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Running is Making a Comeback, But It’s Not the Key to Success in the NFL

Offensive scoring is down this year in the NFL, passing yards have taken a dip, and defensive coverages designed to stop the pass have seen a huge uptick in use and success.

Many teams are relying more heavily on the run than in years past, and many are finding it a good way for them to win football games. In fact just this past weekend we noticed a statistical oddity in that there were five teams who won football games while amassing more yards rushing than passing.

Those five teams were the Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Las Vegas Raiders, and Tennessee Titans.

The two biggest disparities came from the Giants, who had just seven completed passes for 71 net yards, and had 262 yards rushing. The Falcons completed just seven passes for 131 yards net, and ran the ball for 202 yards.

Good For a Week, Not For a Season

The Eagles are in this group, and they are obviously going places this season. Philadelphia remains the only unbeaten team in the NFL. But none of the other teams, including the 3-1 Giants, would be considered top tier teams. That makes this weekend’s numbers more of a statistical anomaly than a trend that can be duplicated.

Using Cold, Hard Football Facts’ Offensive Rusher Rating, we see that only the Eagles can win consistently with this kind of run-heavy offense. They rank second in Offensive Rusher Rating, behind the 1-3 Lions, and just ahead of the 2-2 Browns and the 1-3 Cardinals.

And even the Eagles understand that winning with more yards rushing than passing is not a viable long-term strategy. Their NFL Week 4 win was the first time they rushed for more yards than they passed this season, and it was very likely only a result of the heavy rain over Philadelphia.

You Pass to Win the Game

You play to win the game, as Herm Edwards reminded us, and you pass to win the game. Having a good running is very nice, but when you compare the list of top running teams to the list of top passing teams, you can see where the bread is buttered.

Again using Cold, Hard Football Facts, we take a look at their stat Offensive Passer Rating, and we see a who’s-who of top football teams. No. 1 are the Chiefs, and right behind them are the Ravens. And thanks to the incredible start by Geno Smith, the Seahawks are actually third.

The 3-1 Dolphins are fourth, followed by Justin Herbert and the Chargers and the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars. The Eagles, Lions, Bills, and Bucs round out the NFL top 10.

Outside of the Lions, there isn’t a losing team in the bunch, and this list is far more representative of the best offenses in the NFL and the best teams. And we can look back to 2021 for further validation, when the top 10 included playoff teams the Packers, Bengals, Rams, Cowboys, Buccaneers, Chiefs, and 49ers.

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