Nobody will argue that the running game is going to be a key to our success in 2008. In the first of a series of posts I will be doing on the relationship between pre-season stats and regular season stats, I take a look the running game.

I was shocked to find out the Hawks were #1 in the NFL in rushing yards through the first two games at over 200 YPG. They are still #1 after three games. Let’s not get carried away, though, right? It’s just pre-season.

Let’s look at what the Hawks did in 2007 pre-season vs. regular season:

2007 Pre-Season
109.8 YPG (15th in the NFL)
3.5 YPC (22nd)

2007 Regular Season
101.2 YPG (20th)
3.2 YPC (22nd)

It’s not surprising to see a reduction in regular season numbers for a variety of reasons, including a team’s front-line defense being in the whole game. Total rushing yards came down by ~7.8%. Yards per carry came down by ~8.6%. I did not find the 2006 or 2005 pre-season stats on either or, so I’ll just work with these numbers.

Let’s also just look simply at who the Top 5 YPG and YPC teams in the 2007 pre-season were and compare that to the top rushing teams of the 2007 regular season.

Top 5 YPG 2007 Pre-Season
NY Giants (154.8)
Denver (134.5)
SF (128.5)
Minnesota (126.2)
Oakland (125)

Top 5 YPG 2007 Regular Season
Minnesota (164.6)
Jacksonville (149.4)
Pittsburgh (135.5)
NY Giants (134.2)
Tennesee (131.8)
(Oakland was 6th)
(Denver was 9th)
(SF was 27th)

It’s certainly not a 1:1 correlation, but 4 of the 5 pre-season top rushing teams were Top 10 rushing teams in the regular season. SF had serious injuries to their line and teams quickly realized they could not pass and stacked the line against Gore and Co.

Top 5 YPC 2007 Pre-Season
NY Giants (5.1)
Arizona (4.5)
Houston (4.4)
Denver (4.4)
SF (4.4)

Top 5 YPC 2007 Regular Season
Minnesota (5.3)
Philadelphia (4.7)
Denver (4.6)
Jacksonville (4.6)
NY Giants (4.6)
(SF was 11th)
(Houston was 22nd)
(Arizona was 30th)

Only two of the Top 5 YPC pre-season teams made the Top 10 in regular season. This might not be as good of an indicator, but that’s tough to say with this little of a sample size. Still, there is some correlation here. You have 40% of the Top 5 correct in the pre-season.

Let’s look at the Hawks 2008 pre-season numbers now:

2008 Pre-Season
188.3 YPG (1st)
5.0 YPC (5th)

If we apply the same reduction to those numbers that we saw between the Hawks 2007 pre-season and regular season we come to these projections for the 2008 regular season:

Projected 2008 Regular Season Numbers
173.6 YPG
4.57 YPC

Those numbers would compare very favorably to the 2005 Super Bowl season where we put up 153.6 YPG (3rd) and 4.7 YPC (2nd).

Let’s see what happens in the last game…

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2 Responses

  1. Ray

    Thank you for the research. Very Sandoesque. I love it. You'll be doing spreadsheets pretty quick.

    A couple of questions:

    Basicly, what do we do with this information?

    Generally speaking (I know there are exceptions to every rule), does every teams running numbers go down in the regular season as they all face first team defenses?

    Does this somehow indicate that second team runners are better than second team defenders?

    Or are preseason offences just ahead of (or behind) preseason defences.

    Based on the running numbers, what would be your assumptions regarding passing game numbers, and how has your research supported those assumptions?

    Assume this small sample remains accurate over time – How do O & D co-ordinaters use this information?

    I'll take your answers off the air.

    Totally off the subject, but I really don't understand two things when I listen to people call KJR with questions. 1) Why would anybody announce "I'm a first time caller"? and what's with the guys that take answers off the air? Are the long distance charges killing ya? Running out of cell minutes? Maybe they just don't want to be on the phone and listen to someone telling them they're an idiot?

    Rant off. Sorry.

  2. hawkblogger

    Welcome to the party, Ray.

    I am sorry to say that I’m already posting spreadsheets:

    Final 2007 Power Rankings

    Links to some of my season game log work ahead of the packers/hawks playoff game

    To answer your first question, I have no clue what you do with this info, I just know I like trying to find things that could help to predict the future. The past is one good source, but nobody really knows. My goal is to inspire some discussion (like this one) with other people who are hopelessly obsessed with the Hawks.

    I’ll be coming out with my second in this series tonight (I hope) that will focus on passing.

    Not all teams number decrease from pre-season to regular season. The Vikings, for instance, exploded in rushing with Adrian Peterson.

    I think those changes (positive and negative) tend to be traced back to new players or injury. Those are hard to predict, so I like to assume things are essentially the same between the pre-season and regular season in terms of players available.

    Oh, and rants are encouraged here.