Playbook FAQ by wingnut6

Updated: 10/09/04 | Printable Version


Written and owned by Chad Cranmer

If you want to use this, ask me.  I will most likely say yes.

contact info:

Any e-mails pointing out anything I missed are welcome.  Please donít e-mail me
asking which playbook a certain play is in or without looking in my guide or
others.  I intentionally didnít go in depth because other people already did
and itís redundant for me to write what they wrote.

If you spam me, flame me, etc., your address will be blocked.


1. Basics
2. Passing
3. Rushing
4. Defense
5. Roster management tips
6. Draft
7. General tips (strategy, crib, etc.)
8. Playbooks and formations
9. Credits

1) Basics

This game is not something that you can just pick up and play and score 50
points a game, like the game that the fat guy with the bus who shall remain
nameless puts out every year.  Use the in-game tutorial and practice, practice,
practice.  Iím not going to put in the controls because Iím assuming that
youíre intelligent enough to look in the manual for those, but here are some
basic hints.

2) Passing:

The biggest keys to passing in this game is timing and reading the coverage.
You have to know your routes, when the receiver is going to make a cut, and
when and if he will be open.  Use your hot routes.  If you see all of the DBs
backed away from the line, youíll have a harder time completing a deep ball.
If a safety comes up to the line, either heís blitzing, creeping up to stop the
run, or heís covering a back or TE close, which generally means someone else is
blitzing.  If you have more receivers on one side than he has DBs, itís most
likely a zone defense, and there should be a hole to exploit somewhere.  If
there is a DB on all of your receivers and they follow them if they are put in
motion, itís man coverage.

On a pass play, let your QB take his drop back by himself before passing.
Heíll get a lot more arm into it and it will be more accurate.  If you need to
move, pay attention to his scramble rating, as this plays a part in accuracy on
the run.

Watch the safeties after the ball is snapped.  If they both drop back, a deep
ball is less likely to be completed.  If one or both come up, either blitzing
or covering someone, that should leave room for a deep ball.  If 2 receivers
are going deep and a safety blitzes, the other safety will likely roll to one
side of the field, leaving the other open for a deep ball as long as the
receiver beats the corner.

Hold X for a bullet pass.  This is best if a receiver is open and is a few
yards down field.  If you throw a bullet and a defender is between you and the
receiver the ball will probably be going the other way.  If you rifle one to a
back or a receiver on a short route, he will most likely drop it.

Tap X for a lob.  Use this for a long pass so that your receiver can adjust to
the ball in the air, to throw it over a defender, or to a back in the flat.

3) Rushing

Running effectively can be tough.  It starts up front.  If you donít have a
good O-line, forget it.  Other than that, patience and finding the holes are
the keys.  Do NOT automatically start using the speed burst.  Sometimes your
line needs a second to open the hole, and if you run right at the line all
youíll do is get knocked down by your own player.  Be patient and wait for a
hole to open, then charge through it.  Sometimes a hole opens somewhere other
than where the play is designed to go.  Follow the blocking.  If youíre
supposed to run outside and they blitz, a hole might open up inside, and vice
versa.  Iíve gotten some long runs off broken plays.

Use the special moves effectively.  To so this, you need to know what your back
is best at.  Jerome Bettis isnít going to dance around anyone, and Warrick Dun
wonít run many guys over.  Use the stiff arm and shoulder charge more with a
power runner and jukes and spins for quicker guys.

4) Defense

It doesnít matter if you score 50 points if your opponent scores 51.  Defense
is the key to winning consistently.  To play solid defense, you need to mix up
your coverages.  Play both man and zone.  Blitz, and not just on passing.  A
good blitz at the right time can blow up a running play for a 5 yard loss.
Know your personnel.  If your corners arenít great, donít have them play man-to
man as much.  If your safety is slow, try and avoid having him cover a receiver
or be the only man covering deep.  If you have slower linebackers that are good
against the run but canít effectively blitz, donít blitz with them.

