The addition of a 17th game to the NFL schedule doesn’t give teams with playoff aspirations an extra week to gain ground. It also gives players an additional week to rack up regular-season stats.

Everyone knew coming into the 2021 season that it single-season records could be in jeopardy. There have been 16 weeks in a season regularly since 1978, and just about every single-season record has been set during that time frame. With an additional game, it’s only a matter of time till all the records are re-set once again.

In particular, Michael Strahan’s single-season sacks record at 22.5 from 2001 looks to be threatened this year by two AFC North defensive players. Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt has racked up the sacks, leading the league with 16 despite missing a pair of games, and Browns defensive end Myles Garrett isn’t far behind, just two back at 14 this year.

Could either break the record? Sporting News takes a look.

What is the NFL single-season sack record?

Though the unofficial record is 23, set by Al Baker in 1978, Strahan resides at the top of the NFL single-season sacks record list with 22.5 in 2001. Twice since then, players have reached 22, but the record remains untouched.

Here’s how Watt and Garrett have looked so far this season in pursuit of the record.

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How many sacks does T.J. Watt have in 2021?

As things stand after Week 13, the closest to the record is Watt. Watt has 16 sacks this season, despite having been limited to just 10 games, and he is already past his bye week. Pro Football Focus currently grades Watt with the 11th-best pass rushing grade among NFL defenders (90.5) and sets him at a tie for fifth-best in pass rushing productivity among players with qualifying snap counts at 10.4.

Here is who Watt has coming up the rest of the season.

Week Team Sacks Allowed PFF Pass Block Efficiency
14 Vikings 18 (T-2nd) 85.4 (17th)
15 Titans 33 (T-25th) 80.8 (31st)
16 Chiefs 21 (T-5th) 87.5 (7th)
17 Browns 34 (27th) 86.1 (13th)
18 Ravens 43 (32nd) 85.0 (20th)

Two of the teams Watt will face — the Browns and Ravens — he has already played in 2021. He tallied 1.5 sacks against the Browns in Week 8, and posted a season-best 3.5 sacks against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in Week 13.

The schedule would certainly seem to favor Watt to have a productive stretch. The Chiefs are the only team the Steelers face in the coming weeks that are above-average in both sacks allowed this season and pass block efficiency. Watt would need seven more sacks in five games to reach Strahan, which would be an average of 1.4 per game. So far this season, he’s averaged 1.6 per game, and he has just two games without a sack.

If he should break the record, he would likely do so in 15 games, one fewer than Strahan in his record-setting season.

How many sacks does Myles Garrett have in 2021?

Garrett is right behind Watt in the sacks category with 14, and also figures to find himself in the running for the sacks record. The Browns were on a bye last week, meaning he too has a full season ahead of him. He is listed as the second-best pass rusher in the NFL by PFF at 92.4, and he has the second-best pass rushing productivity grade at 11.3. Both numbers trail only Dallas’ Micah Parsons.

This is the remaining schedule ahead for Garrett.

Week Team Sacks Allowed PFF Pass Blocking Efficiency
14 Ravens 43 (32nd) 85.0 (20th)
15 Raiders 27 (T-19th) 83.6 (25th)
16 Packers 23 (T-11th) 85.4 (T-17th)
17 Steelers 25 (T-14th) 88.8 (3rd)
18 Bengals 36 (29th) 85.7 (15th)

Like Watt, Garrett has just one team that is above average in both sacks allowed and pass blocking efficiency, which would be Watt’s own Steelers. The teams Garrett will face have allowed more sacks (154 to 149), but a slightly higher average pass blocking efficiency grade (85.7 to 84.96). The two schedules are comparable, as each are largely stacked with playoff contenders and some division rivals.

The road will still be a bit harder for Garrett than for Watt, however. He is two behind his AFC North counterpart, and would need to average 1.8 per game to reach the nine needed to break Strahan’s record. He has recorded more than 1.5 sacks only once, coming back in Week 3 against the Bears when he tallied 4.5. He has averaged 1.17 sacks per game. 

It would still be dangerous to count Garrett out here, given how explosive he can be. But Watt will be the most likely bet to break the record, assuming he can stay on the field.





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