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The 2007 Vikings

Posted by Chase Stuart on November 23, 2007

Football commentators like to say that running and stopping the run are the keys to success. By that measure, no team has been as successful this year as Minnesota. The Vikings lead the NFL in yards per rush, averaging an incredible 5.95 yards per carry. Since the merger, the 1997 Detroit Lions have the highest yards per rush average in a season, at 5.51. Last year's Falcons ranked second at 5.47, and no other team was even close to averaging 5.5 yards per carry.

Further, the 2007 Vikings are allowing just 2.88 yards per carry. Last season, the Vikings allowed 2.83 yards per rush, which was the third lowest mark since the merger. The 2000 Ravens (2.69) and 1998 Chargers (2.70) have the lowest two averages since 1970. That Ravens team won the Super Bowl, while San Diego rostered two QBs that would throw 15 INTs or more that season.

It probably goes without saying that the 2007 Vikings differential (5.95 offensive yards per carry, 2.88 yards defensive yards per carry allowed) is the highest of any team since the merger. But that 3.07 margin isn't just the highest -- it's not even close. No team has even come close to a difference of two yards per carry between their offensive and defensive numbers. Take a look at the biggest differences since the merger:


tm yr OYPC DYPC Diff Record
ram 1984 5.29 3.56 1.73 10-6-0
atl 2006 5.47 3.75 1.72 7-9-0
det 1997 5.51 3.89 1.62 9-7-0
rav 2000 4.30 2.69 1.61 12-4-0
det 1989 4.88 3.35 1.53 7-9-0
det 1994 5.12 3.63 1.49 9-7-0
jax 2006 4.95 3.48 1.47 8-8-0
rav 2003 4.83 3.43 1.40 10-6-0
dal 1974 4.53 3.22 1.31 8-6-0
pit 1976 4.55 3.25 1.30 10-4-0

What's interesting about that list is the lack of great teams. The '76 Steelers were excellent, as were the 2000 Ravens. But there are lots of seemingly mediocre teams, surprising given the success of their offensive and defensive running games. And, of course, this year's Vikings are just 4-6.

The 2006 Super Bowl Champion Colts allowed the most rushing yards per carry since the merger. Here are the bottom teams since 1970, sorted by differential:


tm yr OYPC DYPC Diff Record
nwe 1973 3.55 5.09 -1.54 5-9-0
clt 1992 2.91 4.39 -1.48 9-7-0
nwe 1986 2.93 4.32 -1.39 11-5-0
nwe 1994 2.79 4.17 -1.38 10-6-0
det 1985 3.40 4.76 -1.36 7-9-0
clt 2006 4.01 5.33 -1.32 12-4-0
kan 1976 3.76 5.06 -1.30 5-9-0

Believe it or not, three of the worst seven teams in rushing differential ended up making the playoffs. One of them won the Super Bowl.

This entry was posted on Friday, November 23rd, 2007 at 11:25 am and is filed under History, Statgeekery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.