That would fall just 7 yards short of Dan Marino's 27-year-old record of 5,084.
Brees, who fell just 15 yards short of Marino's record in 2008, leads the way with 4,368 yards — putting him on pace to raise the bar by 300 yards, to 5,376. With Brady having thrown for 4,273 yards, he's on pace to throw for 5,259. With Manning having thrown for 4,105 yards, he's on pace to throw for 5,052.
What's going on this season is akin to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chasing down and then running away from Roger Maris for the single-season home run crown. When Maris beat Babe Ruth's 34-year-old record in 1961, the record increased from 60 to 61. In 1998 — 37 years later — McGwire hit 70 and Sosa 66.
Marino set the single-season passing standard in 1984. Other than Brees, nobody has approached the record. Marino and Brees have the only 5,000-yard seasons. There are nine seasons bunched together between third place (Kurt Warner's 4,830 yards in 2001) and 11th place (Peyton Manning's 4,700 yards in 2010).
Of the top 11 seasons, five came between 2007 and 2010. It's no secret that the NFL has tilted more and more to passing the ball. In 1984, the average team threw the ball 511 times and ran it 493 times, an almost perfect balance with teams passing the ball 50.9 percent of the time. In 2010, the average team threw the ball 540 times and ran it 435 times, with the pass percentage up to 55.4 percent. This year, it's up just slightly, to 55.6 percent.
"The natural reaction, everyone wants to point to the rules," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Wednesday. "But it is a more wide-open game, there's no doubt about it. I know my time in the NFL, people play you more wide open just in the approach to it. You get on the other side of those type of games, you don't have the ability to catch up, so it's almost like you have to have that as part of your offense. But you have to give credit to the training and development of quarterbacks. Ultimately, give the credit to the quarterbacks that are making these types of throws and just playing at the level that they are. But the game is definitely tilted that way, I don't think you can deny that as well as far as the way it's regulated."
While McCarthy pointed to a long-term trend, there's another thing to point to that helps explain why this is the year Marino's record will fall a time or four. While conventional wisdom thought defenses would be ahead of offenses because of the lockout, the opposite has been true, with defensive coordinators simply lacking the time to put together and the players lacking the practice time to master the complex schemes designed to slow the aerial game.
The result has been staggering.
This is the first season with at least three quarterbacks passing for more than 4,000 yards through Week 14. There also have been a league-record 14 400-yard passing games, led by Eli Manning with three; Marino holds the record with four in 1984. There have been 99 individual 300-yard passing games. The record for a full season was 104 in 2009.
The rules help passing, as quarterbacks and receivers get the benefit of the doubt on penalty calls, which makes defenders gun-shy.
Finally, colleges are training quarterbacks in ways that fit the pro style much better than they ever did. A Cam Newton or Andy Dalton can step right in during the 2011 season and have an impact, just as a Ben Roethlisberger or Matt Ryan or Sam Bradford have done in recent years, and pile up the yards.
Rodgers has seen the game change since entering the league in 2005. That year, Brady led the NFL with 4,110 yards. Brees, Brady and Rodgers have topped that already, with Eli Manning just 5 yards short.
"We're fortunate to play in an era that throws it a little bit more," Rodgers said. "I think you've seen a trend that's permeated through all levels, starting with high school and college and on up where it's more pass-first offenses and the spread has kind of made its way in different forms or fashions up into college and into the pros. The skill players, you have a lot more guys who can do things and use their talents in different ways. A lot of it is trying to find ways to get those guys in space. So, the majority of ways people are doing that is throwing the football."
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.