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:
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 NFL.com or ESPN.com, 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)
Top 5 YPG 2007 Regular Season
NY Giants (134.2)
(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)
Top 5 YPC 2007 Regular Season
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:
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
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...