NFL teams have long preached the importance of running the ball and stopping the run. It seems that was a formula for successful teams in 2008.
Maybe those old-school football guys are right about what makes for a successful season – being able to run the ball and being able to stop the run defensively. If the 2008 numbers are any indication, controlling the ground game is as vital as ever.
While running the ball isn't essential to making the playoffs – Arizona made it with the worst rushing offense in the league – it would seem to be as telling a factor as any. Of the top seven rush offenses, six of them comprised half of the 12 teams that made the 2008 playoffs – the Giants (No. 1), Atlanta (2), Carolina (3), Baltimore (4), Minnesota (5) and Tennessee (7). The only team in the top seven that didn't make the playoffs was New England at No. 6 and the Patriots won 11 games.
The same would seem to be true on the defensive side of the ball. Of the top six rush defenses in 2008, five of them were teams that made the playoffs – the Vikings (No. 1), Pittsburgh (2), Baltimore (3), Philadelphia (4) and Tennessee (6). Only the Bears (No. 5) didn't make the playoffs, and that could be attributed to having the 26th-ranked offense and the 30th-ranked pass defense.
Some stats can be skewed to fit the purpose of those working the numbers, but it seems quite clear that success in the NFL can still be accurately predicted by how well teams can run the ball on offense and stop the run defensively. Considering that the Vikings and Ravens were the only teams to be in the top five in both categories, that has to be a promising sign for the future.
The star power of the Vikings was on display Friday when the NFL announced its All-Pro teams. Four Vikings – running back Adrian Peterson, guard Steve Hutchinson, defensive end Jared Allen and defensive tackle Kevin Williams – were named to the first team, which tied them with the Titans for the most players selected. Antoine Winfield was named to the second-team All-Pro squad as well.
Peterson got 45 votes for starting RB, five ahead of Michael Turner. DeAngelo Williams finished third with 13 votes.
Hutchinson was first in the guard voting with 40 votes, eight more than fellow starter Chris Snee of the Giants. Kris Dielman of San Diego was third with 10 votes.
Matt Birk received no votes for All-Pro center.
Allen was second in DE voting behind Justin Tuck (26 votes) of the Giants with 21 votes – one more than Julius Peppers.
Kevin Williams was second in DT voting with 25 votes – 24 votes behind Albert Haynesworth and 14 more than third-place Kris Jenkins of the Jets. Pat Williams received just one vote.
Winfield finished fourth in the cornerback balloting with 10 votes.
Leslie Frazier completed his interview with the Lions Friday. Word in the Detroit media was that Frazier had a very strong interview. The Detroit Free Press maintains that Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett remains the frontrunner for the job.
From the "You Can't Make This Up" Department comes this: The Broncos interviewed Frazier this week along with a half-dozen others, but a new prospective head coach has thrown his own hat in the ring – former Broncos player Bill Romanowski. Apparently, he has contacted the team expressing interest in the job, despite being suspended by the league for drug policy violations, having himself and his wife charged with steroid trafficking and being involved in several incidents written off as part of "'roid rage." No word if Denver officials are taking the offer seriously.
Mike Nolan, fired at midseason as the head coach of the 49ers, interviewed with the Packers on Friday.