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Game Scripts – The Best Teams of 2012

Last year, I introduced the concepts of Game Scripts. There are 3600 seconds in every game: the Game Script is the average score over each of those 3600 seconds. For reference, you can check out this list of the top single-seasons of all-time.

Did you know that the Patriots ranked 20th in pass/run ratio last year? Without the concept of Game Scripts, we can’t put that in proper context. New England actually ranked second in the league in rush attempts last season, a result based on two factors: the Patriots ran an incredible 1,191 plays last year and on average, the team was winning by over a touchdown in each game.

Here are the 2012 Game Script scores for each team, which represent the average lead held by the team in every second of every regular season game from last year:

RankTeamGame Script
1NWE7.7
2SEA5.5
3DEN4
4SFO3.6
5ATL3.6
6CIN3.5
7GNB3
8CHI3
9MIN2.9
10HOU2.7
11SDG2.3
12BAL1.9
13NYG1.9
14WAS1.9
15CAR1.3
16NOR0.3
17PIT0.1
18TAM0.1
19MIA-0.9
20IND-1.1
21CLE-1.9
22BUF-2.1
23STL-2.3
24DET-2.6
25DAL-3
26NYJ-3
27ARI-4
28TEN-4.2
29JAX-4.5
30PHI-5.3
31OAK-6.7
32KAN-7.3

Game Scripts aren’t supposed to surprise you: the best teams should have the highest averages, and that’s what we see here. Maybe the Bengals come in a little higher than you’d expect: that’s because they blew out the Raiders and Giants, and played even in losses to the Steelers and Browns. In a loss against the Cowboys, the Bengals averaged a 4.2 point lead over the course of the game. With a couple of breaks, Cincinnati could have won 12 games in 2012.

Another team that ranked surprisingly high on here was San Diego. In that Monday Night loss to the Broncos, the Chargers averaged an 8.4-point lead before Denver’s crazy second half. Despite a 7-9 record, San Diego had a negative Game Script score in just five games in 2012.

But how I like to use Game Scripts is to judge a team’s identity as a passing or running team. For example, the Patriots ranked 20th in pass/run ratio but New England was first in Game Script score.  As long as Tom Brady is around, the Patriots will be a passing team, but the raw stats present a misleading story.  What we want to do is control for each team’s pass/run ratio based on their Game Script score. To do this, I measure how many standard deviations above average each team is in both game score and pass-run ratio.  Over the last decade, the standard deviations was 4.80% for pass/run ratio and 3.45 points for Game Scripts.  I then use these standard deviations to come up with ratings that are similar in meaning to PFR’s passing index numbers centered around 100. A score of 115 means a team is one standard deviation above average; a score of 85 means a team is one standard deviation below, 70 means two standard deviations below, etc.

How do we calculate them?

  • For game scripts, the average is always zero. So for each team, the formula to calculate their Game Script Index is: 100 + 15 * (Game Script Average / 3.45).
  • For pass/run ratio, we use a similar formula, except the average is not zero. So the Pass Index is calculated as follows: 100 + 15 * ( (Pass Ratio – 57.6%)/(4.80%)).

Let’s re-look at the 2012 standings, but this time, I’m going to include each team’s pass/run ratio, their Game Script Index and Pass Ratio Index numbers (based on standard deviations above average), and sort the table by a column I’m calling Pass Identity.

RankTeamGame ScriptPassSCRIPT IndexPASS IndexIDENTITY
1ATL3.663%115.5116.932.4
2NWE7.756.1%133.295.428.6
3NOR0.365.3%101.2124.325.5
4DET-2.666.3%88.8127.316.1
5GNB358.4%113.2102.815.9
6CIN3.557.7%115.1100.415.5
7DAL-366.2%87126.913.9
8SDG2.358.4%109.8102.612.5
9DEN455.9%117.394.712
10NYG1.957.7%108.2100.68.8
11BAL1.957.4%108.399.57.8
12PIT0.159.7%100.6106.87.4
13ARI-465.4%82.5124.67.1
14TAM0.158.7%100.3103.73.9
15IND-1.160.3%95.2108.63.8
16JAX-4.564%80.3120.10.4
17CLE-1.960.3%91.6108.60.2
18CHI353%113.285.6-1.3
19HOU2.753.4%111.687-1.4
20STL-2.359.1%90104.8-5.2
21MIN2.951.4%112.580.9-6.6
22CAR1.353.2%105.686.5-8
23TEN-4.260.5%81.7109.2-9.1
24PHI-5.361.7%76.9113-10.1
25OAK-6.763.6%71118.8-10.2
26SFO3.649.2%115.673.9-10.5
27MIA-0.955.1%96.192.5-11.4
28SEA5.545%123.760.6-15.7
29BUF-2.155%90.892.1-17.1
30WAS1.947.8%108.169.4-22.4
31NYJ-352.2%86.883.3-29.9
32KAN-7.350.7%68.378.7-53

To calculate each team’s Pass Identity, I simply add their Game Script Index and Pass Ratio Index and subtract 200 points. The Falcons come in as the most pass-happy team of 2012, once you account for situation. Atlanta was a 13-win team last year, so ranking 8th in pass attempts and 26th in rush attempts despite that record requires a significant devotion to the passing game. Of course with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez, that makes perfect sense.

The Patriots jump from 20th in Pass/Run Ratio to 2nd in passing identity, as their heavy run totals are now properly placed in context. The Broncos and Peyton Manning experience a similar jump. Denver was 21st in pass/run ratio but 3rd in Game Scripts.

The craziest stat belongs to the Kansas City Chiefs, who despite finishing with the worst record and Game Script score in the league finished with the fourth highest run/pass ratio in 2012. The Chiefs also finished with the second-lowest Pass Identity last year (at -33) behind only the Tim Tebow Broncos. But with Andy Reid and Alex Smith in town in 2013, I think we can expect Kansas City to come closer to league average in 2013. You can’t fault the Chiefs for preferring to put their fate in the hands of Jamaal Charles instead of Matt Cassel, but Andy Reid’s teams have generally had strong Pass Identities.

You probably aren’t too surprised to see the “Ground and Pound” Jets with the second heaviest Rushing Identity. Part of the reason behind the hiring of Tony Sparano was to become more of a running team. Despite a 6-10 record, the Jets finished 6th in rush attempts and 25th in pass attempts in 2012.

The three teams that finished with more runs than passes were all playoff teams in the NFC that relied heavily on the Pistol or the read-option offense: Seattle, Washington, and San Francisco. All three teams look a little less run-heavy once you account for situation (especially the Seahawks). While Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, and Colin Kaepernick were excellent running threats, it would be silly to label them as pure running quarterbacks. Wilson and Griffin ranked in the top four in yards per attempt, and Kaepernick was just six pass attempts shy of qualifying for — and winning — the yards per attempt crown.

The Bills are another interesting team. The addition of E.J. Manuel should make them another run-heavy team in 2013, and I think they’ll be one of the more intriguing offenses to watch next season.

{ 18 comments }
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  • MP September 20, 2013, 11:43 am

    Hi. Any chance you could publish a weekly-updated list like this during this season?

    Reply
    • Chase Stuart September 20, 2013, 11:46 am

      Check today’s post.

      Reply
      • MP September 21, 2013, 1:24 pm

        Sorry. I meant the run/pass ratio table. Could that be posted each week without too much additional hassle?

        Reply

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