The NFL is rapidly becoming a pass-happy league, with scores and totals reaching an all-time high. But no matter how far your quarterback can throw the ball, there is still two sides to the offensive playbook.
Running the football isn’t just about setting up big plays and eating the clock and these three teams are trying to prove it by adding a steady dose of ground to their air-it-out attacks this season. With that in mind, over/under bettors should keep close tabs on their totals, as a potent injection of the rushing game can keep scores low and under the number.
Green Bay Packers (2012: 11-5 SU, 8-8 O/U)
Pass offense: Ninth (253.1 ypg)
Run offense: 20th (106.4 ypg)
The Packers rushed for just over 106 yards per game last season, good for 20th in the league. Green Bay’s RB depth chart was a game of musical chairs, moving in guys like Ryan Grant, Cedric Benson, James Starks and Alex Green. Aaron Rodgers had to do some of the tough sledding himself, finishing second on the team in rushing.
The Cheeseheads feel much better about their ground game this season. They drafted Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin and head coach Mike McCarthy told NFL.com there will be vast improvements to Green Bay’s running game. Don’t expect the Packers to air it out as much, at least not in the early going.
Dallas Cowboys (2012: 8-8 SU, 8-8 O/U)
Pass offense: Third (295.6 ypg)
Run offense: 31st (79.1 ypg)
The Cowboys ran the ball just 355 times in 2012. That ranked as the second fewest handoffs in the NFL and was a franchise low in rushing attempts. Part of the problem was an injury to RB DeMarco Murray, who missed six games in the middle of the schedule. The other issue was trigger-happy head coach Jason Garrett, who couldn’t help but let Tony Romo sling the ball on every snap.
The playbook has been plucked from Garrett’s clutches – we think – and turned over to new offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, who is a fan of the West Coast offense. While Callahan says he’s not straying too far from Garrett’s playbook, you can expect more touches for Murray and less long bombs in 2013.
Atlanta Falcons (2012: 13-3 SU, 5-11 O/U)
Pass offense: Sixth (281.8 ypg)
Run offense: 29th (87.3 ypg)
The Falcons have replaced one battering-ram RB with another, dumping Michael Turner for former Rams rusher Steven Jackson. However, it will be interesting to see how well Jackson does with defenses not stacking the box. Having a QB like Matt Ryan and a dangerous WR corps should keep opponents honest and give Jackson plenty of room, something he didn’t have in St. Louis.
According to Jeanna Thomas of The Falconholic, if you swapped out Jackson’s 2012 statistics with Turner’s, Atlanta’s run game would jump from 29th to 22nd overall. And that’s not considering Jackson’s ability to make gains on the screen pass. Early chatter out of camp is that the 30-year-old dreadlocked downhill runner looks like a 22 year old. If that’s the case, the Falcons could continue to play under the total with new life in the ground game.