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    GameChangers Week 17 (12/29/14)

    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.

    Ravens vs. Browns


    To clinch a playoff spot, Baltimore needed to beat Cleveland and have San Diego lose to Kansas City. The Ravens had a 36.1 percent chance of making the playoffs before the start of Sunday's action.

    The Chiefs took care of business dropping the Chargers 19-7 in Arrowhead but Baltimore struggled against the Browns, a team starting rookie quarterback Connor Shaw.

    Entering the fourth, Baltimore trailed 10-3 and had a 25 percent chance of winning. The Ravens scored 17 unanswered and took the lead for good on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith with less than eight minutes remaining.

    The game-changing play was a 53-yard pass from Flacco to Torrey Smith on the play before the lead changing touchdown. Baltimore's expected win probability increased from 39 percent to 70 percent following the long completion.

    The Ravens rally clinched the final AFC Wild Card spot; Baltimore has now reached the playoffs in six of the last seven years, which is the entirety of John Harbaugh's and Joe Flacco's tenture with the Ravens.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

    Chargers vs. Chiefs


    Win and you're in. San Diego controlled its own playoff destiny Sunday but failed to beat Kansas City falling 19-7 on the road. The Bolts will look back on this game as one of missed opportunities.

    With just over eight minutes left, trailing 19-7, a touchdown pass to Eddie Royal was wiped off the board after replay showed that the ball hit the ground. Two plays later, the Chargers turned the ball over on downs and San Diego failed to score after having the ball first-and-goal from the Kansas City three-yard line.

    San Diego was never projected to win this game and had less than a one percent chance of winning after turning the ball over on downs. Had the Bolts scored a touchdown, the Chargers expected win probability would have increased to 10 percent.

    Kansas City was a long shot to reach the postseason heading into Week 17. The Chiefs had a 5.7 percent chance of making the playoffs needing to beat San Diego and have both Baltimore and Houston lose.

    At one point on Sunday it appeared that the Chiefs might back into the playoffs. Kansas City was leading 19-7 in the third, at the same time the Jaguars were leading the Texans 17-14 and Baltimore trailed 10-3.

    Even with everything going Kansas City's way, the Chiefs were just 33 percent likely to make the playoffs. Both Houston and Baltimore rallied to win.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.


    Packers vs. Lions


    Aaron Rodgers returned from a calf injury to lead Green Bay to a 30-20 victory over Detroit Sunday. The win earned the Packers their fourth straight NFC North title and a first round bye in the playoffs.

    Detroit is now winless in Wisconsin since 1991 but it looked like that streak might come to an end early in the fourth. Trailing 21-14, the Lions blocked Mason Crosby's 52-yard field goal attempt to keep it a one-possession game.

    However, on the next play following the block, Detroit fumbled the ball on an aborted handoff between Matthew Stafford and Joique Bell. The Lions expected win probability decreased from 15 percent to 5 percent.

    Detroit had another opportunity late in the game after scoring a touchdown to make it 30-20. The Lions failed on a two-point attempt and the Packers recovered the ensuing onside kick.

    Even if the two-point conversion had been good, Detroit trailing 30-22, and the Lions recovered the onside kick with 1:45 left to play, Green Bay would have been 99 percent likely to win.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

    Panthers vs. Falcons


    Carolina's defense stifled Atlanta's offense and the Panthers cruised to 34-3 victory. The win gave the Panthers the NFC South crown and eliminated the Falcons from the playoffs.

    The Panthers defense sacked Matt Ryan six times and forced three turnovers, including two interceptions returned for a touchdown. The first pick-six in the second quarter broke the game wide open. The 31-yard interception return gave Carolina a 17-3 lead and increased the Panthers' expected win probability from 70 percent to 85 percent.

    Carolina was the projected winner for 98.4 percent of the game.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

    Steelers vs. Bengals


    The Pittsburgh Steelers clinched the AFC North thanks to 212 all-purpose yards from Antonio Brown. The Steelers will host a Wild Card game next Saturday but it could have just as easily been Cincinnati that claimed the division crown.

    After Andy Dalton found Jermaine Gresham for a five-yard touchdown to cut the Pittsburgh lead to 20-17 in the fourth, the Bengals were able to pick Ben Roethlisberger on the Steelers ensuing drive.

    Cincinnati drove the ball into Pittsburgh's territory but receiver A.J. Green was stripped by Pittsburgh's Antwon Blake with four minutes remaining, the Steelers recovered the fumble. Pittsburgh's expected win probability increased from 53 percent to 85 percent.

    Had Green held onto the ball, Cincinnati first-and-10 from the Steelers 31-yard line, the Bengals would have become 60 percent likely to win.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

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