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What To Look For – Week 18

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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.

For the Week 18 playoff scenarios, click here

— NFL —

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:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONPASSING YARDS
Peyton ManningHOFDenver20135,477
Drew BreesNew Orleans20115,476
Tom BradyNew England20115,235
    
Tom BradyTampa Bay20214,990*
*Entering Week 18

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

PLAYERTEAMSEASONCOMPLETIONS
Drew BreesNew Orleans2016471
Drew BreesNew Orleans2011468
Tom BradyTampa Bay2021456*
Drew BreesNew Orleans2014456
*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:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONPASSING YARDS
Patrick MahomesKansas City20185,097
Dan MarinoHOFMiami19845,084
    
Justin HerbertL.A. Chargers20214,631*
Joe BurrowCincinnati20214,611*
*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.  

— NFL —

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:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEPTIONS
Michael ThomasNew Orleans2019149
Marvin HarrisonHOFIndianapolis2002143
Cooper KuppL.A. Rams2021138*
*Entering Week 18

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

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEIVING YARDS
Calvin JohnsonHOFDetroit20121,964
Julio JonesAtlanta20151,871
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco19951,848
Antonio BrownPittsburgh20151,834
Cooper KuppL.A. Rams20211,829*
*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.

— NFL —

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:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONGAMES
Shaun AlexanderSeattle200511
Emmitt SmithHOFDallas199511
Jamal AndersonAtlanta199810
    
Jonathan TaylorIndianapolis20219*
*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:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONTOUCHDOWNS
Priest HolmesKansas City200327
Priest HolmesKansas City200224
Austin EkelerL.A. Chargers202118*
LeGarrette BlountNew England201618
Arian FosterHouston201018
*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). 

— NFL —

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:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEIVING YARDS
Bill GromanHouston Oilers19601,473
Ja’Marr ChaseCincinnati20211,429*
Justin JeffersonMinnesota20201,400
*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:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEPTIONS
Anquan BoldinArizona2003101
Jaylen WaddleMiami202199*
Michael ThomasNew Orleans201692
*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:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRUSHING YARDSRECEIVING YARDS
Saquon BarkleyN.Y. Giants20181,307721
Marshall FaulkHOFIndianapolis19941,282522
Edgerrin JamesHOFIndianapolis19991,553586
Billy SimsDetroit19801,303621
     
Najee HarrisPittsburgh20211,172*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).

— NFL —

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: 

SEASONPLAYERS WTH 15+ SACKS
19897
19866
19985
19925
19845
19835
  
20214*
*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:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONGAMESSACKS
Michael StrahanHOFN.Y. Giants20011622.5
Jared AllenMinnesota20111622
Mark GastineauN.Y. Jets19841622
Justin HoustonKansas City20141622
T.J. WattPittsburgh20211421.5*
*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:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONGAMES
DeMarcus WareDallas200814
Justin HoustonKansas City201413
Chandler JonesArizona201713
    
Trey HendricksonCincinnati202112*
Robert QuinnChicago202112*
*Entering Week 18

With two sacks at Philadelphia on Saturday night (8:15 PM ET, ESPN/FOX), Parsons can surpassJEVON 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:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONSACKS
Jevon KearseTennessee199914.5
Aldon SmithSan Francisco201114
Dwight FreeneyIndianapolis200213
Micah ParsonsDallas202113*
*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. 

— NFL —

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