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    NFL GameChangers: Super Bowl 52 (2/4/18)

    By Ryan Fowler

    In this edition of GameChangers, we will utilize our Live ScoreCaster technology to review the game-changing plays from Super Bowl 52.

    EXW% = expected win percentage

    The Situation

    The Eagles' decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Patriots' 1-yard line before halftime.

    The Take

    Leading 15-12 with 38 seconds remaining before halftime, Doug Pederson called timeout to review his fourth-down, goal-line options. Naturally, the play's moniker was the “Philly Special,” drawn up during the Eagles' playoff BYE week. It moved Foles off center, direct snap to Corey Clement who flipped to TE Trey Burton, while Foles ran his route into the end zone. It was perfectly executed minutes after the Patriots' failed attempt of a similar play with Danny Amendola to Tom Brady on third-and-5.

    With the touchdown and 22-12 lead, Philly's EXW% jumped to 68.7%. Had New England stopped Philly on fourth-and-1, the Eagles' win percentage would have dipped to 53.3% with the Patriots about to receive possession to start the second half. The "Philly Special" improved the Eagles' championship chances 15.4%.

    The Situation

    Corey Clement's 55-yard reception on third-and-3 to set-up the Foles' touchdown.

    The Take

    Clement, an un-drafted running back out of Wisconsin, was the Eagles' leading receiver Sunday night. However, of his four receptions, none was bigger than this wheel-route catch, run, stiff-arm-for-the-ages, 55-yard scamper.

    With less than 2-minutes to go in the first half, the Patriots were in position to get the ball back and have a chance to tie IF they could stop Philly on this third-and-short. However, as was the case all game long, New England could not get off the field on third down. The Patriots allowed the Eagles to convert 10-of-16 third downs.

    Clement's 55-yard catch and run boosted Philly's EXW% to 63.7%. Had New England deflected Foles' pass or shut the Eagles down on third down, Philly's EXW% dips to 49.0% - a game-changing swing of 14.7%.

    The Situation

    With his team trailing 33-32 late in the game, Zach Ertz picked up 2 yards on fourth-and-1.

    The Take

    Not only were the Eagles 10-for-16 on third downs, but 2-for-2 on fourth. The first conversion came on the Foles touchdown before halftime and the second, this Ertz catch, practically kept the Eagles season alive.

    Facing fourth-and-1 from their own 45-yard line with less than five minutes to go in the game, Philly's EXW% was 37.1%. Ertz's 2-yard catch improved their odds to 52.5%. If New England breaks up the pass, the Patriots take possession in Philly territory with a one-point lead and the Eagles' EXW% craters to 27.5%.

    This fourth-down conversion may have broken New England's will as the Eagles cruised into the red zone. The Patriots, who were one of the best red zone defenses this season, not only allowed two RZ touchdowns in Super Bowl 52, but with LeGarrette Blount scoring from 21 yards and Clement scoring from 22 yards out, it could have easily been four scores inside their 20. Matt Patricia's bend-don't-break defense collapsed in the biggest game.

    GameChanger: Brandin Cooks Concussion

    Because many will point to Cooks' scary exit as the reason the Patriots lost Super Bowl 52, I thought it important to review his impact on New England's expected win percentage.

    If the speedy wide receiver was deemed inactive before Super Bowl 52's opening kickoff, his absence would have a miniscule impact on the game's projections. New England's original projection of 27.5 points would fall to 27.3 without Cooks active all four quarters versus Philadelphia.

    On the play before the injury, the Eagles led 9-3 and their EXW% was 52%.

    Right at the moment Cooks caught the 23-yard pass – but before he was knocked out – the EXW% for both teams was exactly 50/50. This is to also say if Cooks remained in the game, it's a 50/50 split.

    Without Cooks, the rest-of-game projection gives the edge to Philly by an average score of 25.2 – 24.6 with the Eagles winning 51.4% of the time. His absence meant a 1.4% hit to the Patriots' chances to win in the moment.
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    NFL GameChangers: Divisional Playoff Edition (1/14/18)

    In this edition of GameChangers, we will utilize our Live ScoreCaster technology to review the game-changing plays from 2018 Divisional playoff matchups.

    EXW% = expected win percentage

    The Situation

    What-if Stefon Diggs was tackled at the Saints' 34-yard line with four seconds left?

