Pro Football Reference has a feature called Win Probability. It tells you how likely it is for a team to win at any given point in a game. It accounts for things like time in the game, down, distance, and field position of players.
It is a complicated system. Like almost any piece of data, you are a fool if you treat it as infallible. It is an interesting system, though, that seems worthy of at least a look. With that in mind, I wanted to look at the individual plays in each game that have swung the probably the most in the direction of the winning team.
The biggest play came early in this one. Calvin Pryor's hit that knocked the ball away from Josh McCown for a fumble at the 1 yard line raised the Jets' chances 14.1% from 49.1% to 63.2%.
The big play here was an unforced error by the Colts. It was Frank Gore's fumble to close out Indianapolis' long drive to start the second half. At that point, the Jets already had a 61.7 chance to win. It shot up to 82.2% after the fumble, a 20.5% swing.
Most people would probably tell you Darren Sproles' 89 yard punt return was the biggest play in this game. It took the game from a tight 3-0 Philadelphia lead into a two score game. The percentages agree. The Eagles' chances shot up 15.5% after the play from 60.3% to 75.8%
It was a game the Jets dominated from the start, and the big blow came early. Ryan Fitzpatrick's 58 yard pass to Brandon Marshall on New York's first offensive play helped set up a Chris Ivory touchdown. By simply putting the Jets into scoring range for an early touchdown, the Jets' improved their chances by 11% from 56.6% to 67.6%. Ivory's touchdown a few plays later made it a 74.1% proposition. Doesn't it seem a bit high from an early score? Think about it. It is really difficult to beat another NFL team. When you give up a touchdown right off the bat, it means you can beat another team by 6 points for the rest of the game and still lose. A one in four shot doesn't sound so crazy to me under the circumstances.
There were a number of key plays for the Jets in this one, but Darrelle Revis' early second half interception of Kirk Cousins was the most important one by this formula. With the score tied 13-13, Revis' pick put the Jets in position to score to take the lead, which they did. New York's chances of winning went from 63.1% to 79.9%. The difference was 16.8%.
The Pats were backed up on their own 27 with a 3rd and 17. Under 11 minutes remained in the game. The Jets led 20-16. Tom Brady found Julian Edelman for 27 yards and a first down. The Pats scored a touchdown on that drive and took the lead for good. It was the clear turning point of the game. Right now, it looks like it might go down as the turning point of the season. The Jets were 4-1 and had a real chance to grab first place in the AFC East. In the aftermath of that play, they lost and have dropped two of the next three. For the purposes of the game, that play took New England's odds of winning from 26.5% to 49.1%. It took the game from a three out of four shot for the Jets and made it a coin flip. The difference was 22.6%.
Michael Crabtree's touchdown was ugly from a Jets perspective. There were multiple blown tackles. It was also damaging. It was the point where the game started to get out of hand. It was a one score game when it happened, and it allowed Oakland to go up by two scores. It raised Oakland's odds by 10.6% from 66.2% to 78.6%.
This was a game where the Jets could never really feel safe. Calvin Pace's strip sack of Blake Bortles with Jacksonville driving for a potential go-ahead score with 5:29 left proved to be huge. The probability reflects it. The Jets went from 64.2% odds to win all the way to 95.5%. This was a jump of 31.3%.
Before Devin Smith fumbled away a kickoff, the game was tied. After he did, and the Bills returned it for a touchdown, Buffalo had the lead the rest of the game. It was a 22.4% swing that took the Bills from 44.3% to 66.7%.