You’re probably aware by now, but something will happen in 2021 that hasn’t happened since 1987. This offseason the NFL announced that it would move to a 17-game, 18-week schedule for teams. In 1987, NFL teams played 15 games due to a strike and have played 16 games per season ever since.The NFL first moved to the now defunct 16-game schedule in 1978, with some hiccups such as the strike mentioned above, and a 1982 strike which led to only 9 games being played.
Overall though, since 1978 NFL stats have easy to compare to other season as for the most part 16 games have been played. Obviously due to there being more games than in years prior to 1978, most franchises season statistical leaders will currently be between 1978-2020. In 2021 though, with the NFL now playing more games in a season than they’ve ever played, what will that do to franchise stats and overall stat comparisons?
To answer my own question: With the one additional game added, plenty of franchises are going to see individual and team records change hands this upcoming season. Long-term, I would expect to see career statistics and records fall with the help of an additional game, as well.
With that being said, let’s guesstimate how Falcons’ franchise records would look if the team played a 17-game schedule in 2020 and see if anyone would’ve come close to breaking records last year, as well as how likely it is that some current major records will be broken in the future. For this, I’ll be using players’ averages per game to determine what the extra game stats could’ve been.
Falcons Single-Season Passing Records
Obviously, all of this comes from quarterback Matt Ryan and he is his own competition. His all-time best season in terms of passing yardage and touchdowns is 2016 where he was awarded league MVP for the regular season. Had he played an extra game in 2020, this is how his stats would compare.
- 2016 Passing Touchdowns (Matt Ryan): 38
- 2020 Passing Touchdowns (Matt Ryan): 28
His 2016 is probably untouchable until the Falcons’ next great quarterback comes around.
- 2016 Passing Yards (Matt Ryan): 4,944
- 2020 Passing Yards (Matt Ryan): 4,867
Okay, so maybe Ryan’s 2016 franchise-best passing numbers are safe for the time being. It does show that even in 2020, he would’ve been close to breaking his 2016 record for passing yardage. Since this is only based on per game averages, he could’ve easily broke that record had a 17th game taken place. But with the number that came up, his 2020 season would’ve been the third best in terms of passing yardage in franchise history.
Falcons Single-Season Rushing Records
When it comes to breaking franchise single-season rushing records, this is probably safe for the time being. Although it’s possible that new head coach Arthur Smith, who had a lot of success through the running game in Tennessee, has an impact here. But until then, I’m going to assume these Falcons’ records are safe as no Falcons running back has had over 1,000 yards rushing since Devonta Freeman in 2016. But since we’re comparing franchise bests to 2016 probable highs, let’s take a look.
- 2008 Rushing Touchdowns (Michael Turner): 17
- 2020 Rushing Touchdowns (Todd Gurley): 10
Todd Gurley is no longer on the team, and through 16 games he finished with 9 rushing touchdowns and predictably would’ve had 10 if an extra game was played. He would’ve been too far to touch Turner’s rushing touchdown record, but Gurley still would’ve found himself in the top-10 for rushing touchdowns had an extra game been played. It’s also worth noting that Gurley only played in 15 games in 2021.
- 1998 Rushing Yards (Jamal Anderson): 1,846
- 2020 Rushing Yards (Todd Gurley): 768
Again, it’s safe to say that Anderson’s rushing record is safe for the foreseeable future. Averaging 115.4 rushing yards per game, that number even with an extra game added should effectively be untouchable. As much as I like Mike Davis and the other running backs on the roster, that’s just an absurd number for a modern running back to touch unless he’s one of the game’s true greats, and Davis and company are not.
Falcons Single-Season Receiving Records
Julio Jones owns all of these records except for the touchdown record owned by Andre Rison. Calvin Ridley has the potential to be a real threat to these numbers as long as he suits up for all 17 games.
- 1993 Receiving Touchdowns (Andre Rison): 15
- 2020 Receiving Touchdowns (Calvin Ridley): 11
Ridley led the team in receiving in 2020, and his real-life 9 receiving touchdowns was enough to put him in 14th on the franchise list. With an extra game added in 2020, and Ridley officially becoming “the guy,” who knows how long that record will stand. It’s worth noting that in 2020, Ridley only played 15 games and one of those games, against the Green Bay Packers, he was shut out and recorded no stats. That seems unlikely to happen again this year.