Use defensive match-ups to cover the other teamís top receivers.  Put your best
corner cover Moss, Harrison, Owens, etc, assuming you have a top flight corner.
This will keep a nickel or dime back from covering him if he moves into the

There are 10 defensive formations in this game; 4-3, 3-4, Nickel, Nickel Odd,
Dime, Dime Odd, Bear, 5-2, Goal Line, and Prevent.  Each one has strengths and


This is the basic defense played by most of the teams in the NFL.  There are
four down linemen, three linebackers, two cornerbacks, and two safeties.  It is
good against the run and can stop passes if the offense is in a base defense.
It should be used primarily when your opponent has 2 or fewer receivers on the
field.  The linebackers are given assignments based on where they play.

Middle linebackers (MLB), also called Mike, are primarily run stoppers,
although the top ones are also good in pass coverage too.  Without a good Mike,
teams will have a hard time stopping the run.

Weakside Linebackers, AKA Will, play on the side away from the tight end.
Their used as pass rushers and to cover the backs out of the backfield.

Strongside, AKA Sam, line up over the tight end.  They cover the tight end when
they go out for a pass.

However, in this game, linebackers are either right of left.  Typically, LOLB
will be the Sam backer and the ROLB will be Will, unless the offense flips the


This form has three linemen and four linebackers.  Typically the defensive ends
in the 3-4 are bigger than ends in the 4-3 since there are fewer linemen, so
each one needs to be good against the run, as well as occupy blockers to keep
the linebackers running free.  One of the linebackers usually rushes the QB to
help the pass rush.  This form is a bit better against the pass since there is
the potential to have an extra player in coverage.  Also, the offense never
know which linebacker or linebackers will be blitzing, so it can be more
difficult to block.

The following books have the 3-4, either exclusively or with the 4-3.  General,
Chargers, Jets, Pats, Raiders, Steelers, Texans, West Coast, Ravens, Cowboys


This defense has 5 defensive backs.  Itís best against multiple receiver sets
and passing situations.  Typically there are four linemen and two linebackers.
However, Nickel Odd, usually used by teams that play a 3-4 base set.  The Odd
set has 3 linemen and 3 linebackers.  This set is also used by some college
teams (BYU, South Carolina) as their base defense since it can be used to stop
the pass and run both.  Iíve thought about using this as my base defense too,
but I havenít yet.  If I do Iíll let you know how it works.


When you KNOW a team is going to pass, use the dime.  There are 6 DBs to cover
4 or 5 receivers.  The nickel and dime backs can blitz as well.  A lot of times
they blow right by the blockers and cream the QB.  Dime Odd has three linemen
and 2 Ďbackers and is used in the same situations.  A lot of times one or both
of the LBs blitz, helping the pass rush.  Dime Odd is also called 3-2.


AKA 46 defense.  The strong safety becomes a linebacker.  This is good against
the run, not so good against the pass.  It puts 8 men in ďthe boxĒ to stop the
run.  this can be beaten to the outside if the SS gets blocked or misses the
tackle since only the free safety is playing deep, and if he comes up too,
nobody is back to cover the deep pass or run down backs that get to the second


In case you canít guess, this set has 5 linemen and only 2 Ďbackers.  Like the
bear, itís good against the run.  Itís also weak against the pass, but both
safeties are backed up off the line, enabling them to cover deep balls and stop
the run if the back gets past the linebackers.  The Raiders use this defense
instead of the Bear, but I havenít found anyone else yet.


3 linemen, 1 linebacker, 7 DBS.  This is used late in the half when you donít
care if you give up yards as long as you donít give up a long TD.

Goal Line

5 linemen, 3 linebackers.  Good ONLY in goal line situations, since it can get
beaten deep easily if you use it anytime the offense is farther from the end
zone than your 5 or 10 yard line.  If you use it at midfield in short yardage
situations, you might stuff the play, but you might give up a TD just as easily.

5) Roster management tips

First, you have to be willing to cut or trade every player on your roster if
that is what is the best for the team.  There is no loyalty in the NFL now.  If
Tom Brady wants more than you want to or can pay him, let him go.  If Ray Lewis
gets hurt and his rating goes down, donít be afraid to cut him to save money.

Donít overpay anyone.  If you sign a player for $8 million a year, thatís a
large chunk of the cap spent on one player, and youíll have to short change
yourself at other positions.  If you play with the injuries on, you need to
have plenty of depth.  It is much better to have a player rated 85 OVR making
$3-4 mil than a 99 OVR making $8 mil.

