Peyton Manning had a season for the ages in 2013. The 37-year-old quarterback shattered both the NFL single-season records for passing yards and passing touchdowns en route to winning his fifth NFL MVP award and leading the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

But those records could be broken on Sunday.

Quietly in 2021, Tom Brady has approached that passing yard mark. In the same season in which he surpassed Drew Brees for the all-time career passing yards record, Brady finds himself within striking distance of Manning’s single-season record, potentially setting himself up to claim another record in his Hall of Fame career.

While the record, if broken, would be viewed by some with an asterisk due to the 17 games Brady had to set the record compared to Manning, who accomplished the feat in 16 games, it would still be a major achievement for the 44-year-old quarterback and could potentially open the door back up in the race for the NFL MVP award.

Does Brady have a chance to set the record when he and the Buccaneers play the Panthers on Sunday? Sporting News dives into the numbers.

What is the single-season passing yards record?

In that MVP-winning 2013 season, Manning beat the previous record set by Brees in 2011 by the slimmest of margins. One yard to be exact.

Brees passed for 5,476 yards that season, holding off Brady who had 5,235 that season (still third-most to this day), to surpass Dan Marino’s 1984 record of 5,084 yards. Manning reached 5,477 behind the eventual Super Bowl-bound Broncos.

In addition to the passing yards record, Manning also set the single-season passing touchdown record, surpassing Brady’s previous record of 50 touchdowns from the 2007 season with 55 scores.

Tom Brady passing yards 2021

It has been an incredible season for Brady. He finds himself in the midst of the 2021 NFL MVP conversation at age 44, and his Buccaneers have already won the NFC South as they look to defend their Super Bowl crown.

But the single-season passing yards record could be a bit out of reach for him in this game. On the year, Brady has 4,990 passing yards with 40 touchdowns, a 66.9 completion percentage and 12 interceptions. To break Manning’s record, he would need to pass for 487 yards.

Brady has only once in his career passed for at least 487 yards, dating all the way back on Sept. 12, 2011, when he threw for 517 yards against the Dolphins. His next closest passing game came on Sept. 20, 2015, when he had 466 against the Bills.

In fact, according to Stathead, there have only been 31 games where a QB hit at least 487 passing yards in a game.

It would be foolish to say that Brady can’t reach 487 yards. Of course, if “Tom Terrific” wanted it, he could probably reach that goal and set the record. However, he might not even get enough chances. The Buccaneers are playing the Panthers at home to close out the season. The last time these two teams met, the Buccaneers won 32-6 with Brady only needing to pass for 232 yards. Blaine Gabbert finished the game late at quarterback.

The Panthers have lost six straight games and have allowed 24.3 points per game during that stretch, but for all the woes the Panthers have had this season, allowing a lot of passing yards hasn’t been an issue for them. They have allowed the second-fewest passing yards in the NFL this season at 2,942.

The Buccaneers are heading into this game having already locked up the division, and with a win, would finish no lower than the third seed in the playoffs. Unless the Panthers turn this game into a shootout — they’ve averaged the 29th-fewest points per game in the NFL — there will be no reason for Brady to pass for nearly 500 yards and risk potential injury before the postseason begins. Add in the fact he’s playing against a defense that has been strong against the pass and a team that has only once allowed him to pass for more than 350 yards, and it’s hard to see him reaching Manning. 

One can look for the Bucs and Brady to prioritize rest and injury prevention over a personal achievement that some would view as illegitimate if given the opportunity.