Betting the Running Game

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Running game? Stunning game!
NFL playoff pendulum swings back after three uncharacteristicyears

Pat Kirwan of wrote an interesting piece last week introducingthe theory that the running game was no longer necessary to winplayoff games. His theory, albeit contrarian, seemed to have meritin that over the past nine rounds of the playoffs, only 6 of 26winning teams produced a 100-yard rusher!

Let that soak in for a minute. Over the past three years, only22% of teams winning their playoff games had a 100-yard rusher!What happened to three yards and a cloud of dust?

Kirwan quoted three sources, and citing three key theories forthis trend. One offensive coordinator was quoted as saying: “Onlythe best quarterbacks are left when you get to the playoffs, andthey have a better chance of beating you with their arms thanby handing off.”

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An NFL defensive coordinator suggested; “we are so wired into a team’s running game after 17 weeks that we are very wellprepared to stop good backs”

A personnel man offered that “you get against a team like Indianapolisor Minnesota, and you can’t score fast enough on the ground tostay with them.”

I sat and discussed these games with noted handicapper CarloCampenalla. We hashed through these three points and could onlyconclude that they were statistical anomalies.

“Trends are overrated in the NFL,” Campenallasaid. Then we watched four, count them, four 100-yard rushersblow the theory to kingdom come. Here is basic overview of theconversation, point by point.

Haven’t we seen just the opposite the past fewyears? Brad Johnson? Trent Dilfer? Rich Gannon? All quarterbackswho coaches were not thrilled to see passing. Also, haven’t weseen an influx of increasingly mobile, athletic quarterbacks capableof tucking and running just as easily as passing? Donovan McNabb,Duante Culpepper, Steve McNair and now Michael Vick? Theory numberbites the dust!

How wired into the Steelers running game werethe Jets? Were they not expecting Jerome Bettis to pound the ballas he rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown? How about the Rams?Apparently not very well prepared to stop Michael Vick 8-119 rushingand Warrick Dunn 142 yards and two touchdowns! So much for theorynumber two!

You absolutely can score fast enough on the groundagainst Indianapolis or Minnesota if your combined defenses giveup 17 points! Theory number three makes sense when convenient.Now what?

The conclusions to be made here are that as interestingand really more shocking as Kirwan’s stats were, a bruising runninggame and strong defense do win football games in January — anda three year trend is simply too short of a period to get an accurategauge.

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Jay has been watching and following sports since he could walk and turned to betting in his late teens. His favorite sport is MLB and has been producing winners on UltimateCapper for almost 20 years. Follow Jay's free sports picks and enjoy the winners.