tied for third after both players caught 136 passes in 2015.
- "Megatron" broke the previous mark held Jerry Rice, who tallied 1,848 receiving yards in 1995. The second and third all-time marks are held by Julio Jones, who came within 93 yards of matching Johnson's record in 2015. With the addition of a 17th game, expect the league's first 2,000-yard receiving sometime in the very near future.
Receiving touchdowns: Randy Moss - 23 (2007, Patriots)
- Moss broke the record previously held by Rice, who caught 22 touchdowns in just 12 games in 1987. Davante Adams' 18 touchdowns in 2020 puts him in a tie for third place with Mark Clayton (1984) and Sterling Sharpe (1994).
All-purpose yards: 2,696 - Darren Sproles (2011, Saints)
- Sproles broke Derrick Mason's 11-year-old record by 6 yards. During his record-breaking season, Sproles rushed for 603 yards (while averaging 6.9 yards per carries), tallied 703 receiving yards and racked up 1,383 punt/kickoff return yards.
Sacks: Michael Strahan - 22.5 (2001, Giants)
- While controversy surrounded his final sack, Strahan nevertheless broke Mark Gastineau's 17-year-old record in the final moments of the 2001 season. Jared Allen came within one sack of breaking Strahan's record in 2011.
Most times sacked: 76 - David Carr (2002, Texans)
- Carr's record was set during the Texans' inaugural season. Carr broke the record formerly held by Randall Cunningham, who was taken down 72 times during the 1986 season. Carr was sacked 68 times -- the third-highest total in league history -- in 2005.
- Current Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey finished two forced fumbles shy of matching the all-time record in 2020. Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones and T.J. Watt each finished with eight forced fumbles (tied with Humphrey for seventh all time) in 2019.
Tackles for loss: 39 - J.J. Watt (2012, Texans)
- Watt actually holds the top three spots on this list. He racked up 29 tackles for loss during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Chandler Jones (28 in 2017) and Von Miller (28 in 2012) are tied for fourth on the all-time list.
Interceptions: 13 - Lester Hayes (1980, Raiders)
- Night Train Lane's 14 interceptions in the 12-game 1952 regular season remains the all-time record. But the 16-game record belongs to Hayes, who had three more interceptions called back due to penalty during his remarkable 1980 campaign. Hayes' play that season helped the Raiders win their second Super Bowl.
Passes defensed: 31 - Darrelle Revis (2009, Jets)
- "Revis Island" is responsible for the most pass breakups in NFL history. Revis broke a first place tie that was formerly shared by Sheldon Brown (27 in 2005) and Troy Vincent (27 in 2001).
Tackles: 156 - Ray Lewis (1997, Ravens)
- Lewis' 156 tackles is 20 more than the second-highest total (Patrick Willis, 2007). Lewis tallied at least 100 tackles eight times during his Hall of Fame career.
Field goals: 44 - David Akers (2011, Eagles)
- Akers and Neil Rackers (40 in 2005) are the only players to make at least 40 field goals in one season. Current Ravens kicker Justin Tucker is tied for sixth all time with 38 made field goals during the 2013 and 2016 seasons.
Punt return yards: 875 - Desmond Howard (1996, Packers)
- Howard's stellar 1996 campaign ended with him becoming the first player to win Super Bowl MVP. His 99-yard kickoff return was the final touchdown scored in Green Bay's 35-21 win over New England in Super Bowl XXXI.
Kick return yards: 2,186 - MarTay Jenkins (2000, Cardinals)
- The former Cardinal is the only player with at least 2,000 kick returner yards. Josh Cribbs (1,809 yards in 2007) and Michael Lewis (1,807 yards in 2002) are the only other players with more than 1,800 return yards.
Total kick and punt return yards: 2,432 - Michael Lewis (2002, Saints)
- Former Browns returner Josh Cribbs (2,214 yards in 2007) is the only player who has come close to matching Lewis' record.
- Peterson and Hester are tied for first with former Lion Jack Christiansen (1951) and former Bronco Rick Upchurch (1976).
Kickoff returns for touchdowns: 3 - Ron Brown (1985, Rams), Josh Cribbs (2009, Browns), Andre' Davis (2007, Texans), Jacoby Ford (2010, Raiders), Mel Gray (1994, Lions), Terrence McGee (2004, Bills), Darrick Vaughn (2000, Falcons), Leon Washington (2007, Jets and 2010, Seahawks)
- The all-time record is still held by Cecil Turner (1970) and Travis Williams (1967). Raymond Clayborn (1977), Gale Sayers (1967) and Abe Woodson (1963) returned three kickoffs for touchdowns during 14-game seasons.