    The Take

    Unfortunately, New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams won't be remembered for picking off Case Keenum late in the third quarter - a turnover that led to a Saints touchdown - but rather whiffing on a tackle of Diggs, which resulted in the Vikes receiver scoring the game-winning touchdown as time expired.

    However, had Williams made the tackle, Diggs would have been down around the Saints' 34-yard line with four seconds remaining and the Vikings would have burned their final timeout.

    Trailing 24-23, Minnesota would call on Kai Forbath to attempt the game-winning field goal. When we run that scenario through our NFL engine tens of thousands of times, the Saints' EXW% is 48.2%.

    It was a hell of a catch by Diggs. It was a hell of a game by both teams. This one isn't solely on Williams.

    The Situations

    The Steelers' pair of failed 4th-down play calls.

    The Take

    Pittsburgh converted 4-of-6 fourth downs against the Jaguars. However, it was the missing two that really cost them.

    Trailing 14-0 with 1:07 remaining in the first quarter, the Steelers faced 4th-and-1 from the Jaguars 21-yard line. Pittsburgh's EXW% before the fourth-down play call was 31% (assumed field goal attempt), but after they failed to pick up the one yard, it dipped to 23.6% - a win expectancy swing of 7.4%.

    The NFL gurus of Twitter believe Ben Roethlisberger should have used his size to pick up the measly one yard. Had he done that and picked up the first down, Pittsburgh's EXW% would remain 31%.

    Fast forward, Jaguars now lead 28-21 with 12:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Steelers now face 4th-and-1 from Jaguars' 39-yard line. Pittsburgh's EXW% is 24.4% right before Roethlisberger THROWS an incomplete pass *thud* EXW% dips to 16.7%.

    Now, if Ben snuck for the first down at this point in the game, the Steelers' EXW% jumps to 30.4% - a difference of nearly 16%.

    Bonus: a lot of chatter on social media regarding Pittsburgh's decision to onside kick down 42-35 with less than 3 minutes to go in the game. After the onside (and penalty), the Steelers' EXW% was 7.8% versus 8.1% had they kicked off normally.

    The Situation

    With the Patriots pinned back and in punt formation, a questionable neutral zone penalty on Tennessee.

    The Take

    In case you missed it, the penalty was originally a false start against the Patriots, but changed to a Titans' neutral zone infraction. Watch …

    So, to recap, instead of the Patriots leading 14-7 and about to punt from their own end zone, the neutral zone infraction handed New England a first down, which they parlayed into a 16-play, 91-yard touchdown drive to take a 21-7 lead.

    Before the punt, the Titans' EXW% was 16.6%. Had they received the punt – with presumed great field position – their odds improved to 21.8%.

    After the Patriots scored their third touchdown of the first half, Tennessee's EXW% dipped to 5.9% - a swing of 15.9% - and the momentum they enjoyed early on was gone.

    The Situation

    Instant replay reversed a “running into Atlanta's kicker penalty” on Philadelphia before halftime.

    The Take

    To review, with Atlanta leading 10-6 and under a minute remaining in the first half, Falcons' punter Matt Bosher punted the ball to the Eagles. Philadelphia was called for roughing the kicker, which should have resulted in an Atlanta first down, but instant replay indicated that the Eagles got a finger tip on the ball and, thus, no roughing the kicker infraction applied.

    The punt counted and it was 1st-and-10 Eagles from their own 28-yard line and Atlanta's EXW% is 56.7%. Nick Foles and Co. picked up 37 yards in a jiffy and Josh Elliott booted a 53-yard field goal as the 2nd-quarter clock hit triple zeroes. With the Falcons up 10-9 at the break, Atlanta's EXW% fell to 50.5%.

    What-if the roughing the kicker counted and the Falcons picked up a first down at the Eagles 45-yard line with 55 seconds before halftime?

    Their EXW% would have soared 10% to 66.8%.

    Now imagine if the roughing the kicker counted and the Eagles would NOT have kicked the last-second field goal to end the first half. The Falcons would have trailed 13-10, instead of 15-10, on their final drive.

    For as bad as that shovel pass play call to Terron Ward was, if Atlanta had the option to attempt a field goal on 4th-and-2 from the 2-yard line instead of roll Matt Ryan right and try to jam it into Julio Jones for the game-winner, Atlanta's EXW% would have improved by more than 20% (EXW% 46.0% down 13-10 vs. 25.7% down 15-10 on 4th-and-2).

    It's one of those cases where replay did its part, corrected the call on the field and the benefiting team wound up with improved odds before ultimately winning the game.

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