Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY

Tuesday trends: More strong running teams projected for playoffs

If you think NFL teams need a strong passing attack to be a playoff team, the statistics say otherwise. Plus, a look at the NFL leaders in some deep-dive stats.

You know that new-age line of thinking about the NFL being a passing league? If passing numbers are the measure for success, you might want to consider re-thinking that philosophy.

Why? Only two of the 12 projected playoff teams have a top-10 passing offense. Sure, the New England Patriots have the second-best record in the NFL and the top passing offense, but it’s not necessarily the most important part of building a playoff team – at least that’s what the rankings through 12 weeks of NFL play indicate.

The Patriots and the Arizona Cardinals (9-2) are the only teams among the top 12 in the playoff picture with a top-10 passing attack. More of the projected playoff teams have a top-10 running attack than passing attack.

  • The Minnesota Vikings are the top-ranked rushing time and the projected No. 3 seed in the NFC while they are 31st in passing offense.
  • The Seattle Seahawks have the second-ranked rushing attack and are the projected sixth seed in the NFC.
  • The Carolina Panthers, the only undefeated team in the NFL, have the fourth-ranked rushing offense while they are 29th in passing offense.
  • The Kansas City Chiefs, the fifth seed in the AFC, have the sixth-best rushing attack.
  • And the Cincinnati Bengals, the second seed in the AFC, have the ninth-best rushing attack.

That’s five of the projected 12 playoff teams with a top-10 ranked rushing attack and only two of the project playoff teams with a top-10 passing offense.

So what about on defense? Five of the 12 projected playoff teams are in the top 10 in rushing defense and five are top-10 in passing defense, with six of the 12 teams top-10 in defense overall.

NOTES AND ODDITIES

  • The Baltimore Ravens became only the second team in NFL history to return a blocked field goal for a game-winning touchdown with no time remaining. The last time it happened was in 1985, when the Broncos’ Louis Wright returned one in overtime against the Chargers.
  • Cleveland Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby returned an interception for a touchdown in the Monday night matchup with the Ravens, the sixth time he has done that in his career, tying Bobby Bell and Derrick Brooks for the NFL record among linebackers.
  • Staying in the AFC North and on defense, Bengals safety Reggie Nelson leads the league with six interceptions.
  •  Oakland Raiders cornerback David Amerson has tied Buffalo Bills CB Ronald Darby for the NFL lead in passes defensed with 19 apiece.
  •  Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt has a two-sack lead for the NFL sacks title with 13½. Ezekiel Ansah has 11½ and Chandler Jones has 10½. No other player is in double digits.
  • The NFL rushing title appears to be down to a two-horse race. Adrian Peterson leads with 1,164 yards and Doug Martin has 1,038. No one else has more than 850 yards.
  • Peterson is running away from the league in another statistics – rushing plays of more than 10 yards. He has 38 such carries, 13 more than anyone else.
  •  Ryan Mathews leads the league with a 5.69 yards-per-attempt rushing average, but the Seahawks have two of the next three spots. Thomas Rawls averages 5.61 yards per attempt and Russell Wilson 5.18.
  • Nobody averages more first downs per carry than Cam Newton, who has gotten a first down on 39 percent of his 98 runs.
  • Despite a down performance in Week 12, Julio Jones still leads the league with 1,245 receiving yards and 113.2 yards per game receiving.
  • Danny Woodhead leads the NFL with 575 receiving yards after contact.
  • Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski and Allen Robinson all have 12 catches that have gone for more than 25 yards.
  •  DeAndre Hopkins leads the league with 65 catches that went for first downs.
  •  Tyler Eifert is the leading red zone receiver with 12 catches inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
  • Rookie Marcus Mariota has the highest passer rating in the red zone at 115.7 while Matt Ryan has thrown the most interceptions (four) in the red zone. Mariota also has the highest rating in away games at 119.4.
  • Russell Wilson has the highest rating at home at 115.3, but Drew Brees is right behind him at 115.2.
  • Carson Palmer has the highest passer rating (122.5) in the second halves of games, but Brady has the highest rating in the four quarter, matching Palmer’s second-half rating at 122.5.
  • No one has been sacked more than Wilson’s 37 times, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is on good end of that spectrum, getting sacked a league-low 3 percent of time he is attempting to pass.

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