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NFL Week 18: Which records could be broken in the exciting final round of games?

By Ben Morse, CNN

The NFL season has never been bigger.

For the first time in its history, the 2021 season saw teams play 17 regular season games, adding one game from the 16 games played in recent years.

There have been two Week 18’s before — one in 1993 and one in 2001 — but this year will be the first time teams will suit up for a 17th game.

As a result, there’s an additional game for players to pile up stats, presenting them with the opportunity to break all-time, single-season NFL records.

So, with one final game left, here’s a look at some of the records that could tumble this weekend.

In two minds

Competing against LeBron James and Justin Herbert, Cooper Kupp may be the new poster boy of LA sport. The 28-year-old wide receiver is enjoying a breakout year as he helps the LA Rams towards the playoffs.

And with just one game remaining against the San Francisco 49ers, he is on the cusp of breaking two of the NFL’s biggest wide receiver records.

Through 16 games, Kupp has totaled an extraordinary 1,829 receiving yards, which means he needs just 136 yards to break the all-time record of 1,964 set by Calvin Johnson in 2012.

Kupp is also just 12 catches away from breaking Michael Thomas’ single-season catch record of 149 which he set in 2019.

However, while many might be thrilled at the possibility of being able to break two of the biggest records in their field, it “wouldn’t seem right for those to be broken in 17 games,” according to Kupp.

“We’re in a new age of football here,” Kupp told ESPN. “We’re playing 17 games of football a year, and a lot of the stuff that happened before that, those records hold a different weight, being that they were played in those 16 games.”

Kupp continued: “What those guys did in 16 games, it wouldn’t seem right to, I don’t know, for those to be broken in 17 games. It wouldn’t hold the same weight to me as it does for guys that have done that in a 16-game season and the accomplishments those guys had, and the seasons they put together.

“Those are incredible things, incredible accomplishments. You kind of have to separate the two.”

Defensive opportunities

Two of the NFL’s most prestigious defensive records also have a chance to tumble in Week 18.

Most likely to fall is Michael Strahan’s all-time sack record. The former New York Giant famously set the current record of 22.5 when Hall of Famer Brett Favre fell before him at the end of the game with the Green Bay Packers leading by nine points.

But now Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt has a chance to break the 21-year-old record.

Watt has 21.5 sacks coming into the final week after recording four sacks in a dominant performance against the Cleveland Browns in week 17.

It means 27-year-old Watt needs just 1.5 sacks against the Baltimore Ravens to break Strahan’s record and etch himself into the history books.

And while it’s a great personal achievement, as he’s become more experienced, Watt’s aim is focused on winning rather than individual milestones.

“The first year or two, I used to do big individual goals: ‘X’ amount of sacks, TFLs [tackles for loss], all that stuff,” Watt said. “But it adds too much pressure. You start chasing and all that stuff. And now, it’s just trying to affect every game the best that I can.

“It’s been working for me. So I’m not really looking at goals like that anymore, just trying to be a game-wrecker.”

While Strahan has the all-time official record, the NFL only began recording sacks as a statistic in 1982. And, according to Pro Football Reference, the Detroit Lions’ Al Baker recorded 23 sacks in 1978 which makes him the unofficial record holder.

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs has an outside chance to match or break the all-time interception record but would need an extraordinary performance on Sunday.

With one game left this season, Diggs has 11 interceptions, meaning he needs three picks to catch Dick “Night Train” Lane’s record of 14, which he set in 1952 in a 12-game schedule.

Rookies bursting onto the scene

Players entering the NFL from college have become more able to adapt to the professional game as they have arrived more prepared with the evolution of the college game.

And that is bearing fruit this season with a trio of rookie records on the verge of being broken.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase needs just 45 yards to break the rookie single-season receiving yards record that has stood since 1960 when the Houston Oilers’ Bill Groman finished with 1,473 yards.

Cowboys sensation Micah Parsons has the opportunity to cap a remarkable debut season in Week 18.

Parsons leads the Dallas defense with 13 sacks, and with one game remaining, he is just 1.5 sacks away from Jevon Kearse’s rookie sack record of 14.5 set in 1999.

Finally, having passed 1,000 yards last week, Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts became the first player in his position to surpass the milestone as a rookie in 60 years.

And with just one game left, Pitts needs just 59 yards to pass Mike Ditka’s rookie receiving record for a tight end of 1,076 yards set in 1961.

Experienced yet still excelling

At 44 years of age and with so many years of experience under his belt, Tom Brady has nearly every quarterback record in history to his name.

However, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roll into Week 18, a single-season record which Brady hasn’t conquered is within touching distance.

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The seven-time Super Bowl champion enters the final week of the season with 4,990 passing yards. Former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning holds the single-season record for passing yards with 5,477 set in 2013.

It would take a monumental effort for Brady to once again put his name next to a record: he would need 488 yards against the Carolina Panthers and he’s only thrown for more than that once in his career, a 517-yard performance against the Miami Dolphins in 2011. But if there’s one man to never doubt, it’s the arguable GOAT of the NFL.

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