The cap penalty: what is it?  When you sign a player, any bonus money is
prorated over the life of the contract.  When you cut, trade, or renegotiate a
deal, the entire bonus is paid that year.


John Smith signs a 5 year, $10 million balanced contract with a 40% bonus, $4
mil total.  That means he makes $2 mil a year, with 800k of it being bonus
money.  For whatever reason, you decide to trade or cut him.  His cap penalty
for each year is as follows:

year 1 $4 mil
year 2 $3.2 mil
year 3 $2.4 mil
year 4 $1.6 mil
year 5 $800 thousand

That means that it will cost you more to cut him than to keep him for the first
three years, and the 4th year you only save $400 thousand.

Be EXTREMELY careful with signing bonuses.  It is usually better to pay more
and have a smaller bonus, even with a young player youíre sure youíll keep
around for awhile.  They might get worse as they progress, especially if they
get hurt.  I signed Charles Woodson to a long term deal with a huge bonus, then
he blew out his ACL.  Next year, he was significantly slower and his rating
dropped 10 points.  He dropped again the next year and he ended up being paid
$6 mil a year to be my nickel back because his cap penalty was $15 mil, so I
couldnít dump him without dumping a ton of salary and gutting my team.  I
typically limit it to 20% unless Iím signing the player to a one year contract
and I know for sure I wonít cut him.  Whenever possible, I sign players,
particularly backups, to deals with no bonus and ascending pay rates.  If a
younger player doesnít develop, I cut him when his salary gets too high, and
when an older player declines, I cut him.

When a player gets to the end of his contract and I know that I wonít have the
money to re-sign him, I typically trade him for a player of his caliber with
more years left on his contract.  When Tom Brady was up for free agency, he
wanted an astronomical amount of money, so I traded him for draft picks,
including the #1 overall and drafted an 85 OVR QB.

6) Drafting

The draft is not easy on this game.  To be successful you have to scout a lot,
and scout smartly.  Look at Kiperís mock draft and pay attention to his draft
updates on Sports Center.  Pay extra close attention to his sleepers.  These
are usually quality players that can be taken after the 4th round.  Even then
itís a guessing game and you WILL have busts, just like in real life.

Or you can take the easy way out.  Turn ďedit rookiesĒ on, and then scout them
that way.  You wonít be able to see their OVR rating, but you can see speed,
catching, tackling, blocking, etc.  Basically, itís a lot of the same info you
get at the combine, but youíre not limited to a handful of players.

The computer takes HBs, QBs, and offensive and defensive linemen, along with a
couple of WRs and CBs in the first round.  Once in awhile a TE or safety slips
in, but for the most part the first round is heavy on the linemen and half
backs.  If you need one, either sign a free agent, trade, or get him early.  In
the later rounds, you can get solid receivers, TEs, FBs, and DBs.  In my
dynasty with the Lions, both of my starting safeties were taken in the 4th or
5th round and were starting their second years in the league.

Later rounds are reserved for specialists and projects.  For example, you might
find an OLB with blazing speed and a great pass rush but canít cover or stop
the run to save his life.  He can be a situational player and special teams

7) General tips (under construction)

Mix up your play calling, both on offense and defense.  If you run up the
middle on first down every time, eventually it wonít be as effective.  If you
blitz every down, the other team will start calling plays that can beat the

******** Getting new catalogs for your crib is based on how many milestones you
complete.  You get a new one for every 5-7% of the milestones you complete.
Itís not exact, but by 55% of the total milestones completed you should have
everything.  Crib points, wins, games played, completing specific milestones,
etc, have nothing to do with unlocking catalogs, other than adding to the
percentage of the milestones you have completed.

If you press the R3 button on the play calling screen, the computer will show
you how many times you have run a play and how effective it has been.

8) Playbooks and formations (under construction)

If you want to win in football, you need a good playbook.  In order to have a
good playbook you 1) need to know what the plays are and 2) need to use the
right plays (and players) for your style of play.  For example, if you use a
power running and vertical passing attack like I do, a west coast style offense
wouldnít work well for you, and vise versa.  Hopefully this guide will give
those of you who need a little help in this some pointers.  For those of you
who already know it, thereís a list of what teams have in their playbooks.

What do the letters and numbers in the play names mean?

