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 7.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Tennessee (UK)
The Situation: TEN trails 19-20, 0:31 remaining in the 4th quarter – Tennessee attempts 2PAT for the win
In an exciting finish to the second 2018 NFL London game at Wembley Stadium, the Titans found themselves with the chance to tie but opted to go for the win. The EdjSports model clearly favored the 2PAT (rush) by 44.0 percent Game Winning Chance (GWC) to 42.2 percent GWC for the PAT.
Historical conversion rates for 2PAT, league wide, are around 47 percent. The Titans break-even 2PAT conversion rate in this situation is about 38 percent, and although we have them as an underdog to succeed, we believe they clear that benchmark and produce about 2 percent more wins on average with their choice to go for the win.
Washington vs. Dallas
The situation: DAL trails WAS 17-20, 0:03 remaining in the 4th quarter, 2nd and 8 from WAS 20 – Cowboys long-snapper, Ladouceur, is called for a snap infraction, moving the Cowboys back 5 yards
This controversial penalty had a sizable impact on the outcome of this game. It came in a crucial situation, as Dallas needed to convert the field goal to give them the chance to win the game in overtime. Before the penalty, Dallas placekicker Brett Maher’s attempt would have been from 47 yards. The Cowboys’ GWC from this spot was 38.3 percent. The questionable 5-yard penalty moved the attempt back to 52 yards and sent the Cowboys’ GWC down to 33.5 percent (-4.8 percent). It is also worth noting that it was an extremely gusty day all along the Eastern Seaboard on Sunday. It is possible that the effect of the wind is even more severe at greater distances, which would further exaggerate the impact of this penalty.
Philadelphia vs. Carolina
The situation: CAR trails PHI 0-10, 2:21 remaining in the 2nd quarter, 4th and 15 at PHI 31- Carolina punts
Before the Panthers orchestrated a monumental comeback against the defending Super Bowl Champions, they faced a particularly interesting 4th down decision late in the 2nd quarter. Trailing 0-10 at 2:21, with a 4th and 15 at the Eagles’ 31-yard line they decided to punt. On paper, this looks like a curious choice. Graham Gano, having famously and recently kicked a 63-yard game winner, shouldn’t have much trouble from 48 yards. However, the windy conditions in Philadelphia were less than ideal for kicking. While the wind could also be a factor in the success of the punt, the Panthers were able to pin the Eagles on the 6-yard line. While it is difficult to assess Gano’s precise field goal success rate in such a unique circumstance, we can breakdown the decision into several components.
- Eagles start their next possession on the 6-yard line leading 0-10 (actual result): Panthers GWC = 15.1 percent
- Eagles start their next possession on the 39-yard line (spot of the kick) after an unsuccessful Gano kick leading 0-10: Panthers GWC = 12.2 percent
- Eagles start their next possession on their 25-yard line resulting from a touchback on the ensuing kickoff after a successful Gano kick leading 3-10: Panthers GWC = 20.7 percent
If we now examine the risk/reward of the field goal attempt compared to the punt in GWC units, we can determine the required success rate of the field goal to justify the action. If we generously assume the punt represented an average expectation, the field goal risks 2.9 percent GWC when it fails (15.1 percent – 12.2 percent) and gains 8.5 percent when it succeeds (20.7 percent -12.2 percent). Therefore, the field goal needs to be successful 2.9/(2.9 + 8.5) = 25.4 percent of the time. Even in these windy conditions, we like Graham Gano’s chances of converting a 48-yard field goal 1/4th of the time.
The situation: PHI trailing 21-17, 1:17 remaining in the 4th quarter, 1st and 10 from the PHI 30
– Carson Wentz throws the ball deep to Alshon Jeffery who draws a pass interference call on Panthers cornerback James Bradberry
Though less controversial than the penalty discussed above, this call also had a massive impact on the game in which it occurred. Before the penalty, the Eagles were underdogs with only 10.8 percent GWC. After the penalty, they received a 42.9 percent boost in GWC, sending their overall GWC to 53.7 percent, improving their prospects dramatically. The magnitude of this swing was, of course, driven not just by the huge number of yards gained in just 6 seconds, but also by the highly leveraged game state in which the play took place. This play put the Eagles in commanding position. They had a 1st and 10, two timeouts, and plenty of time to operate and were just outside of the red zone. It was on the subsequent play that Carson Wentz threw a pass that was ruled an interception on the field but reversed after further review. Unfortunately, their drive stalled out shortly thereafter, and they were not able to convert on this dramatic shift in the game.
New Orleans vs. Baltimore
The situation: BLT trailing 24-23, 0:24 remaining in the 4th quarter – Justin Tucker’s extra point attempt misses wide right
This miss came as quite a surprise. Tucker is widely known as one of the most skilled kickers in the league. Before the miss, he had never missed an extra point in his career, good for 222 consecutive made extra points. Moving past the failure in execution, this play was notable for another, less obvious reason. The Ravens may have considered going for two in this situation. In fact, the Titans had made this same decision in a very similar situation earlier in the day. In the aftermath of that decision, many pundits played results and criticized Titans head coach Mike Vrabel for not playing for overtime, making the implicit assumption that the extra point was a sure thing. Extra points are certainly converted at a higher rate than two-point conversions, but Tucker’s extra point is a good reminder that there is no sure thing in the NFL.