NFC Team Outlooks: 2006 Regular Season NFL Run/Pass Ratio Significance

Atlanta Falcons 56% Run to 44% Pass

2006: Atlanta being a run heavy team excelled running the ball with a great 5.5 yards per carry average. They ran it close to 34 times a game. Their pass game on the other hand was non-existent most of the time. It doesn’t matter much when you run for close to 3,000 yards.

2007: Look for Atlanta to do the same, unless Mike Vick and the new coaching staff have something tricky up their sleeves to change it up this year. Understanding there is not something the staff knows that we do not, Atlanta will continue to lead the NFL in rush yards per attempt and total rushes this year, with Warrick Dunn heading the rush attack, along with Jerious Norwood and Mike Vick.

Arizona 57% Pass to 43% Run

2006: Arizona did what opponents expected them to do last year. There were no surprises when they went to the air time after time. The run game was dreadful last season with the league’s worst rush average at 3.2 a carry. They ran less than an overweight youth who plays NFL Madden 2007 everyday. This awful rushing performance was the main reason Arizona was once again a five-win team.

2007: Arizona’s offense traveled through the air more than FedEx last season. The passing attack was counted on more often then the offense of their in-state basketball team, the Phoenix Suns. I see some changes being made to the running even though they favored that above average passing attack more than the not-so vaunted run game by a bunch. The Leinart, Fitzgerald, and Boldin trio will continue to flourish. But the Cards need to get the “Edge” going if they want to succeed. They helped their cause by drafting Penn State OT Levi Brown 5th overall. Be ready to see a vastly improved rushing attack with a new sheriff in town, former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhut.

Carolina 56% Pass to 44% Run

2006: Carolina made the pass a main option last year because they didn’t have a #1 starting RB to carry the load week in and week out. Their big priority was the throw to Steve Smith via a variety of numerous plays set for him. You could not count on their run game, like you could not count on Adam Jones to stay out of harm’s way. Their win total declined because of the uncertainties at the RB position.

2007: Carolina better improve their running game after a bad season last year. I say they will with DeAngelo Williams getting more acclimated with the system. After a year of playing in the backfield of the Panthers, Williams will definitely improve as he tries to become the every-down back Carolina needs. They will still have to pass first as Williams’ development process goes on. Delhomme to Smith will be the connection that will keep them around a 55%-45% Pass to Run ratio.

Chicago Bears Balanced Attack (514 plays pass to 503 run plays)

2006: Chicago was very balanced with QB Rex Grossman and former back Thomas Jones leading the way to a good offensive season; that helped them finish 13-3. The Bears probably went deep more than any other team last year. Bernard Berrian was the main beneficiary of the improved, go for it all passing attack mentality. Jones and Cedric Benson provided a strong 1-2 punch, which netted close to 2000 yards and 14 touchdowns.

2007: With new, added weapons in Devin Hester at WR/RB, TE Greg Olsen, healthy WR Mark Bradley, and third-down RB Garrett Wolfe, look for the Bears to pass more. Considering it will be Cedric Benson’s first year with the starting spot all his, the Bears will pass first and then ease him into the role being a workhorse for the run game this season. I see the Bears offense getting better with a still, steady offensive line that will protect and open big holes for the backfield.

Dallas 52% Pass to 48% Run

2006: Dallas’ offensive balance helped steer them to a playoff appearance last year. The pass game improved with new QB Tony Romo and the league leader in touchdown passes, WR Terrell Owens. They made serious strides throwing the ball, by getting rid of the aging Drew Bledsoe and RB Marion Barber lifted the run game with double-digit touchdowns. Julius Jones and Barber combined for a strong run game, rushing for over 120 yards a game and average 4 yards per carry. Dallas ranked third overall with 21 rush touchdowns.

2007: Dallas should maintain the same ratio of running and passing this season. I see them using TE Jason Witten more and going to Barber as the everydown RB. They will be ranked close to the Top 10 in total offense. I expect to see the run game reaching new heights in success. Look for the more “power” run game to return with the addition of mammoth offensive lineman Leonard Davis.

Detroit 2/3 Pass % to Run 1/3%

2006: Detroit was a joke on offense, running less than participants in a 40 and older basketball league. Their pass game was exceptional under new offensive coordinator Mike Martz. They thrived with WR’s Roy Williams and Mike Furrey getting plenty of opportunities in the open field. The plan to pass two thirds of the time worked out just like the whole “XFL” experience, it did not all, failing miserably.

2007: Detroit added RB Tatum Bell, so expect more running, but not too much. I see QB Jon Kitna running more than any other back on the roster, running that is, away from opposing teams’ defensive ends and blitzers. So more of the same this year from Martz and Co., as they added a new toy in Calvin Johnson (another WR drafted by GM Matt Millen.) This season should bring back the same old test results like a clean person’s drug test: Negative (nothing new found.)

Green Bay 59% Pass to 41% Run

2006: Green Bay turned heads by going away from Ahman Green and the run game exclusively. They went all-out Brett Favre on opponents, passing close to 40 times a game! It did not work out well as they anticipated, watching the playoffs inside, extra-cozy at home with the family and kids on the big screen.

2007: Green Bay does not feel comfortable airing it out 59% of the time, so they will run more with a RB committee. Favre is getting any younger and WR Donald Driver is his only deep threat. So expect them to run more, taking advantage of a good offensive line and fresh backs off the bench.

Minnesota 55% Pass to 45% Run

2006: Minnesota’s offensive performance last season made it one to forget, as their touchdown to interception ratio was pathetic at 13:20. Their QB’s accuracy made Rex Grossman look like Joe Montana. They were fortunate when they scored more than ten points last season. They should’ve used RB Chester Taylor more times than not.

