Trailing Big = down 9 to 16
Trailing = down 4 to 8
Close = within 3
Leading = up 4 to 8
Leading Big = up 9 to 16
DB = Dropback, DBOE= Dropback over expectation
NFL Game Script/Situational Play Calling Tool
This game script tool is meant to give you an overview of how each team operates inside an NFL game. Even though it is often considered optimal to pass more when you are down (in a negative game script) and run a little bit more when you are ahead (in a positive game script), not every NFL team necessarily abides by these sentiments. And more to that point, some teams abide by them far more than others.
The game script tool uses stats relating to how often teams drop back to pass (specifically drop back % and DROE—drop back over expectation) to show us how each team acts on offense in specific game script situations (positive, negative, and neutral). This in turn gives us a better idea of what kind of fantasy output we might expect from their players, depending on the type of game script we are projecting their team to have in the upcoming week.
What is game script, and why is it important?
Game script refers to the state of a game—the specific point differential that determines whether a team is up or down, and how far ahead or behind they are. When a team is up in a game, that is referrred to as a positive game script situation. When a team is down, that is referred to as a negative game script situation.
This is important to note as game script often serves as a catalyst for how teams act. Teams that are up, especially teams that are up big, have a tendency to run more. Teams that are down, especially teams that are down big, have a tendency to pass more.
Game script analysis, then, refers to analyzing the plays that are being called in these specific game script situations. By analyzing how a team acts within a specific game script, we can glean which teams actually adhere to the belief of passing more when behind and running more when ahead, and which teams buck the trend.
We can analyze game scripts in numerous ways, but for the purposes of this table, we’ll look specifically at how often teams drop back to pass in specific game script situations (outlined below), as well as their actual drop back rate in relation to their expected drop back rate (DBOE).
Teams that drop back over their expected rate in various types of game script situations are considered passing offenses that are more friendly and conducive to supporting higher-end receivers and quarterbacks.
What game situations are we tracking?
Below are the main game scripts that this table tracks.
Leading Big – The “leading big” category tracks teams when they are up between 9.0-16.0 points on their opponent. This puts the team up by two scores regardless of where they fall in the range.
Leading – The “leading” category tracks teams when they are up between 4.0 - 8.0 points on their opponent. This puts the team up by one score, but by more than a FG, meaning the trailing team would need a TD to tie or take the lead.
Close – The “close” category tracks teams when the point differential is at 3.0 points or fewer (within a FG).
Trailing – The “trailing” category tracks teams when they are down between 4.0 - 8.0 points on their opponent. This puts the team down by one score, but by more than a FG, meaning a TD would be needed to tie or take the lead.
Trailing Big – The “trailing big” category tracks teams when they are down between 9.0-16.0 points on their opponent. This puts the team down by two scores regardless of where they fall in the range.
What is DBOE? (drop back over expectation)
When you’re looking at the game script table, you’ll see two stats are tracked within each category of game script (leading big, leading, close game, trailing, trailing big):
Drop back % and DBOE (drop back over expectation)
Drop back percentage is fairly simple. It refers to the percentage of plays that a team drops back out of all of the offensive plays that they run. So if a quarterback dropped back 4 times over the course of 10 offensive snaps, the team’s drop back % for those 10 snaps would be 40%.
Drop back over expectation (DBOE) is a stat created by Fantasy Life’s Dwain McFarland. It’s a little more complex than straight drop back %, and refers to the percentage by which a team drops back to pass over their expected rate. A team that is expected to drop back 50% of the time inside a game, but actually drops back 55% of the time, would therefore have a DBOE of 5%. Conversely, a team with the same baseline who dropped back 45% of the time would have a DBOE of -5%.