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Week 15 Rundown 2012

Each week we rundown every game using our advanced play-by-play statistics to examine exactly how each game was won and what it means going forward. Our expected points added (EPA) analysis assigns a net point value gained or lost to every single play so we can see exactly on which types of plays teams excelled or failed, and ultimately where games were won. The EPA while each team was on offense gives a more representative measure of offensive efficiency than real life score by separating offensive success from advantages gained or lost by defensive stops, takeaways, and scores. View our complete stats for every play type each week on the Games page.

Week 15 disappointed with a surprising number of blowouts, including 3 shutouts, which is 1 more than the previous 14 weeks had produced combined. But in terms of playoffs impact, the week delivered some very important results. The 49ers defeat of the Patriots kept them in position for a bye in the playoffs, and allowed the Broncos to leapfrog the Patriots for a likely bye in the playoffs and probably have home field advantage should they meet in the Divisional Round. As a result, Denver just barely passed New England as our Super Bowl favorites, but the race is very tight among several teams. In the NFC, the Redskins win and Giants loss gave Washington control of the division and made them favorites to win it, but it is very much still up for grabs.

(8-6) Bengals 34 - 13 Eagles (4-10)
Offensive EPA: CIN (-9.1) - (-28.7) PHI
The Bengals were poor in net passing (-8.7) mostly due to 6 sacks (-11.8) including 2 fumbles lost. They ran (2.1) somewhat well, but relied on Eagles mistakes to win. The continual improvement each week by Nick Foles came to a halt this week, as the Eagles were very poor in net passing (-5.3). Their struggles didn't end there, as they ran poorly (-2.7), had poor kickoff returns (-3.0) due to a lost fumble, had an aborted play (-7.2) on a fumbled handoff that was returned for a touchdown, and lost 2 more fumbles (-6.6) after receptions. The Bengals find themselves a game ahead of the Steelers, but the 6 seed in the AFC is still a coin flip between the two because Cincinnati has to play in Pittsburgh next week.

(8-6) Vikings 36 - 22 Rams (6-7-1)
Offensive EPA: MIN (10.2) - (-3.8) STL
The Vikings net passing (-0.4) was poor again because of unimpressive normal pass plays (2.7), but avoiding big losses on interceptions or sacks has been keeping them in games at least. The decrease in productivity is drastic compared to earlier in the season, and while the loss of Percy Harvin has been a big factor, the continually poor stats are not a good sign for Christian Ponder's development. The Vikings made up for poor passing again with another great rushing effort (5.2). But amazingly, just as important was incredible success on field goals (5.3). The Rams had their best game for normal pass plays (20.8) of the season, but were bad in just about every other category. Their pick-6 (-5.8) and 4 sacks (-4.6) were worse than league averages, but their total net passing (10.4) remained very good. Other areas of failure were kickoff returns (-3.7), a lost fumbled snap (-3.3), field goals (-2.1), pre-snap penalties (-2.0), and 2 failed late 4th down conversion attempts (-3.7). If the season ended today, the Vikings make the playoffs, but a brutal final 2 games against the Texans and Packers make them unlikely to hold on.

(11-3) Broncos 34 - 17 Ravens (9-5)
Offensive EPA: DEN (0.1) - (-15.4) BAL
Despite the high score, the Broncos were actually close to average in most categories, and simply let the Ravens beat themselves. The Ravens were very poor in net passing (-9.0) due to subpar normal pass plays (5.0) combined with a devastating full field pick-6 (-11.2). They also struggled in rushing (-1.8) and lost significant points on turnovers (-7.5) on a Flacco fumble lost on a QB sneak and 2 failed 4th down conversion attempts late. The Broncos are now likely to claim the 2 seed, while the Ravens still losing the division is a real possibility.

(9-5) Colts 17 - 29 Texans (12-2)
Offensive EPA: IND (-4.6) - (6.5) HOU
The Colts were average in net passing (3.4) and good in rushing (2.9), but lost considerable points in punts (-3.9) because of a block returned for a Texans touchdown, and on a costly fumble lost (-4.7) at the Houston goal line. The Texans were very good in net passing (10.8) and otherwise pretty average.

(8-6) Giants 0 - 34 Falcons (12-2)
Offensive EPA: NYG (-17.6) - (16.4) ATL
The Giants were bad in net passing (-3.6) from poor normal pass plays (3.9) and 2 interceptions (-6.5). But their biggest issue was turnovers (-10.6) from a fumble lost and 3 failed 4th down conversion attempts together, with the 4th downs actually occuring rather early in the game. The Falcons got the job done through the air as usual, with a great net passing (21.2) mark. The loss makes the Giants very unlikely to win the NFC East, and essentially a coin flip to make the playoffs.

(10-4) Packers 21 - 13 Bears (8-6)
Offensive EPA: GB (2.5) - (-5.5) CHI
The Packers were great in net passing (19.5), but surprisingly it was just barely enough to overcome terrible rushing (-5.4), terrible field goals (-5.8), and a fumble lost (-2.6). The Bears were poor all around in net passing (-5.1) and rushing (-3.8). Their only success came from punts (5.2) by recovering a fumbled lateral on a trick play return. The Packers clinched the NFC North, and there's a good chance they cost their rival Bears a playoff spot.

(8-6) Redskins 38 - 21 Browns (5-9)
Offensive EPA: WAS (10.2) - (-6.8) CLE
The Redskins were amazingly good in net passing (12.0) considering that backup Kirk Cousins was at the helm. But as we've seen with Nick Foles and others, such success is unreliable considering he is just a 4th round rookie, and the Redskins still face much better odds if Robert Griffin can return next week. The Redskins also ran well (4.1) yet again. The Browns were poor in net passing (-3.6) due to subpar normal pass plays (6.4) and 2 interceptions (-7.2). They continued to run the ball (2.3) somewhat well though. Coupled with the Giants loss, the Redskins jump to favorites with about even odds to win the NFC East, and make the playoffs in about 2/3 of our simulations.