2007: Minnesota, considering they added Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson, (7th overall in the draft) should run the ball a lot more. They will use the talents of Peterson to pair up with Taylor, to bolster an offense that was more unbearable to watch than a Richard Simmons exercise show. Look for the Vikes to make adjustments featuring the run game more, reversing 2006’s Run to Pass ratio.

New Orleans 55% Pass to 45% Run

2006: New Orleans’ offense was about as exciting to watch as a classic Mike Tyson first-round knockout in a heavyweight bout. QB Drew Brees had an MVP-type year proving critics wrong once again, recovering strong from a shoulder injury. Reggie Bush opened eyes like he did in college at USC and Deuce McAllister was a back to count in short yardage situations. The pass game made this offense the best in the league completing 64% of their passes with over 4,500 yards.

2007: In New Orleans expect more of the same success that earned the team a conference championship ticket, as Bush will only get better, along with WR Marques Colston. The ratio will remain around the same balance, as the Saints feature the NFC’s best QB.

New York Giants 53% Pass to 47% Run

2006: The New York Giants season was about as baffling as the Portland Trailblazers’ decision to choose Center Sam Bowie over Mike Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft. With RB Tiki Barber leading the rushing attack, New York ran for close to five yards a carry, at 135 yards a game. So why didn’t they utilize their superstar Barber more often?

2007: With Barber retiring, expect significant changes with New York’s offense. Barber made the Giants offensive line look like Joe Bugel’s “hogs” back in the day with Washington. They replaced him with Ruben Droughns and will run a steady diet of RB Brandon Jacobs. It’s a good goaline/short yardage package, but nothing more than that. Eli Manning will have to get his arm locked, loaded, and ready for this upcoming year, as he looks to throw more than New York Yankee’s closer Mariano Rivera does in a full 162-game season. Rest that right arm and ice after each game Eli.

Philadelphia 57% Pass to 43% Run

2006: Philly has always been a pass first team under Head Coach Andy Reid and it continued last season. The eagles passed more than kids playing the game “hot potato.” It worked as they reached the second round of the playoffs. Philadelphia QB’s passed for 31 scores with only nine picks thrown. The run game was very effective, rushing for 4.8 yards a carry.

2007: Philly will give you more of the same this season, especially if QB Donovan McNabb is fully healthy. They threw 34 times a game last year and will pass it close to that amount again in ’07. Westbrook will continue to shine as the best RB catching the ball out of the backfield.

St. Louis 58% Pass to 42% Run

2006: St. Louis’ offensive play calling did not change one bit. Despite Steven Jackson’s big year they still passed the ball close to 60% of the time last season. The Rams passed for close to 250 yards a game, 37 times a game, only throwing eight interceptions.

2007: The Rams will always be considered and remembered for “The Greatest Show on Turf,” as their aerial attack is more dangerous than sharp box cutter knives. They will continue to pass with QB Marc Bulger throwing to a plethora of downfield targets featuring WR Torry Holt. But soon St. Louis will need to run their star back Jackson 30 times a game. I expect them to go with 45-47% running the ball on offense, not changing their aggressive pass attack too much.

San Fran Even (444 pass plays to 439 Run plays)

2006: The 49ers ran for close to 2,200 yards rushing, on 27.5 times per game, for a clip close to 140 yards a game. Frank Gore made his case for one of the Top 5 RB’s in the league. Alex Smith improved, leading his team to seven victories.

2007: Its good for offensive balance in this league, as it makes you a more successful, but Frank Gore needs at least 30, if not 35 carries a game. He is their main man on offense and best offensive player since Steve Young. Gore can become the best 49er RB of All-Time in the next couple of years, surpassing 49er versatile legend Roger Craig. He is what makes this team go, but don’t expect that to happen as teams will load the box, in trying to stop this former Hurricane RB.

Seattle 51% Pass to 49% Run

2006: Seattle had a good balance on offense last year. They overcame star RB Shaun Alexander’s key injury and did all right for a team hurt most of the year with key absences throughout the season.

2007: Seattle will get a healthy Alexander back and that will make this team strictly a 55-57 % of the time running team, as Hasselbeck lost a couple of receivers in the offseason. Look for the Seahawks to pick up where they left off, when they made their Super Bowl run in 2005.

Tampa Bay 57% Pass to 43% Run

2006: Hard to believe these numbers with the Tampa offense passing (percentage-wise) more than top passing teams like New Orleans and Indianapolis. The Tampa Bay Bucs offensive decision-making was as worse as a teenager dropping out of high school. They threw 18 picks, passed for under 175 yards a game, and ran for a measly 95 yards per contest.

2007: Tampa will go back to running more if the Cadillac is ready make an appearance out of the parking lot of Raymond James Stadium. Expect the Bucs to continue to pass with Garcia under center, as he did so well with Philly last year. Expecting the Cadillac to stay healthy will not work this year, so they have to be better prepared than in ’06.

Washington 51% Run to 49% Pass

2006: Washington did well last year without former star from the ‘U’, RB Clinton Portis, as Ladell Betts was stamped with the workhorse label. He earned a stamp of approval, helping Washington run for over 2,200 yards, on 4.5 yards per carry, and at 31 times a game. They did not miss a beat when Betts stepped in for Portis and it allowed the Washington starting QB Jason Campbell to play it safe as a caretaker.

2007: Expect Washington to run the ball 55% of the time this year with the 1-2 punch in Betts and Portis. Campbell is still developing and has lots to learn. This ‘Skins offense will surprise some people if they get good pass protection from the line this year. Look for Washington to become a Top 10 running football team.

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