- 2015 Receiving Yards (Julio Jones): 1,871
- 2020 Receiving Yards (Calvin Ridley): 1,557
If a 17th game happened in 2020, Ridley would’ve been very close, especially if he played every game and wasn’t locked down by Jaire Alexander. In 2021, Ridley can top Jones’ record by averaging 110 or more yard per game, which is very doable. Regardless, the projected 2020 with a 17th game would’ve put Ridley 4th on the franchise list instead of his real-world rank of 9th.
- 2015 Receptions (Julio Jones): 136
- 2020 Receptions (Calvin Ridley): 102
As mentioned above, Ridley basically only played 14 games in 2020 which would’ve inflated these numbers so I stuck with his actual per game averages through 15 games. With a 17-game schedule and Ridley hopefully playing in all of them, this record could be broken in the next couple of years, but the Falcons’ passing attack doesn’t figure to be quite so volume-heavy and Kyle Pitts will have a significant target share.
Falcons Single-Season Kicking Records
We now face an interesting scenario as kicker Younghoe Koo broke a franchise record in 2020 previously held by Falcons’ great Matt Bryant. Koo made 37 field goals in 15 games topping Bryant’s 2016 record of 34. Although Koo only played in 15 games, he averaged 2.4 field goals per game.
- 2020 Field Goals Made (Younghoe Koo): 37
- 2020 Field Goals Made (Younghoe Koo): 42
It’s entirely possible that Koo could break his own record in 2021, and all he needs to do is average around 2.4 field goals per game, which is definitely doable. That would also mean this team is settling for a lot of field goals, though, so let’s hope not.
- 2016 Extra Points Made (Matt Bryant): 56
- 2016 Extra Points Made (Younghoe Koo): 37
This record most likely will never be broken unless there’s a change to the PAT format. Bryant made an incredible 56 extra points during the 2016 season, which helped the Falcons reach the Super Bowl. Koo, and any other future Falcons’ kickers won’t likely break this record and it’s not really through any fault of their own. Even with an extra game added, NFL teams are increasingly going for two-point attempts following touchdowns instead of taking the chip-shot extra point.
Falcons Single-Season Defensive Records
The defensive side of things is where this gets tricky, as the Falcons defense really hasn’t been good in quite some time. These records are likely safe, but just for fun let’s see how 2020 would’ve matched up.
- 2008 Sacks (John Abraham): 16.5
- 2020 Sacks (Deion Jones): 5
Before we get started on sacks, allow me to pay some respect to Falcons’ legend and Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Claude Humphrey. Humphrey technically could’ve been the record holder but sacks didn’t become an official NFL statistic until after he retired, although he is credited with 122 career sacks. Okay, so linebacker Deion Jones led the team in real-life 2020 with 4.5 sacks, and projection-wise would’ve had 5 with a 17th game. Abraham’s sack record is safe for the foreseeable future until the Falcons’ defense gives us a reason to think otherwise.
- 1988 Interceptions (Scott Case): 10
- 2020 Interceptions (Blidi Wreh-Wilson): 3
This is another defensive record that is likely safe for a while, as the last Falcons player to even come close was safety Damontae Kazee in 2018 with 7. With the 17th game added, perhaps someone like A.J. Terrell could have one of those wild seasons where he’s just intercepting everything, but Case’s record is definitely safe for now.
Well, that does it. Although it’s difficult to predict the future, a couple of these record holders should be nervous with the addition of an extra game. Personally, I wish the 16-game records would be frozen in time and a new slate of franchise records born with the 17-game schedule. Plain and simple, it’s just not fair to those who accomplished the feats playing less games and comparing a pre-2021 game to a post-2021 game is going to be tricky in itself. The NFL hasn’t done that in the past, however, and I don’t expect itn ow.
If you don’t care about stats than this is definitely no a big deal to you, and I understand that. But as a student of football history and Falcons’ history, it’s going to be rough seeing some of these records fall in the coming years, especially if the NFL moves to an 18-game schedule in the future, which has already been floated around.