There are few moments more special in football than when a player writes himself into the history books.
Think LaDainian Tomlinson setting the mark for most touchdowns in a single season and being hoisted upon his teammates' shoulders. Think Peyton Manning breaking Brett Favre's all-time passing record in 2015 -- the Broncos QB received a prolonged standing ovation in the midst of the worst game of his career. Think Drew Brees leaping ahead of Manning last year ... with a long touchdown pass ... on "Monday Night Football." The pomp and circumstance was overwhelming, almost too perfect, yet so deserved.
Those are the moments that tie the history of the game to its present and future -- and make loving the sport completely worthwhile. But not all records are set under the spotlight.
Other accomplishments fly under the radar. Like last year, when Philip Rivers completed a game-record 96.6 percent of his passes in a blowout win over the lowly Cardinals; or when the Texans won nine straight games after starting 0-3; or when the Buccaneers' defense nearly went eight straight games without a single takeaway; or when the Jets scored a modern third-quarter record of 31 points in their Week 1 win over Detroit. I could go on, but how obscure do you want to go?
So which records -- those marks worthy of halting a game for, those random and inconspicuous cocktail-party fun facts -- will be broken in 2019? Try these on for size:
Career passing TDs: 539
Brees and Brady are breathing down the repaired, retired neck of Manning, who left the game with 539 passing touchdowns. The Saints signal-caller is 19 scores behind Peyton, while the Patriots passer is 22 touchdowns shy. This battle of quadragenarians is setting up to rival Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire in 1998 -- or for the pre-PED purists, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle in 1961 -- for one of the great arms races in American sports history. Barring injury (as always), both quarterbacks are sure to surpass Manning by the end of the season. But getting past Peyton is just the start. With Brady aiming to play until he's 45 and with New Orleans building a roster meant to compete for years to come, this record might not be settled for quite some time. Not that I'm complaining, nor are the rest of yous, I imagine.
Career pass attempts: 10,169
Breesus can't stop/won't stop breaking records. Last season, he passed Brett Favre and Peyton Manning for most career passing yards. This year, he'll pass Favre once again. Brees needs 387 pass attempts to hop over Favre on the all-time list. That ain't no problem, that ain't no problem for the Saints legend, who, since joining New Orleans, has averaged 420.1 completions per season.
Single-season receptions: 143
Who's going to catch all those pass attempts? Well, there are few options in the NFL as worthy as Thomas, who led the league in receptions (125) and catch percentage (85.0) in 2018. The Saints' general lack of secondary receiving options not named Alvin Kamara last year led to Thomas' obscene output, and New Orleans didn't make a concerted effort to add any other wide receivers. Now, New Orleans still might trend away from Thomas a bit. The Saints' signing of tight end Jared Cook and the aging of Brees figure to decrease targets for Thomas and, in general, Saints pass catchers. But if there's one player capable of breaking Harrison's record of 143 receptions, it is Thomas, who could earn more than just that honor this year.
Career field-goal attempts: 709
The ageless wonder and future Hall of Famer is heading into his 24th season in the NFL. His career is older than Parris Campbell, Indy's 2019 second-round receiver pick. And yet, setting this mark is almost a sure thing for the Colts kicker. Vinatieri needs just 20 FG attempts to pass Anderson for most in NFL history. In only one season, an injury-shortened 2009 campaign, has Vinatieri attempted fewer than 25 field goals. So barring injury -- a big factor for any other 46-year-old graybeard -- this record is Vinatieri's for the taking, er, attempting.
Single-season passing TDs by a player age 42 or older: 11
All "The Pharaoh" needs is 12 passing touchdowns to top the mark set by Warren Moon in 1998, then of the Seahawks. Brady hitting that number is not a matter of if, but how soon. The only time as New England's starter that Brady didn't hit 12 passing touchdowns in a season, Bernard Pollard dove at his knees. So when will the GOAT jump over the Moon? If the last four years are any indication, somewhere between Weeks 4 and 6. For purposes of holding me to account, I'll say midway through the second quarter of New England's Week 5 win over the Redskins, Brady dumps a 2-yard screen to Braxton Berrios, the FedExField faithful rise to their feet and Scott Hanson holds a moment of silence on RedZone in the QB's honor.
Career sacks taken: 525
Three thousand seven hundred thirteen miles away from Heinz Field, Big Ben is under repairs, saddled with scaffolding as years of wear and tear are tended to. It's a miracle the same is not true in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger is just 25 sacks away from breaking a record held by Favre, the holder of only the most ignominious of NFL records, for most taken by a QB in league history. Now Big Ben (human edition) hasn't been taken down more than 24 times since 2014, but over the last three seasons, that number has been trending upward with Roethlisberger taking 24 sacks last season -- a far cry from his league-leading 50 in 2009, but still good for 24th among quarterbacks in 2018. With the other Bs (Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell) having buzzed out of the Steelers' hive, my funny money is on Big Ben struggling to find the open receivers he once did and succumbing to a quarter's worth of sacks and usurping Favre from this holy mantle.
Single-season punting yards: 5,209
This isn't one of those honors a punter wants to have, I guess. And it's not truly indicative of the player's technique, range or damn near anything, other than his team's general suckiness. In fact, no punter in the top 10 on this list played for a team with an above-.500 record; Britton Colquitt racked up 4,783 punting yards on a 2011 Broncos team that went 8-8, was quarterbacked by Tim Tebow and even won a playoff game! The starting/only punter for the 2019 Dolphins, Haack has the pedigree and potential to set a new mark. He was second in the league in punting yards last year, a bit behind Arizona's Andy Lee, whose 4,568 punting yards were good for 17th all-time and who played on a team that started Josh Rosen under center. Ah, there's the link. With Rosen now in South Beach, where the Dolphins are somewhere between a teardown and a fixer-upper, perhaps the QB's play can inspire another great output from his punter.
Single-season extra points made: 75
Just as the punter who punts a lot isn't to blame for punting a lot, a kicker who makes a ton of extra points is only partially responsible for his prolificity. His team has to first reach the end zone and then choose not to attempt a two-point conversion just to make this statistical achievement possible. So for Butker, the kicker from Kansas City, to break Prater's record of 75 extra points converted, the Chiefs will have to score at least 76 touchdowns in 2019, or five more than they did in 2018, and attempt zero two-point conversions (two fewer). Then Butker has to make 76 extra points. No biggie, for the kicker who led all booters in 2018 with 65 extra points, good for sixth all-time. OK, his four missed extra points last season worry me a bit, but Kansas City didn't just sign Butker to a five-year, $20 million extension to miss points-after. He'll live up to the paycheck and then some in 2019.
Super Bowl victories: 6
Record holders:New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers
2019 challengers (i.e., tie-breakers):New England Patriots
Playing out the season is futile. The result, inevitable. It is written in igneous rock from the mouth of Vesuvius, predetermined by the gods of all religions -- western, eastern and Northeastern -- that New England will leave Pittsburgh in the Lombardi dust this season and/or keep winning titles until the sun absorbs us all.