GameChangers Week 14 (12/14/15)

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

Bills vs. Eagles



Caleb Sturgis kicked a 30-yard field goal with 3:26 to play that allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to beat the Buffalo Bills 23-20 on Sunday afternoon. The game-winning kick was set up by a Zach Ertz 41-yard catch and run.


Ertz's big play on third down was worth 23 percent in net win probability for Philly and made the Eagles 81 percent likely to win. The 41-yard gain could have been for naught if a penalty was called for offensive pass interference.

Notice on that replay, right before Ertz catches the ball, receiver Josh Huff picks Corey Graham, the defender covering Ertz. Had a penalty been called, Philly faces a third-and-13 instead of third-and-three. The Eagles expected win probability drops to 55 percent. Pick plays are judgment calls for officials, this time Philly benefited from the no call.

For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

The Play

Packers vs. Cowboys



Matt Cassel is not very good at football. Dallas' backup quarterback completed less than 50 percent of his passes in a 28-7 loss to Green Bay. One of those incompletions was an interception in the end zone on the Cowboys first possession.



The pick was the biggest play of the game increasing the Packers' expected win probability by 11 percent and making Green Bay 67 percent likely to win.

Had the ball not deflected off of Dez Bryant's hands and the All-Pro receiver caught the pass for a touchdown, Dallas takes an early 7-0 lead. The Cowboys become the projected favorite with a 51 percent chance to win and keep their playoff hopes afloat.

For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

Additional Highlights

Johnny Manziel looked like a passable NFL quarterback in his first start since returning from suspension but the real star in Cleveland's 24-10 win over San Francisco was the defense. The Browns recorded nine sacks and held the 49ers to just 221 yards of offense. The defensive unit accounted for 32 percent of Cleveland's net win percentage.

St. Louis ended a five game losing streak with a 21-14 victory over the Detroit Lions. Todd Gurley rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns. The rookie running back increased the Rams' expected win probability by 18 percent.

Tampa Bay's playoff hopes took a big hit with a 24-17 loss to the division rival New Orleans Saints. Jameis Winston threw for just 182 yards against the Saints' 32nd ranked pass defense. The Bucs' rookie quarterback had a player value of just four percent.

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three touchdowns in an easy 30-8 win over the Tennessee Titans. The Jets quarterback increased New York's expected win probability by 16 percent.

Andy Dalton threw a red zone interception with the Bengals trailing 7-0 in the first quarter. The turnover was one of the biggest plays of the game increasing Pittsburgh's expected win probability to 65 percent (a 12 percent increase). The pick also proved costly as Dalton broke his thumb trying to make a tackle after throwing the interception and was lost for the game and possibly the season. Cincinnati fell 33-20 to the Steelers.

The Colts and Jaguars exchanged fumbles late in the first half. Unfortunately for Indy, Jacksonville returned their fumble 49 yards for a touchdown (+28 percent in expected win probability). The defensive score was the beginning of a scoring barrage by Jacksonville as the Jags routed Indy 51-16.

Kansas City needed a goal line stand in the game's final seconds to preserve a 10-3 win over San Diego. Though the Chargers were just one yard from tying the game, the Chiefs were always greater than 80 percent likely to win.

Robbie Gould missed another late game field goal. Had the attempt been successful, Chicago would have been tied 24-24 with Washington with less than two minutes to play. Instead, the miss decreased the Bears' expected win probability by 18 percent and the Redskins held on to win.

Denver entered the game with the league's best defense but it was Oakland's unit that proved superior Sunday. The Raiders had five sacks (all by Khalil Mack), forced two fumbles and held the Broncos to just 12 points. Oakland's defense was worth 88 percent in net win probability.

The Patriots clinched a playoff spot with a 27-6 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday Night Football. Rob Gronkowski returned from a knee injury to catch four balls for 87 yards and a touchdown. Tom Brady's favorite target added 11 percent to New England's net win percentage.