It has always been a question of cause-and-effect, but rushing the ball more in an NFL game usually determines whether or not a team is victorious. It could be the teams are running the ball because they are winning, but sometimes they are winning because they are running the ball. So what is the magic number of running attempts to have success? And where do both the Steelers and Jets fall when it comes to comparing these statistics? In this weeks installment of Crunching the Numbers, we’ll take a look at all the outcome of each game for both the Steelers and the Jets for 2019 in relation to the number of rushes attempted on offense and defended against.
In breaking down win-loss record across the NFL, it appears a very even number in which to make a determination is 25 rushing attempts in a game. In 2019 there have been 242 games an offense has rushed the ball 25 times or more. In these games, the offense has won 74.6% of the time. Therefore, when a defense has given up 25 rushes or more they have only been successful in winning the game 25.4% of the time.
While the first two numbers are simply complementary, looking at games in which teams rushed for less than 25 attempts gives slightly different data. Of the 206 games in which an offense has rushed the ball under 25 times, they have won only 21.6% of their games, meaning defenses who have faced under 25 rushing attempts have won 78.4% of the time.
For the 2019 season, the Steelers are 8-0 when they have rushed the ball 25 times or more. Inversely, they are 0-6 when they do not reach 25 attempts. Therefore, the Steelers are one of the extreme teams as they are more than 25% away from the NFL average and have all of their wins in losses in each category.
When it comes to the defense, the Steelers are 1-6 when their opponent has rushed 25 times or more with the single win being against the Indianapolis Colts who rushed 29 times. At 14.3%, the Steelers winning percentage is more than 10% lower than the NFL average. When the Steelers defense has held their opponent to less than 25 rushing attempts, they are a perfect 7-0 in 2019.
Turning to the Jets, they also have a perfect winning percentage when they rush the ball more than 25 times. Of their five victories in 2019, the Jets have four of them in games which they have surpassed 25 rushing attempts. When the Jets have not reached 25 carries, they are 1-9 with their victory being against the Dallas Cowboys where they only rushed the ball 20 times.
When it comes to the Jets defense, they are very close to the NFL average as they are 2-7 when their opponent rushes 25 times or more. With a winning percentage of 22.2%, they are very close to the league average of 25.4%. Unfortunately for the Jets, it’s their winning percentage when they hold their opponents to under 25 rushes which has been letting them down as they’ve only won 60% of their games. At 3-2, the Jets winning percentage is almost 20% less than the NFL average.
For both the Jets and Steelers, they each have a 100% winning percentage when their offense rushes the ball 25 times or more. Where the two teams have differed is when their defense has faced less than 25 rushes a game as the Steelers are still 100% in winning percentage are the Jets come in only at 60%.
As stated before, the cause-and-effect of rushing the ball and achieving a victory can vary from game to game. Even if the Steelers are losing late in a game, if they choose to just continue to run the ball just to reach the 25 rushing attempts threshold it would be an exercise in futility. When the Steelers are trying to secure a win and doing so by utilizing the run, their rushing attempts are simply a byproduct of their success.
So does rushing the ball a certain amount really determine victory? If a team does not rush the ball effectively all game and attempt to do so while holding a late lead, is it of any benefit? Are the statistics merely useful for looking at the outcome after the fact or can they help in creating the game plan? Please leave your answers in the comments below!