This season the Colts have had all kinds of problems stopping the run, but certainly can’t be pushed aside as a weak team after making the playoffs six straight years, plus having a star QB like Peyton Manning.
Last season the Giants and Patriots were ranked in the Top 10 in run defense before meeting in the Super Bowl, while the 13-3 Cowboys were ranked sixth. In 2005, the Panthers were 4th in the league at stopping the run behind its fearsome front foursome. They made it to the NFC Championship game. The team just ahead of the Panthers was the Steelers, who won the Super Bowl.
Stopping the run in some capacity is essential for success in football. Think about how many third-and-short situations you see over the course of a game. If a team can’t stop the run, opponents can simply run the ball all day long, picking up first downs and controlling the clock.
After five games in 2008, the top five teams in rush defense were a combined 15-9 against the spread. Two of those, the Redskins and Titans, were the biggest surprises in the league, starting a combined 9-1 SU/ATS.
Last year, the Jets, Chiefs, Bengals and Broncos were the biggest busts, especially on defense. Their combined record against the run was 13-25 SU and 17-27-4 ATS.
This season, the biggest busts of the year have been the Lions, Rams, Bengals, 49ers, Chiefs and Browns. Not coincidentally, all rank in the bottom 12 in run defense.
A year ago at this time Denver was last in run defense and despite their strong start in 2008, run defense is still a major weakness, ranked 30th.
Run defense is an excellent place to start when examining strengths and weaknesses each week, and for potential future bets as history has not been kind to teams that are not stout against the run in the postseason.