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    GameChangers Week 1 (09/14/15)

    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 Decision

    Rams vs. Seahawks

    St. Louis withstood an 18-point fourth quarter rally by the Seattle Seahawks and beat the two-time defending NFC Champions 34-31 in overtime. The upset was impressive but all Twitter is talking about is another late game decision by Pete Carroll.

    At the start of overtime the Seahawks went for a surprise onside kick. The Rams recovered the kick and became 70 percent likely to win with possession at the Seattle 49-yard line.



    Regardless of the outcome, attempting an onside kick in that scenario was a poor choice. After the game Carroll claims the kick was mishit and no onside kick was intended. Regardless, the play was risky.

    Seattle has the best defense in the NFL. The Rams racked up over 350 yards against the Seahawks and the Legion of Boom but the smart move would have been to kick it deep and bank on your defense. Had the Hawks booted it, the Rams likely start with possession on their own 20-yard line. In six kickoffs during the game, four were touchbacks and the two kicks the Rams decided to run out resulted in worse field position than if the ball had sailed through the back of the end zone.

    If St. Louis had started overtime with possession at their own 20-yard line, the Rams expected win probability would have decreased from 70 percent to 54 percent. The flubbed kickoff swung the game for the Rams.

    Cherry on top – St. Louis stuffed Marshawn Lynch on 4th-and-1 to end the game. Carroll was ripped for not going to Beast Mode on the goal line in the Super Bowl, ironically the play everyone wanted against the Patriots failed in St. Louis.



    Carroll probably should have called a pass play!

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

    The Play

    Broncos vs. Ravens

    Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos survived a low scoring affair (where neither team scored an offensive touchdown) against the Baltimore Ravens to win the season opener 19-13. Manning was not his typical dominant self. The future Hall of Famer threw for 175 yards, no touchdowns and one interception, which was returned for a touchdown.

    Manning's pick-six was costly (decreased Denver's expected win probability by 20 percent) but Joe Flacco's interception for a touchdown changed the game for the Broncos.

    Trailing 13-9 with less than a minute to play in the third quarter, Flacco's pass intended for Steve Smith on third down was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Aqib Talib. Denver's expected win probability increased from 34 percent to 74 percent.

    Had the pass fell incomplete, Baltimore punts on fourth down from midfield. The Broncos have a 43 percent chance to win trailing by one score. There was over a 30 percent swing in win probability between a pick-six and a punt.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

    Additional Highlights

    Marcus Mariota threw four touchdowns and Jameis Winston's first pass was a pick-six (made Tennessee 84 percent likely to win) as the Titans routed the Bucs.

    The Jets defense forced five takeaways including three turnovers by Johnny Football. New York thumped Cleveland 31-10.

    James Jones (the hottest waiver wire pickup in your fantasy league) caught two touchdown passes (those drives increased the Packers' expected win probability by 29 percent) to help Green Bay defeat Chicago 31-23.

    The Bills crushed the Colts 27-14. Buffalo's defense (+13 net win percentage) picked Andrew Luck twice and forced a total of three turnovers.

    1 percent chance. With no timeouts, needing a touchdown and having to drive the length of the field, Dallas was a longshot to win but that's what the Cowboys did.


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