Blog Entry

Run or Pass in the NFL

Posted on: November 21, 2008 1:08 am

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.

Category: NFL

Since: Nov 16, 2006
Posted on: November 22, 2008 10:07 pm

Run or Pass in the NFL

Nice blog Newstew. The team running the ball effectively also keeps their own defense off the field as well. A well-rested defense generally performs better than a tired defense that can't get off the field on 3rd downs. Historically, the team with a good running game and less-than-stellar passing game, tend to go further in the playoffs vs teams with a weak running game and a great passing game. The Giants and the Cardinals are the textbook matchup for this arrangement. The Giants uses the "Earth, Wind and Fire" approach of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. Eli has been clutch when called upon, but he isn't lighting it up for 300+ yards per game. On the other hand, Kurt Warner leads the league with a 105 QB rating and an 8.3 yards pass average. Warner is second to Drew Brees in attempts per game, total yardage, and yards per game. Warner also has his full compliments of RBs and Brees doesn't. It is no doubt in my mind that Warner is having an MVP year. But one has to wonder how the Cards would do in a tougher defense. 4 of their wins come at the expense of a weak NFC West division. The Giants have defeated all of their division rivals who also have winning records. Regardless who wins between these 2 teams tomorrow, if these 2 teams were to meet in the playoffs, I believe it will be the Giants who persevere.

A good run game makes the whole team play well. It helps the passing game and the defense. However, the same can't be said about a team with only a good passing game.

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