We are sports data scientists with a deeper, faster, more accurate analysis of the game’s most critical decisions. Our EdjFootball model assesses a team’s Game-Winning Chance (GWC) or win probability at any moment of the game. Each week we analyze the NFL games and bring you the most interesting scenarios, including play execution and coaching decisions and how they affect a team’s GWC.  Here are our most notable plays for NFL Week 11.

Carolina vs. Detroit

The situation: Carolina trails 20-19, 1:07 left in the game – Carolina goes for the 2PAT to win the game

The Panthers made a bold move by attempting a two-point conversion late in their contest with the Lions. Trailing 20-19, the Panthers would be put in a commanding position for the win after a successful 2-point conversion, while a more conservative approach would often lead to overtime.

With either choice the Panthers would need to squelch a final drive by the Lions. NFL teams, on average, are converting two-point attempts 47.7% of the time since 2015. Although we might expect the Panthers and Cam Newton to succeed slightly above average, we still do not think this more aggressive strategy is justified. An extensive simulation by EdjFootball favors kicking the PAT by a margin of 1.3% (47.2% to 45.9%). Also affecting this decision is the fact that should the game enter overtime, we assess the Panthers as a 54.0% favorite.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver

Situation 2: LAC trails 20-19, 6:51 remaining in the game, 4th and 1 at DEN 12 – Chargers kick a field goal vs. going for it

At a critical juncture of the Chargers vs. Broncos game, the Chargers made one of the most common and costly errors that routinely haunt NFL decision makers. Facing a 4th and 1 with 6:51 remaining in the game at the Denver 12-yard line, and trailing 19-20, the Chargers did what most teams often do — take the highest probability path of gaining the lead in the near term. Holding a 22-20 lead at this stage may offer temporary glory, but the game is not static. There are still nearly 7:00 minutes to be played that will result in several possessions and possible scoring iterations. When the Broncos kicked a last second field goal for the win, the Chargers became painfully aware of this fact. EdjFootball assesses the field goal as a whopping 9.1% GWC error, and a rushing play would have raised their GWC from 64.7% to 73.8%.

Chicago vs. Minnesota

The situation: Bears lead the Vikings 9-0, 6:00 minutes remaining in 2nd quarter – After TD, Bears attempt 2PAT

The Bears seem to be taking a more aggressive approach to extra points in the second half of the season. In their last two games, they have attempted three 2PAT (their only 2PATs this season). The second of the three attempts occurred early in yesterday’s game, with 6:00 left in the second quarter.

There are three possible resulting scores from this action and their respective GWCs are below:

  • After touchdown (score: 9-0) – 81.9% GWC
  • After successful PAT (score: 10-0) – 0% GWC
  • After successful 2PAT (score: 11-0) – 85.7% GWC

A successful PAT gains 2.1% GWC and successful 2PAT gains 3.8%. Therefore, the 2PAT has to succeed 2.1/3.8 or 55.3% as often as the PAT. If we use a 94% success rate for PAT, then the 2PAT needs to convert (.553 x .94) or 52% of the time to be justified. On average, NFL teams convert the 2PAT 47.7% of the time (2015-current).

Oakland vs. Arizona

The situation: The Raiders 4th quarter decisions

There were many fascinating decisions during the fourth quarter of the Raiders vs. Cardinals match up.  Although the Raiders secured the victory with a dramatic late game drive, they missed some key opportunities to improve their Game-Winning Chances (GWC).

By punting with 7:48, 3:50, and 2:50 remaining in the 4th quarter, the Raiders cost themselves an aggregate total of 17.3% GWC. The most interesting of those choices occurred when the Raiders, trailing 21-20, were backed up to their own end zone with a 4th and 10 on the 2-yard line and only 2:50 remaining in the game. An EdjFootball analysis shows a punt to produce only 5.5 percent wins, while a pass play would raise their chances to 11 percent GWC. This is significant as it literally doubles their winning prospects. While it may seem foolhardy for any team to attempt a 4th and 10 in this situation, the Raiders are correct to do so, considering they are kicking from the back of the end zone while trailing in a very late stage of the game. This is a circumstance that may likely result in their never having another offensive possession. Furthermore, an average NFL team could be expected to convert a first down in this situation approximately 1/3 of the time.