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    GameChangers Week 17 (01/04/16)

    By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
    To highlight the Live ScoreCaster, we will take our in-game technology, Live ScoreCaster, to the next level to review the game-changing plays from the NFL and what the game would have looked like if the plays had turned out differently.

    Click the header for each game to view the Game Breakdown for each matchup.

    The Play

    Bills vs. Jets



    Buffalo has missed the playoffs for 16 consecutive season, the longest drought in the NFL. Misery loves company and the Bills were all too happy to ruin the Jets season by upsetting New York 22-17 Sunday afternoon. The loss coupled with a win by the Pittsburgh Steelers knocked the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets out of the postseason.

    Rex Ryan's defense intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick on each of New York's last three drives. The picks were worth 51 percent in expected win probability to Buffalo and the turnovers made the head coach pretty happy.


    The most costly mistake by Fitzpatrick was his first interception in the fourth quarter. A pass intended for Eric Decker in the end zone was caught by Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin. The turnover made Buffalo 61 percent likely to win leading 19-17 with 10:43 to play.

    Had the pass been caught for a touchdown by Decker, Jets leading 23-19, New York becomes 73 percent likely to win. If the pass is just incomplete, the Jets are still 61 percent likely to win and advance to playoffs

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

    The Decision

    Packers vs. Vikings



    Green Bay had many opportunities in the final regular season game to beat Minnesota and capture a fifth straight NFC North title. It appeared Mike McCarthy would be aggressive in his attempt to win going for it on fourth down midway through the first quarter on his own side of the field. Eddie Lacy converted the fourth-and-one and the drive continued. Had Minnesota stopped Green Bay the Vikings become 65 percent likely to win with a lead and great field position.

    Eight plays later, the Packers were once again facing a fourth-and-one but this time from the Minnesota 10-yard line. McCarthy decided to kick the field goal instead of trying to extend the drive. Mason Crosby's field goal tied the game 3-3 and made the Vikings 50.1 percent likely to win.

    Had Green Bay went for it on fourth down and converted, the Packers' expected win probability increases to 57 percent. A failed conversion only lowers the team's chance of winning to 45 percent (Vikings would have to drive 90 yards for a score). The percentage swings are not great but in a game decided by a touchdown every advantage counts.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

    Additional Highlights

    Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker had himself a day catching five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. Parker was worth 42 percent in net win probability for Miami as the Dolphins prevented the New England Patriots from clinching home-field advantage with a 20-10 win.

    Ben Roethlisberger (349 yards and three touchdowns) and Antonio Brown (13 catches, 187 yards and a score) each had big days but it was the Steelers defense that won the game. Pittsburgh forced four turnovers, had seven sacks and prevented Cleveland from scoring on five possessions in the red zone. The defense was worth 27 percent in net win probability toward the victory.

    Jeremy Hill ran for 96 yards and a touchdown as he scampered for a 38-yard score on fourth-and-one midway through the third quarter. The long run increased Cincinnati's expected win probability by 12 percent (biggest swing in the game) to 95 percent.

    J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus combined for 6.5 sacks and the Houston defense (+13 percent in net win probability) forced four turnovers by the Jaguars. The Texans easily won 30-6 and clinched their first AFC South title since 2012.

    A third quarter defensive touchdown off of a Zach Mettenberger interception gave Indy a two score lead (26-14) and increased the Colts expected win probability by 16 percent. Indianapolis held on to beat the Tennessee Titans 30-24 but the win wasn't enough to get the Colts into the playoffs.

    Kirk Cousins was the top value player (+23 percent) in the game throwing for three touchdown passes in the first half of a 34-23 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Cousins and Washington have won four straight as they head to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

    The Eagles defeated the Giants 35-30 Sunday. The biggest play of the game was an 83-yard pick-six by Philly that tied the game 27-27 late in the third quarter. The defensive play increased the Eagles expected win probability by 36 percent.

    The No. 1 seed in the NFC belongs to Carolina. Cam Newton threw two touchdowns and ran for two more. The Panthers were the projected favorite for the entire game and were projected to cover the spread for 71 percent of the game.

    Kansas City heads to the playoffs on a ten game winning streak after holding off Oakland 23-17. The Chiefs defense (+15 percent in expected win probability) sacked Derek Carr six times and picked off the Raiders quarterback in another dominating performance.

    The Seahawks routed the Cardinals 36-6. Tyler Lockett had two big punt returns (66 yards and 42 yards) that helped set up first half touchdowns. The 66 yard return was the biggest play of the game adding 10 percent in expected win probability to Seattle.

    Peyton Manning replaced Brock Osweiler in the third quarter with Denver trailing 13-7 and led the Broncos on scoring drives on four of their next five possessions. The Broncos were 42 percent likely to win before Manning entered the game and led the team to a 27-20 win and the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

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