50= QB takes a 5-step drop before passing
90= QB takes a 3-step drop
PA= play action- QB fakes a handoff to a back
RO= QB runs to one side of the field before passing
Z= the ďflanker,Ē or receiver on the side with the tight end
X= the ďsplit endĒ or receiver on the opposite side as the tight end
Y= slot receiver in 3 or 4 receiver sets
A= the 4th receiver in 4 receiver sets
H= Halfback, sometimes split out like a receiver
F= Fullback, sometimes split wide or flexed to a tight end position
TE/T= both designate tight ends generally, although a couple formations have
tackle eligible plays


Pro; HB, FB, TE, 2 WR
Twins; HB, FB, TE, 2WR with both WR on the same side of the field, opposite the
Spread; HB, FB, 3 WR
Jacks; HB, FB, 3 TE
Jokers; HB, FB, 2 TE, WR
Jumbo; 3 backs, 2 TE
Ace; HB, 2 TE, 2 WR
Trio; 2 TE, 3 WR
Kings; HB, TE, 3 WR
Queens; HB, FB, 2 WR
Straight; TE, 4 WR
Flush; HB, 4 WR
5 Wide; 5 WR
Empty; HB is split out wide with either 4 WR or 3 WR and a TE or 2 WR/2 TE

I= the FB and HB are lined up directly behind the QB, with the FB in front of
the HB.
Strong I= the FB is offset a little bit to the strong side of the field.
Weak I= FB lined up offset to the weak side of the field.
Split= FB and HB line up even with each other, both offset
Far= FB behind the QB, HB to the weak side (far side of the TE)
Near= FB behind the QB, HB next to him on the strong side (near side of the TE)
Gun=QB lines up a couple yards behind center in order to get more time to pass
the ball.  The left or right in the formation names refers to the side the HB
lines up on.
Quads= 4 WR, 2 on each side
Doubles= 3 WR, 1 TE.  2 WR on one side, TE and 1 WR on the other
Triple= 3 WR, 1 TE.  1 WR on one side, TE and 2 WR on the other
Trips= 4 WR, 1 on one side, 3 on the other
Bunch= 4 WR, 1 on one side, the other three on the other lined up close to each
Flex= a TE, HB, or FB, plays out of their normal position, usually as a slot
ďFormation nameĒ Right/Left= the back is off set to the left or right in
shotgun or other sets where only one back is in the backfield.  e.g. Gun Quads
Left the HB is on the QBís left side.

There are variations of these, depending on the playbook.  For example, the
Patriots have a ďBase BunchĒ formation that uses the FB and TE in the ďbunchĒ
as receivers, with the HB in the backfield like normal.  Because of this, some
formations appear to be identical to others, but have differences in which
players are lined up where.  Remember, Base is same as pro, Ace has 2 TEs even
though they may not be lined up in typical places, and F and H are the FB and
HB, respectively, in sets where one is flexed, spread, or in the slot.

The formations and who has them.

By my count, there are 150+ different offensive sets, counting Clock and Hail
Mary.  Please be nice if I missed one or two.

*note: for base formations with a lot of variations like Strong I, I put a Ė
instead of writing out ďStrong IĒ every time.

Hail Mary: All teams
Clock: All teams

-Pro: All teams
-Twins: SF, Cin, Buf, Den, Cle, TB, Ari, SD, Ind, Dal, Mia, Phi, Atl, NYG, Jax,
Det, Car, NE, Oak, St.L, Was, NO, Pit, Gen, Sea, Hou, Ten, Min, Bal
-Spread: WC, SF, Chi, Cin, Buf, Cle, TB, Ari, SD, KC, Dal, Mia, Phi, Atl, NYG,
Jax, NYJ, Det, GB, Car, St.L, Was, NO, Pit, Gen, Sea, Hou, Min, Bal
-Jacks: Buf, Ari, SD, Ind, Phi, GB, Oak, NO, Pit
-Jokers: WC, SF, Chi, Cin, Buf, Den, Cle, TB, Ari, KC, Dal, Mia, Atl, NYG, Jax,
NYJ, Det, GB, Car, NE, Oak, St.L, Was, NO, Pit, Gen, Sea, Hou, Ten, Min, Bal
-Wing Jokers: Cin, Den, Ari, Mia, Phi, Car, St.L, Was, Sea, Bal
-Jokers Pair: Cin, Cle, SD, Phi, NYG, Jax, GB, Car, NO, Ten, Min
-Wing: TB, Phi, St.L
-TE Flex: Dal
-Pro Load: Phi
-Load: NYJ
-Load Heavy: NYJ
-Jokers Flip Pair: GB
-Jacks Load: NO
-Strong Power I: Dal

