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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.

Rank
Player
Record
Figure
Sport
Score
Year
1 Barry Bonds Career Intentional Walks 688 Baseball 0.4848 2007
2 Nolan Ryan Career No Hitters 7 Baseball 0.4773 1993
3 Joe DiMaggio Consecutive Games With Hits 56 Baseball 0.4582 1941
4 Jim Bottomley Single Game Runs Batted In 12 Baseball 0.4552 1924
5 Oscar Robertson Season Triple Doubles 41 Basketball 0.4264 1962
6 Cy Young Career Wins 511 Baseball 0.4151 1911
7 Wilt Chamberlain Single Game Points 100 Basketball 0.4136 1962
8 Cy Young Career Complete Games 749 Baseball 0.4091 1911
9 Wayne Gretzky Career Assists 1963 Hockey 0.4047 1999
10 Norm Van Brocklin Single Game Pass Yards 554 Football 0.3978 1951
11 Ty Cobb Career Batting Average 0.366 Baseball 0.3831 1928
12 Ted Williams Career On-Base Percentage 0.482 Baseball 0.3807 1939
13 Glenn Hall Consecutive Games Played In Goal 502 Hockey 0.3773 1962
14 Dick Lane Season Interceptions 14 Football 0.3769 1952
15 Ichiro Season Hits 262 Baseball 0.3757 2004
16 Babe Ruth Career Slugging Percentage 0.6898 Baseball 0.3753 1935
17 Cal Ripken Consecutive Games Started 2632 Baseball 0.3717 1998
18 Walter Johnson Career Shutouts 110 Baseball 0.3632 1927
19 Tom Dempsey Single Game Field Goal Length 63 Football 0.362 1970
20 Dutch Leonard Season Earned Run Average 0.961 Baseball 0.3492 1914
21 Pete Rose Career Hits 4256 Baseball 0.3478 1986
22 Rickey Henderson Career Stolen Bases 1406 Baseball 0.3474 2003
23 Gale Sayers Single Game Points Scored 36 Football 0.3383 1965
24 Wilt Chamberlain Season Scoring Average 50.4 Basketball 0.3375 1962
25 Wilt Chamberlain Single Game Rebounds 55 Basketball 0.3373 1960
26 Rogers Hornsby Season Batting Average 0.424 Baseball 0.3336 1924
27 AC Green Consecutive Games Played 1192 Basketball 0.3331 1999
28 Drew Brees Consecutive Games With Touchdown Pass 54 Football 0.3273 2012
29 Michael Jordan Career Points Per Game 30.12 Basketball 0.3265 2003
30 Wilt Chamberlain Season Rebound Average 27.2 Basketball 0.3192 1961
31 Nolan Ryan Career Strikeouts 5715 Baseball 0.3164 1993
32 Wayne Gretzky Consecutive Games With A Point 51 Hockey 0.3132 1983
33 Brett Favre Consecutive Starts 297 Football 0.3064 2010
34 Wayne Gretzky Career Points 2857 Hockey 0.3059 1999
35 Nolan Ryan Season Strikeouts 383 Baseball 0.3044 1973
36 Orel Hershiser Consecutive Scoreless Innings 59 Baseball 0.2981 1988
37 Vince Coleman Consecutive Stolen Bases 50 Baseball 0.2951 1989
38 John Stockton Career Assists 15806 Basketball 0.2899 2003
39 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Career Points 38387 Basketball 0.2884 1989
40 Ricky Henderson Season Stolen Bases 130 Baseball 0.2768 1982
41 Jerry Rickey Career Receiving Yards 22895 Football 0.2767 2004
42 Derrick Thomas Single Game Sacks 7 Football 0.2698 1990
43 Eric Gagne Consecutive Saves 84 Baseball 0.2645 2004
44 Wayne Gretzky Season Goals 92 Hockey 0.2566 1986
45 Hack Wilson Season Runs Batted In 191 Baseball 0.255 1930
46 OJ Simpson Season Average Rushing Yards/Game 143.1 Football 0.2499 1973
47 Morten Andersen Career Points 2544 Football 0.2482 2007
48 Wilt Chamberlain Career Rebounds/Game 22.89 Basketball 0.246 1973
49 Jerry Rice Consecutive Games With Reception 274 Football 0.2414 2004
50 Barry Bonds Season Slugging Percentage 0.8634 Baseball 0.2304 2001
51 Wayne Gretzky Season Points 215 Hockey 0.2198 1986
52 Brett Favre Career Touchdowns 508 Football 0.2085 2010
53 Ladainian Tomlinson Season Points 186 Football 0.2069 2006
54 Jerry Rice Career Receptions 1549 Football 0.2058 2004
55 Emmit Smith Career Rushing Yards 18355 Football 0.2025 2004
56 Wayne Gretzky Season Assists 163 Hockey 0.2021 1986
57 Eric Dickerson Season Rushing Yards 2105 Football 0.202 1984
58 Jerry Rice Career Touchdowns 208 Football 0.2008 2004
59 Brett Favre Career Passing Yards 71838 Football 0.1826 2010
60 Adrian Peterson Single Game Rush Yards 296 Football 0.1756 2007
61 Barry Bonds Career Homeruns 762 Baseball 0.1723 2007
62 Tom Brady Season Touchdown Passes 50 Football 0.1648 2007
63 Ladainian Tomlinson Season Touchdowns 31 Football 0.1644 2006
64 Barry Bonds Season Walks 232 Baseball 0.1593 2004
65 Barry Bonds Season Homeruns 73 Baseball 0.1239 2001