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The Arizona Cardinals Need to Run the Ball......Or Do They?

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One philosophy that's been beaten into every football fan's brain over the years is that in order to win consistently you have to be able to run the ball, but is that universally accepted idea still accurate? For decades the "run the ball and play defense" has been the formula to success, especially in post season play, but over the past ten years or so the NFL has evolved. For the past three seasons, we've heard Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt talk about improving the running game and attacking with a more balanced offense. Many of us here at ROTB have clamored for a more competent running game for years but is it really that important?

  • Ten teams have logged double digit wins this season and eight of them currently rank in the top ten in terms of passing yards per game, including four of the top five. 
  • Of those same ten teams, only three of them rank in the top ten in rushing yards and four of them are ranked 21st or worse.
  • The Colts, who sport a 26-5 record over the past two seasons, ranked 31st in rushing last year and currently have the worst rushing offense in the league this year.
  • Of the top ten rushing teams this season, five of them currently have a record below .500 and only three have reached double digit wins.
  • The top ten passing teams this season have an average win total of 10.6. Only the Steelers and Texans, who are both 8-7, have not reached double digit wins.
  • There are thirteen 1,000 yard rushers, on twelve teams, in the league this year and seven of them are below .500 this year. The Carolina Panthers have two 1,000 yard backs and the third ranked rushing attack in the league but they'll need a win over the Saints this weekend to reach eight wins this year.

What does all this mean? Well we're certainly not advocating abandoning the run completely or suggesting that being the worst rushing offense in the league is the key to unparralled success, but it's interesting that so many of this year's playoff teams are below average on the ground. The Cardinals rushing attack has improved (73.6 last year versus 96.4 this year) but they are still among the league's worst (26th). So how important is the running game and is it important that the Cardinals creap closer to league average.