Two weeks into the 2023 NFL season, a number of players are off to sizzling starts.
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson, Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey and Rams running back Kyren Williams are a few of the players who have registered gaudy statistics in their respective teams’ first two games of the campaign.
Although two games is a small sample size, it’s interesting to note that all five of the aforementioned players are on pace to set notable NFL single-season records.
Although it will be difficult for these players to maintain their current pace over the course of an arduous 17-game season, it’s fun to look ahead and examine what might be possible.
Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins: Passing Yards
Hot Start: Tagovailoa leads the NFL with 715 passing yards after two games. In the Dolphins’ season-opening win at the Chargers, Tagovailoa threw for 466 yards—just three yards behind his career best set in 2022 against Baltimore. In Week 2 against the Patriots, he threw for 249 yards while completing 70% of his passes.
On Pace: The current record for passing yards in a single NFL season is 5,477 by Denver’s Peyton Manning in 2013. Of course, that was in a 16-game regular season. Tagovailoa will benefit from the extra game the league added to the slate in 2021. If Tagovailoa continues at his current pace of 357.5 yards per game, he projects to finish the season with 6,078 yards this season, which would blow Manning’s record out of the water.
Justin Jefferson, Vikings: Receiving Yards
Hot Start: After leading the league with 1,809 receiving yards last season, Jefferson is showing no signs of slowing down this year. He opened the season with 150 yards on nine catches against the Bucs and followed that up with 159 yards on 11 catches against the Eagles. His total of 309 receiving yards leads the league.
On Pace: Calvin Johnson set the current NFL record with 1,964 receiving yards for Detroit in 2012. With an average of 154.5 yards per game through Week 2, Jefferson is on pace to obliterate that mark. If Jefferson were to maintain that average and play every game this season, he would finish the campaign with 2,627 receiving yards.
T.J. Watt, Steelers: Sacks
Hot Start: The 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year made Steelers franchise history on Monday night by becoming the team’s career sack leader with 81 1/2 in just seven seasons. He registered three sacks in Week 1 against the 49ers and added one against the Browns in Week 2. It appears Watt is rebounding nicely from an injury-shortened 2022 season, in which he tallied 5 1/2 sacks in 10 games.
On Pace: Watt already is tied for the most sacks in a single season, having recorded 22 1/2 in 2021 to equal Michael Strahan’s mark from 2001. Watt, who’s averaging two sacks per game, is currently on pace to record 34 if he plays in all 17 games. Although he’s unlikely to maintain that pace, he’s well positioned to make a run at sole possession of the record he currently shares.
Christian McCaffrey, 49ers: Rushing Yards
Hot Start: McCaffrey leads the NFL with 268 rushing yards through two weeks, far ahead of the closest challenger, Atlanta rookie Bijan Robinson (180 yards). The 49ers star recorded 152 rushing yards in the season opener in Pittsburgh, a total which exceeds his best game from all of last season. He followed that up with 116 rushing yards against the Rams in Week 2.
On Pace: Eric Dickerson set the single-season rushing yardage mark with the Rams in 1984 when he racked up with 2,105 yards in 16 games. Since then, six other tailbacks have topped 2,000 yards in a season. The Vikings’ Adrian Peterson came the closest to the record with 2,097 yards in 2012. If McCaffrey stays healthy, he could challenge Dickerson’s mark by virtue of the 17th game. Averaging 134 rushing yards per game so far this year, McCaffrey would record 2,278 yards over 17 games at his current pace.
Kyren Williams, Rams: Touchdowns
Hot Start: Williams has emerged as a fantasy football standout already this season with four touchdowns in two games. The former Notre Dame standout recorded two rushing touchdowns in Week 1 at Seattle. He showed out against in Week 2 by scoring a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown against the 49ers.
On Pace: Chargers legend LaDainian Tomlinson scored an NFL-record 31 touchdowns in 2006 (28 rushing, three receiving), topping Seattle’s Shaun Alexander, who had scored 28 touchdowns the previous season. If Williams is able to maintain his pace of two touchdowns per game for the entire 17-game schedule, he will set a new record with 34.