By now, you’re aware that there’s a 17th game on the slate for 2021, featuring a matchup against the Jaguars. With one additional game, plenty of franchises are going to see individual and team records fall by the wayside this upcoming year. Long-term, that probably will lead to a lot of career records falling too, and the way that might dilute standing records and make the most impressive players of the 16 game era seem a little dimmer and less impressive, which is something we’ll be grappling with down the line if the schedule continues to expand to 18 games and perhaps beyond.
For the immediate future, though, it’s the single season records that are in danger of falling. Might that be the case in Atlanta?
Yes and no. Atlanta won’t break many if any records on defense—if Dean Pees is worth his salt they won’t best their most putrid failures, and they won’t be the ‘77 Falcons either—but things are a little more interesting on offense. Arthur Smith is inheriting a talented group, one that certainly has question marks along the offensive line and to a lesser extent at running back and quarterback, but one very capable of putting up a season that ranks among the franchise’s best with an additional game as long as Smith can bring the same kind of play calling and scheming acumen he displayed in Tennessee.
I doubt the Falcons touch their points record—540 in a single season is almost 100 points higher than the next-highest single season total—but other marks are well within reach. A healthy Matt Ryan could break 5,000 yards for the first time in his career if all goes well, considering he nearly hit that mark twice (4,944 in 2016 is, of course, his personal best) and his 38 single season passing touchdowns should also be within reach if everything goes well. Even less flashy records like the number of passing first downs—242 back in 2012—could be broken, and Calvin Ridley has to be a sneaky pick to equal or break the franchise single season receiving touchdowns mark (15). I’m pretty bullish on Ryan breaking his single season yardage mark because of how efficient this offense could be, but that is also dependent on the passing game not being a bit de-emphasized in favor of a punishing ground game.
There are still so many unknowns in terms of personnel that big, confident projections are difficult. Just glancing at the talent on hand, our optimism about Smith, and the additional game, though, it would not be a surprise to see a few records fall. I’ll turn the discussion over to you: What records do you think may fall in 2021?