I’ve published the Game Scripts data from every game this year at the 2015 Game Scripts page, available here. What would it look like if we plotted Game Script score (on the X-Axis) against Pass Ratio (on the Y-Axis) for every game this year? Something like this:
(Note that this looks pretty similar to how it was through seven weeks last year, although the constant (i.e., league-average pass ratio) has increased by nearly a full percentage point.)
As you move from a more negative Game Script to a more positive one, the expected Pass Ratio decreases. But the relationship is not purely linear: in extreme cases, the Pass Ratios tend to move a bit more towards league average, and I think that trend is probably even stronger than it might appear on this graph (see, for example, the Saints in week ten). In any event, you can derive a best-fit polynomial equation from that data, which could give us an expected Pass Ratio.
The Patriots have been pass-happy in every game this season. There’s no better example of that than what New England did against Buffalo in week 2, which grades out as the most pass-happy game of the year. The Patriots had a Game Script of +9.8; put that number into our formula1, and you would “expect” a team to pass on 50.2% of plays given that Game Script. New England actually passed on 80.3% of all plays, meaning the Patriots passed on 30% more plays than expected. That’s the strongest pass identity of any team this year, and New England’s game against the Jets (GS = +0.6; Exp PR = 59.1%; Act PR = 86.4%; Diff = 27.3%) was the only other time when a team passed even 17% more than expected.
If we perform that calculation for every game this year, we can derive season grades. Let’s look at the Patriots line in the table below. In 9 games this year, New England has an average Game Script of +8.3, which happens to be the highest in the NFL (the table is fully sortable). Based on how each game has unfolded, New England would be expected to pass on just 52.1% of all plays if it was a team with a neutral pass identity; however, the Patriots have passed on 64.6%2 of all plays. That means the Patriots have passed an incredible 12.4% above expectation, the highest rate — by far — in the NFL this year. The table below lists that data for each team through week 10:
- The Patriots are always pass-happy under Tom Brady, but this is really extreme even for New England. New England has, by far, the best Game Script in the NFL, yet still has the 4th highest pass ratio this year! Consider that the three teams that have higher pass ratios all have strong negative average Game Scripts.
- Detroit and Oakland also grade out as really pass-happy. That’s not all that surprising for the Lions, who have tended to grade out as pass-happy just about every year. But the Raiders are wisely putting the ball into the hands of Derek Carr, and it’s working. On the other hand, look at how pass-happy the Broncos have been! The Denver running game has been very inconsistent this year, but given the struggles Peyton Manning has experienced, isn’t it crazy how pass-happy the Broncos have been?
- Look which team ranks 32nd in pass identity! Why of course, it’s Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills! Who could have predicted that?
Finally, let’s look at the same numbers for defense. The Jets have had an average Game Script of +1.0, but from the perspective of the defense, that means the Jets average Game Script is -1.0. That means you would expect Jets opponents to pass a little bit more often than average — here, it is 60.2% based on the average of the Jets nine games. In reality, on average, opponents have passed on 64.2%3 of plays, which is 4.0% more often than we would expect. So that means teams have been very pass-happy against the Jets. And, in what is no surprise, the only defense that teams have been more pass-happy against than the Jets? That would be Ryan’s Bills.
As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments.
- 0.000011 * GameScript^3 – 0.000077 GameScript^2 – 0.010004 * GameScript + 0.5965. [↩]
- Note that this is taking an average of the average pass ratio in each game, not the average of the season totals. As a result, this number will be different than the standard way of calculating a team’s pass ratio for the year. [↩]
- Again, taking the average of the averages in each game. [↩]