(2-12) Jaguars 3 - 24 Dolphins (6-8)
Offensive EPA: JAC (-5.9) - (15.1) MIA
The Jaguars were very poor on normal pass plays (0.9), but avoided many negative plays for an only somewhat bad overall net passing result (-0.9). They punted very well (3.2), but also failed on 3 4th down conversion attempts (-6.7). The Dolphins had their best net passing mark (12.3) of the season, and also ran reasonably well (3.3). For what it's worth, the Dolphins are still alive in the playoff hunt, and made the playoffs in exactly 1 of our 1000 simulations this week.

(6-8) Buccaneers 0 - 41 Saints (6-8)
Offensive EPA: TB (-19.3) - (22.2) NO
The Buccaneers were poor all around in net passing (-8.2), with the biggest issue being 4 interceptions (-11.1). Other points the Bucs lost were mostly due to the game situation. The Saints success came in net passing (20.7), finally overcoming a 3 game skid. New Orleans is likely to finish in our ratings as the best team to miss the playoffs.

(4-10) Lions 10 - 38 Cardinals (5-9)
Offensive EPA: DET (-27.3) - (0.7) ARI
In Matt Stafford's worst game as a pro, the Lions were terrible in net passing (-21.5) due to bad normal pass plays (1.6) and 3 interceptions (-19.3) including 2 long pick-6's. The interceptions were among the most costly sets in a game this season. Detroit also ran (-3.0) poorly for good measure. The Cardinals offense was bad as well, just not nearly as bad. Their net passing (-3.6) was bad due to poor normal pass plays (0.7). Their only real success was on punts (6.8) because they recovered a fumbled return. The terrible result for Detroit lowered their rating significantly, and barely boosted the Cardinals back out of last place in our ratings.

(9-5) Seahawks 50 - 17 Bills (5-9)
Offensive EPA: SEA (23.1) - (10.5) BUF
Seattle continues to roll, with another unspectacular but efficient net passing (11.4) performance by mostly avoiding negative plays. The most impressive thing about the Seahawks of late is their rushing on called run plays from both Wilson and Lynch. Their rushing mark (12.2) this week was their best all season, while last week was the next best. The Bills were terrible in net passing (-11.4) due to 2 interceptions (-10.9) and 3 sacks (-8.4), both marks being among their worst of the season. Buffalo did run well (4.7) though.

(5-9) Panthers 31 - 7 Chargers (5-9)
Offensive EPA: CAR (13.4) - (-10.6) SD
Things are finally clicking for the Panthers passing game, which for the 5th straight game avoided interceptions, had minimal sacks (-2.2), and had at least average normal pass plays (10.3). The run game (8.3) also was great again, where 3 of their 4 best performances have been the past 3 weeks. The terrible game for the Chargers offense was a microcosm of their disappointing season, plagued by poor normal pass plays (3.7) and sacks (-11.6). In this game they were sacked 5 times, with 2 resulting in fumbles lost. This was another game without playoff implications, but with a big impact on our ratings.

(7-7) Steelers 24 - 27 Cowboys (8-6)
Offensive EPA: PIT (4.4) - (7.4) DAL
The Steelers were good in net passing (7.2), with great normal pass plays (17.7) but a costly interception (-6.2) that occurred in overtime. The Cowboys on the other hand were efficient in net passing (10.9) more by avoiding such negative plays. Dallas also ran (2.1) well but lost a fumble (-3.6) that counteracted it, and gained ground on punts (2.9) by recovering a Steelers fumble. A loss would have been costly for the Cowboys, but as it stands, both of these teams face somewhat similar playoff odds to before the game.

(2-12) Chiefs 0 - 15 Raiders (4-10)
Offensive EPA: KC (-17.6) - (-2.6) OAK
The Chiefs were poor again in net passing (-8.5) due to bad normal pass plays (-1.7). They haven't been nearly as effective with Brady Quinn as they were under Matt Cassel early in the season. The Raiders were subpar on normal pass plays (5.1), but avoiding any sacks or interceptions made for a decent net result. Oakland was otherwise pretty average apart from a McFadden fumble lost (-3.9). The Chiefs are making a run toward the bottom of our ratings.

(10-3-1) 49ers 41 - 34 Patriots (10-4)
Offensive EPA: SF (5.6) - (0.7) NE
The 49ers were very good on called pass plays (12.5). They were decent rushing (1.9), and were very effective on punts (4.9), but lost a Delanie Walker fumble (-4.1) and fumbled 4 snaps (-4.6) in the wet conditions, although none were turned over and 1 was even run for a touchdown. The Patriots were very good on normal pass plays (21.1), but 2 interceptions (-9.2) mitigated some of the gains. They rushed well (5.1) but turnovers (-12.1) from 2 fumbles lost and a failed 4th down conversion together were costly. The result likely costs the Patriots the 2 seed in the AFC, and with it comes a significant reduction in their odds to win the Super Bowl.

(6-8) Jets 10 - 14 Titans (5-9)
Offensive EPA: NYJ (-10.7) - (-6.7) TEN
The Jets net passing (-10.6) was bad all around, with the worst coming from 4 interceptions (-10.3). They did rush (3.1) somewhat well for the 3rd straight week, but also lost a fumbled snap (-3.7) to end the game. The Titans net passing (-1.6) was bad, but they did just enough to win. Despite a 94 yard touchdown run, the Titans net rushing (-0.6) was only mediocre because their other runs were terrible.

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