Strong I
-Pro: WC, SF, Chi, Cin, Den, Cle, Ari, KC, Ind, Mia, Atl, NYG, Jax, Car, NE,
St.L, Was, NO, Pit, Gen, Sea, Hou, Ten
-Twins: WC, Buf, Den, Ari, NYG, Jax, NO, Pit, Gen, Hou
-Spread: WC, Cin, TB, Ari, SD, Mia, NYJ, Det, Car, Oak, St.L, Was, Pit, Gen,
Sea, Hou
-Jokers: Cin, Buf, TB, SD, Dal, NYG, Jax, Car, Oak, Was, Pit, Hou, Ten
-Jokers Pair: TB, Car, Oak
-Jumbo: Mia
-Jacks: Buf, Ari, Ind, Phi
-Wing Jokers, St.L, Was

Weak I
-Pro: WC, SF, Cin, Buf, Den, TB, Ari, SD, Ind, Mia, Atl, NYG, Jax, NYJ, NE,
Oak, Was, NO
-Twins: WC, Cle, SD, Oak, Was, NO, Pit, Sea, Ten
-Spread: WC, SF, Cle, TB, Atl, NYG, Jax, NO, Pit, Sea
-Jokers: SF, TB, Mia, Atl, Oak
-Flip Pro: Den
-Flip Spread: Mia
-Jumbo: Mia
-Jokers Pair: GB, Gen
-Jacks, SD

-Pro: WC, SF, Cin, Buf, Den, Cle, TB, Ind, Ari, Atl, NYJ, Det, GB, Pit, Gen,
Hou, Ten, Bal
-Spread: WC, SF, Buf, TB, SD, Ind, Dal, Ari, Atl, NYJ, Det, GB, Car, Pit, Sea,
Hou, Ten
-Twins: SF, Chi, Cin, Buf, Den, TB, KC, Dal, Atl, Det, GB, Car, St.L. Pit, Sea,
Hou, Ten, Bal
-Jokers: WC, SF, Chi, Den, KC, Ari, Atl, NYJ, Det, GB, Car, NE, Sea, Hou, Ten,
-Flip Pro: WC, SF, Atl
-Flip Spread: WC
-I Wing Jokers: WC
-Wing Jokers: Bal
-Jacks, Ind, GB, Pit
-Spread Ace: Bal

