Tipping the Scales

Running the ball and strong defense wins Championships. Yet in the year 2002, not one of the six teams whom sport the top individual rushing backs made the playoffs. So I guess passing the ball wins Championships, which is also not necessarily true.

Ricky Williams was the leagues best back with 1.853 yards rushing. His Miami team missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record. They held the division lead until the final day, but were knocked out swiftly after a loss to New England and a NY Jets win.

LaDainian Tomlinson ended the season as the No. 2 rusher with 1,683 yards rushing. His San Diego team started the year 6-1 only to falter to an 8-8 record.

Priest Holmes ended the year at No. 3. Holmes missed the last two games of the year with an injury but still managed 1.615 yards on an 8-8 Kansas City team.

Rookie Clinton Portis may have wrapped up his rookie season in style with 1,508 yards rushing and is sure to be in the running for rookie of the year. It didn't help his 9-7 Denver team make the playoffs though.

Travis Henry of Buffalo rushed for 1.438 yards on an 8-8 Buffalo team.

Deuce McAllister had 1,388 yards rushing for 9-7 New Orleans who missed out on the playoffs on the final weekend of the season.

I guess having the top backs in the league will only lead to mediocrity.

In fact not one of the top three overall rushing teams made the playoffs. Minnesota led the league in rushing with 2,507 yards rushing and also had the most touchdowns with 26. They ended the year at 6-10. Miami had 2,502 yards rushing as a team and 24 touchdowns. Kansas City rounded out the top three with 2,378 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns.

Then it must be passing that makes the playoff given that rationale. Oakland (11-5) and Indianapolis (-) are the only teams in the top five in passing to make the playoffs. Well that is better than the rushing stats, but not overwhelming to draw such a conclusion that passing is the new way to a Championship.

Three of the top four individual performers did lead their team to the playoffs. Rich Gannon with Oakland, Peyton Manning with Indianapolis, and Kerry Collins with the NY Giants. Four of the next five outside of that group did not make the playoffs. So that makes four quarterbacks in the top nine statistically who led their respective team to the playoffs. Again not overwhelming.

So what is the answer? Balance on offense and defense.

Eight of the top twelve defensive teams are in the playoffs. The Jets are the worst defense to enter the playoffs ranked 24th overall, but this is a team that has not allowed a 4th quarter touchdown in the last nine games.

Safe to say from this information, defense at least gets you in the playoffs these days. Just ask the Chargers who have given up a 300-yard performance to a quarterback eight times this year. They are playing golf this time of year.

SD Super Chargers Top Stories