The NFL finally is ready to get back to work, much to the joy of armchair quarterbacks everywhere. Predicting Super Bowl teams in the summer and top performers in training camp is often an exercise in futility, but we can use past performance to give us some idea of what we’ll see in the upcoming season. Here are the notable milestones that can be reached -- or even extended -- this season.
ManningPeyton Manning 300-Yard Games
With his next 300-yard game, Manning will pass Dan Marino for the most 300-yard passing games in history. Both have 63, one ahead of Brett Favre. Manning has thrown for at least 300 yards in Week 1 each of the last two seasons.
Colts Consecutive Playoff Appearances
If they make the postseason in 2011, the Colts will set a record for most consecutive playoff appearances (10). Indianapolis shares the record with the Cowboys, who made nine straight playoff appearances from 1975-83.
Tom Brady's Record Streaks
Brady enters 2011 on two record streaks, and is likely to extend both to unprecedented levels. He’s thrown 335 straight regular-season passes without an interception, a streak dating to Week 6 of 2010. No one has ever thrown more than 308 consecutive regular-season passes without being intercepted. Brady also has won 28 regular-season starts home starts, also an NFL record. The mark used to belong to Brett Favre, who won 25 straight at Lambeau Field from 1995-98.
Brady and Belichick Better Together
Brady and Bill Belichick have won 111 regular-season games together, the second-most wins by a head coach-starting quarterback combination. They could tie Marino and Don Shula as early as Week 5 against the Jets and pass them the following week against the Cowboys.
Adrian Peterson’s Strong Start
One of only seven players with 5,000 rushing yards and 50 rushing TDs in his first four seasons, Peterson could join an even more exclusive club. Peterson has had at least 1,000 yards and 10 rushing TDs in each of his four seasons. If he does that again in 2011, he’ll join LaDainian Tomlinson as the only players to reach those levels in their first five seasons.
Chasing Rod Woodson
He holds the record for both interception return touchdowns and interception return yards, yet Woodson could be passed on both lists. Darren Sharper (11) and Charles Woodson (10) are within striking distance of Woodson’s 12 career interception return TDs. Sharper needs 72 interception return yards to pass Woodson; the Ravens' Ed Reed is even closer, 45 yards behind Woodson (1,483 to 1,438).
Another Record for Devin Hester?
Last season, he broke the record for most combined punt and kickoff return TDs, passing Brian Mitchell with his 14th return TD. Hester could set another record in 2011, one that actually exists in the NFL Record and Fact Book. Hester’s 10 career punt return touchdowns currently are tied with Eric Metcalf for the most in league history.
Top 5 For Tomlinson
With 13,404 yards rushing, Tomlinson could climb from sixth to fourth on the career rushing yards list. He needs 259 yards to pass Jerome Bettis for fifth, and 698 to pass Curtis Martin for fourth. The Elias Sports Bureau also tells us Tomlinson could set another record. If he rushes for 100 yards and two touchdowns in a game, it will be his 26th such game, breaking a tie with Jim Brown for the most in league history.