This year is full of ups and downs in the NFL. Teams that have been perenial division leaders are appearing to miss the playoffs and that made me think of a question. What is more important a good running game or a good passing game. Is it better to control the ball with a ground and pound attack or go down field with an air force of footballs? Lets look at the current leaders.
Currently the top five running teams in yardage per game are the New York Giants, Atlanta, Baltimore, Minnesota and Washington. The overall win/ loss records of those teams are as follows: the Giants are 9-1, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Washington are 6-4 and Minnesota is 5-5. Only the Giants and Minnesota lead or are tied for the lead in their division. The leaders in rushing scores are Tennessee, New York Giants, Miami, Baltimore, and Jacksonville. Tennessee leads the league at 10-0, Miami is 6-4, and Jacksonville is 4-6. Only the Giants and Baltimore are in the top 5 of both rushing categories. Each of those teams has used 3 different runners in a running by committee effort.
The top five passing teams in yardage per game are New Orleans, Arizona, Denver, Philadelphia, and Houston. The overall win/loss records of those teams are as follows: Arizona 7-3, Denver 6-4, New Orleans 5-5, Philadelphia 5-4-1, and Houston 3-7. Only Arizona and Denver lead their divisions. The top 5 leaders in passing scores are: San Diego, Arizona, Denver, New York Jets, New Orleans, and Dallas. The Jets are 7-3 and lead the AFC East, Dallas is 6-4, and San Diego is 4-6. Only Arizona and Denver are on both lists.
Looking at this data from a pure wins and losses basis the leaders Tennesse and the New York Giants boast the top 2 records in the NFL. That would indicate that being able to run the ball enables a team to win more often than a passing team. In fact the only losing record for a top 5 running offense is Jacksonville at 4-6. On the other hand two of the top passing offenses San Diego at 4-6, and Houston at 3-7 have losing records and the best passing team is only 2 games over .500.
Why would running the ball be more effective than passing? Well having a sucessful running attack allows a offense to control the clock and field position in a game. Turnovers are minimized and by consistently running the ball the opposing defense has to tackle a ball carrier much more often and is more susceptible to being worn down during the game. It has been said that when a team passes the ball 3 things can happen and two of them are bad. Passing teams are more apt to turn the ball over as the top 5 teams in turnovers include Houston, Denver, and the New York Jets. Passing teams also are less able to control the time of possesion making it hard to run out the clock on close ball games.
Teams that consistently run the ball are able to deal with injuries to key players. Losing a quarterback in a passing attack like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning this year have reduced the effectiveness of these teams. Where as Pittsburgh was still able to suceed even when Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall were injured they plugged in Melwende Moore and kept running. The same when Willis McGahee went through his streak of injuries for Baltimore Ray Rice kept up the offense.
In conclusion it appears that having a good rushing offense will lead to more sucess in the NFL then a good passing offense.