-Pro: WC
-Twins: WC, Det
-Spread: WC

Far Pro: WC, TB
-Twins: WC, TB, Det
-Spread: WC, TB

Singleback and Misc.
-Quads: WC, SF, Chi, Cin, Buf, Den, Cle, TB, SD, KC, Ind, Dal, Mia, Phi, Atl,
NYJ, Det, GB, NE, Oak, StL, NO, Pit, Gen, Sea, Hou, Ten, Min
-Quads Right: TB
-Doubles: WC, SF, Chi, Cin, Buf, Den, Cle, TB, Ari, SD, KC, Ind, Dal, Phi, Atl,
NYG, Jax, NYJ, Det, GB, Car, NE, Oak, StL, Was, NO, Gen, Sea, Hou, Ten, Min, Bal
-Doubles Left: StL
-Doubles Right: TB, Phi
-Trips Tight: Was
-Trips: WC, SF, Ind, Mia, Phi, Atl, Jax, NYJ, Det, NE, StL, NO, Pit, Gen, Min
-Triple: SF, Chi, Cin, Buf, Den, Cle, TB, Ari, SD, KC, Ind, Dal, Mia
-Triple Bunch: Chi, KC
-Triple Right:
-Triple Left: TB
-Tight Triple: WC, Buf, Den, Cle, TB, Ari, SD, KC, Ind, Dal, Mia
-Bunch: WC, Chi, Cin, Cle, TB, SD, KC, Dal
-Bunch Left: SF
-Tight Bunch:
-Trey: Chi, Cin, Buf, TB, KC, Ind, Dal
-Trey Bunch: Den
-Trey Left: TB
-Pair Slot: Chi, Cin, Den, Cle, TB, SD, KC, Dal, Mia
-Straight Trips: SF, Den
-Straight Open: SF, Chi
-Queens Stack:
-Flip Tight Triple: SF, Chi, Cle, KC
-Flip Triple: Den
-Flip Pair Slot:
-Flip Ace: Ind
-Flip I Wing: Ari
-Ace: WC, SF, Chi, Cin, Buf, Den, Cle, TB, Ari, SD, KC, Ind, Dal, Mia
-Ace Trips: Chi, Cin, Buf, Den, Cle, TB, Ari, SD, KC, Dal, Mia
-Ace Doubles: Mia
-Ace Quads:
-Ace Trips Open:
-Ace Bunch: Buf
-Ace Flip Trips:
-Ace Wing:
-Ace Flip:
-Ace Right: TB
-Straight Trips: Ind
-Straight Open: Den, KC, Ind
-Empty Spread: Cin
-Flip Triple Open: Den
-Empty Ace Trips: Cle
-Empty Open: Mia
-Triple Empty:
-Empty Bunch:
-Trips Empty:
-Empty Tight: Buf
-F Wing Jokers:
-Twins F Spread: Chi, KC
-Triple Load: KC
-Ace H Flex: Ind
-Base Doubles:
-Triple H Slot:
-Doubles H Wide:
-F Spread:
-Pro H Split:
-Tight F Triple:
-F Split Quads:
-F Split Doubles:
-H Flex Pro:
-Twins H Split:
-Quads H Slot:
-Pro F Flex:
-Base Bunch: NE
-Base Doubles: Dal
-F Wing Jokers: Den
-Triple H Flex:
-Doubles H Flex:
-I Spread Doubles:
-H Flex Spread:
-Pair Slot Flex:
-Tight F Trips:
-Quads H Flex:
-Bunch H Flex:

-Quads Left: Cin, Buf, SD, KC, Ind, Dal, Mia
-Quads Right:
-Straight: Buf, KC
-Split Spread: Cin, Cle, Ari, SD, KC, Ind, Dal, Mia
-Split Twins
-Split Pro: Cle
-Doubles Right: Cin, Buf, Cle, Ari, SD, KC, Ind
-Trips Tight:
-Ace Trips: Cle, KC
-Ace Right:
-Ace Doubles: Mia
-Ace Bunch:
-Trey Right: Cin, Buf, Ari
-Triple Right: Buf
-Bunch Left: Cin, Cle
-Triple Left: Cin, Cle, Ari, SD, Ind
-Trey Left:
-Trips Left: SD, Ind, Mia
-H Flex: Ind
-Straight Trips: Ind
-Straight Open: Ind
-Empty Open: Dal, Mia
-Kings Spread: Dal
-Flip Triple Left:
-Pair Slot Left:
-Empty Spread:
-Stack Open:
-Base Open:
-Empty Tight: Buf
-H Slot:

Team Playbooks (formations only)

Every team has Hail Mary and Clock in the playbooks, so I did not include them.


I Pro
Strong I Pro
Weak I Pro
Split Pro
Tight Triple
Gun Quads Left
-Trips Left
-Bunch Left
-Split Spread

West Coast

Split Pro
Split Flip Pro
Split Spread
Split Flip Spread
Split I Wing Jokers
Split Jokers
Near Pro
Near Twins
Near Spread
Far Pro
Far Twins
Far Spread
I Pro
I Spread
I Jokers
Strong I Pro
Strong I Twins
Strong I Spread
Weak I Pro
Weak I Twins
Weak I Spread
Tight Triple


9) First, I would like to give credit to Visual Concepts and ESPN for producing
this great game. Some of the definitions came from the in-game tutorial and
manual.  If you are having a hard time finding something I suggest you use it.
It has a ton of useful info, including more detailed descriptions of play
terms.  I have also gotten some information from the message boards.  Sorry,
but I donít remember specifically what or from whom, but thank you to all of
the intelligent people on the boards.  Everything else came from the game and
my own experience.