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 9.
Denver vs. Houston
The situation: Denver trailing 19-17, 0:13 remaining in the game with one timeout at the Houston 32-yard line
After a hard-fought battle with the Texans on Sunday, the Broncos found themselves in the advantageous position of kicking a game-winning field goal. We often talk about the importance of capturing every available opportunity to improve GWC (Game-Winning Chance). In this situation, the Broncos hastily accepted their field position without maximizing their circumstance. With 13 seconds remaining and one timeout on second down, they certainly could have run a more aggressive play prior to the field goal attempt. The voluntary one-yard loss put the game on Brandon McManus’ shoulders, and he responded by missing his chance to give the Broncos their fourth win of the season. Every yard matters for an NFL kicker, particularly in the 40-50 yard range. The EdjSports model assesses the Broncos chances at 64.0 percent before the kick, and even a modest five-yard improvement in field position would have improved the their GWC to 75.2 percent. A ten-yard improvement would have boosted their prospects to 83.1 percent. There are certain risks in attempting to advance field position, but with 13 seconds and one timeout it was clearly warranted.
Seattle vs. Los Angeles Chargers
The situation: SEA trailing 25-17, 0:05 left in the 4th quarter, 4th and 2 from the LAC 20 – two impactful penalties occur at the end of the game;
– Seahawks’ wide receiver Tyler Lockett draws a defensive pass interference in the end zone as time expires, leaving the Seahawks’ offense with one untimed play from the Chargers’ one-yard line.
– Prior to the snap of the final untimed play, Seahawks’ guard JR Sweezy commits a false start penalty, moving the Seahawks back to the Chargers’ 6-yard line.
This game concluded with a dramatic finish that featured two very impactful penalties in crucial situations. With five seconds remaining, the Seahawks’ needed to score a touchdown from 20 yards out and convert a two-point attempt to send the game into overtime. Seattle’s GWC (Game-Winning Chance) was 2.7 percent before the pass play that drew the interference penalty. It is no surprise that this penalty greatly improved Seattle’s prospects. Their GWC increased to 15.3 percent, needing to score a touchdown from one yard out with one untimed play remaining. Unfortunately for Seattle, the full benefit of this GWC swing would not be realized as they would commit a crucial penalty of their own. A false start penalty on offensive guard JR Sweezy sent the Seahawks back five yards to the Chargers’ 6-yard line, reducing their GWC to 8.4 percent. On the final play, Russell Wilson scrambled to buy time for his receivers. His pass fell incomplete after being tipped by a defender and then hitting the hands of receiver David Moore.
Los Angeles Rams vs. New Orleans
The situation: LA trailing 35-38, 4:58 remaining in the game, 4th and 7 on LA 28 – LA punts
It may seem automatic to punt the ball from your own 28-yard line when facing a 4th and 7, but surprisingly, it is not always the case. This is especially true if you are the mighty LA Rams and your opponent is also a highly powered offense. To further support the case for a fourth down attempt, the Rams were trailing by three with less than five minutes remaining in the game. An extensive simulation by EdjSports shows the Rams gave up 8.5 percent (20.2 percent to 11.7 percent) of GWC (Game-Winning Chance) with the decision to punt the ball to the Saints. Based on two decades of historical data, an average NFL team would be expected to convert a first down about 45 percent of the time in this situation. The Rams would certainly be considered a favorite to retain possession and continue their scoring drive with this strategy. This approach is far superior to giving Drew Brees the ball and the lead with less than five minutes to go in the game.