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    GameChangers Week 15 (12/21/15)

    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

    Steelers vs. Broncos

    The Pittsburgh overcame a 14-point halftime deficit (20 percent chance to win) to edge Denver 34-27. The Steelers caught a break late in the third quarter when the Broncos returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown. The big special teams play was overturned because of an illegal substitution.

    Had the Denver offensive linemen not come on to the field the punt return for a touchdown stands and the Broncos take a 34-20 lead. Denver would have become 92 percent likely to win. Instead Denver is assessed a five yard penalty instead of a touchdown and the team's expected win probability becomes 74 percent.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

    The Play

    Panthers vs. Giants

    The New York Giants rallied from a 28-point deficit to tie the game 35-35 with less than two minutes to play. Eli Manning found Odell Beckham Jr. for a 14-yard score that put Carolina's perfect season in jeopardy. Panthers' fans might have been worried but Cam Newton never doubted that his team would win.

    The MVP favorite led an eight-play drive that set up the game-winning field goal. Newton picked up a critical first down by scrambling for ten yards that gave the Panthers the ball on the Giants 25-yard line (one play before the winning field goal). Newton's run was the biggest play of the game (+16 percent in expected win probability) for Carolina, making the team 90 percent likely to win.

    Even if the Giants had stopped Newton from picking up a first down, Carolina would have still been 80 percent likely to win. Best case scenario for the Giants, Graham Gano misses the 43-yard field goal and the game goes to overtime. In that scenario the Panthers would be 55 percent likely to stay perfect.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

    Additional Highlights

    Teddy Bridgewater led Minnesota to a 38-17 blowout of Chicago at home. The Vikings' second year quarterback threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score. Bridgewater was worth 42 percent in net win probability for Minnesota.

    The Falcons ended a six game losing streak with a 23-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game swung on a Blake Bortles interception that he threw on his own one-yard line in the final seconds of the first half. The pick increased Atlanta's expected win probability by 28 percent and led to a field goal that gave the Falcons a 17-3 led.

    Washington won consecutive games for the first time with Kirk Cousins as a starting quarterback. The Redskins rolled up 431 yards and scored five touchdowns against Rex Ryan's defense. The Bills defensive unit cost Buffalo 66 percent in net win probability.

    Brandon Weeden led the Texans to a 16-10 win over the Colts. It was Houston's first win in Indy, ever. The Texans trailed for the majority of the game and were only the projected winner for 26 percent of the contest. The AFC South belongs to Houston, for now.

    The Chiefs rolled to a 34-14 win over the Ravens. Kansas City's defense returned a fumble 73 yards for a touchdown and an interception 90-yards for a score. The two defensive plays were worth +23 percent in net win probability for the Chiefs.

    A Derek Carr pick-six (decreased the Raiders' expected win probability by 18 percent) gave Green Bay an early 14-0 lead. The Packers held on to win 30-20 and clinched a playoff spot for a franchise-record seventh straight time.

    Cincinnati forced four San Francisco turnovers (+34 percent in expected win probability) in a 24-14 win. The Bengals, without starter Andy Dalton, have clinched a fifth straight playoff berth.

    Russell Wilson continued his dominant play with a fifth consecutive game of three or more touchdowns and no interceptions. The Seahawks' quarterback was worth 25 percent in net win probability to the team during Seattle's 30-13 win.

    David Johnson went beast-mode on the Philadelphia Eagles rushing for 187 yards and three touchdowns. The rookie running back was worth 29 percent in net win probability to the Cardinals.

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    NFL Trends Week 16 (12/23/15)
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