Peyton Manning is (almost) #59

Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos throws a pass during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos throws a pass during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

They say that bad things come in threes. For Peyton Manning, it's three groups of three.

Manning learned that lesson hard last weekend when he fell 3 yards short of becoming pro football's career passing leader. His Denver Broncos lost by three to the Colts, breaking Indianapolis' three-game losing streak.

The Broncos, who are now 7-1, were the only undefeated team to lose in Week 9. Adding to Manning's trifecta headache, three teams — the Bengals, the Panthers and the Patriots — are still unbeaten.

Manning will surely (knock on wood) break Brett Favre's record of career passing yards this weekend in the Broncos' matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs.

But in terms of football records, how impressive is that really? Sports analysts have tried like mad to create a metric to equitably measure performance between players of different positions — like baseball's Wins Above Replacement — but there's little consensus on how to do that.

Academics from Villanova and Temple universities authored a paper recently addressing that disparity as well as offering a way to measure different sports' records against each other. In a paper called "Revisiting the ranking of outstanding professional sports records," the authors use a statistical model to rank a variety of records from different sports.

The analysis considers how long the record has stood, how much of an improvement it was over the record it broke and other factors like how well-known the record is and the era in which it was set. They looked at data through August 2013, which means at least one of the records has been broken since: Manning himself surpassed Favre in career touchdowns last year.


According to their rankings, the top football record was Dick Lane's 14 interceptions in the 1952 season. What's crazy is that "Night Train" Lane's Los Angeles Rams only played 12 games that season, which is 33 percent shorter than the current NFL seasons, yet that record has stood for more than 60 years.

Leading in season interceptions this year are Mike Adams of the Colts and Charles Woodson of the Raiders, each of whom have five interceptions going into Week 10. They'll have to pick up the pace to catch the Night Train.

Favre's 71,838 career passing yards — the record Manning is likely to break Sunday on his first throw — ranks 59th out of the 65 records listed by the paper's authors, and 15th out of the 19 football records. The Saints' Drew Brees is after Manning in terms of active players with 58,796 yards.

The top sports record, according to their analysis goes to Barry Bonds. But it's not for asterisked home runs as you might expect. Instead it's for the 688 intentional walks Bonds drew in his 22-season career.