Last year, we all loved playing guys against the Eagles, not necessarily because their defense was awful (17th in yards per play allowed in 2014) but more so because they like to keep their foot on the throttle for 60 minutes. The quicker the pace, the more plays – the more plays, the more opportunities to accumulate fantasy points.
The Eagles were the extreme example in 2014 (and likely again in 2015) because they were going to push the pace no matter what. The tendencies of many other teams around the league were more dictated by game flow. That’s why the pace stats on Football Outsiders are so awesome.
For example, in 2014, the Packers were 24th in total pace, but 5th when trailing by a touchdown or more. On the other hand, the Falcons played at the 6th-fastest pace overall, but slowed down to 23rd fastest in the “Playing with a lead of 7+” category.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about game script, and rightly so, but some teams follow game scripts very differently. That Romo-Dez stack probably performed a lot better in 2014 when the Cowboys were behind, right? First of all, probably not:
But second of all, even if they did, it wasn’t because Dallas was throwing more or playing faster in those situations. Even when the Cowboys were trailing by a touchdown or more, they were still the slowest team in the league in terms of pace. As this article on Pocket GM points out, even when down big (down 11 before 4th quarter or eight in the 4th), Dallas ran the sixth-fewest percentage of passing plays.
This is somewhat evident when we look at Vegas Trends on Fantasy Labs. Here’s how Cowboys running backs performed by Plus/Minus broken down by the game’s spread. There are two random dips in value, but it stays pretty consistent.
Compare that to Packer running backs, shown below. Outside of one spike, Lacy & Co. performed worse as Vegas projected a closer win or a Packers loss. As I mentioned earlier though, Football Outsiders showed that Green Bay was happy to slow the pace way down and sit on their opponent when playing with a lead. That narrative lines up with the left side of this graph:
We’re about to begin a new season, so there will likely be some shifts in ideologies around the league. But in 2014, here are a few teams that dramatically sped up or slowed down on offense depending on situation:
|Team||Pace when leading by 7+ (Rank)||Pace when trailing by 7+ (Rank)|