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Win probability notes: Buffalo Bills vs Cleveland Browns

Big swings in this one.

The Buffalo Bills suffered their most heartbreaking loss of the season Sunday at the hands of the Cleveland Browns. While the Browns were the favorite going into the game, it was never really out of reach for Buffalo, In fact it was quite the opposite. With five minutes left in the game the Bills had more than a 70% chance of winning. However, failure to capitalize on the Browns’ inability to execute saw the Bills suffer their third loss of the season on a missed 53-yard Stephen Hauschka field goal. But context is needed to see where it all went wrong so, with that said, let’s dive into the emotional roller coaster that was Week 10.

The Bills came into the game with a surprisingly low 40.58% win probability. Even though the Browns were 2-6 coming into Sunday’s game, they presented some match-up problems for Buffalo.

One of those match-ups was Levi Wallace lining up against Jarvis Landry. With Tre’Davious White being assigned to Odell Beckham Jr. for a majority of the defensive snaps, that left Wallace to handle Landry. That battle was exploited early as Cleveland managed to score on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield to Jarvis Landry on the game’s first drive. This catch brought the Bills down -4.16%, dropping them a total of 15.94% from the start of the drive.

Two drives later the Browns would make their way down to the Bills’ 1-yard line with a 79.14% chance of winning. What ensued were a series of plays that would be the talk of the game. The Bills managed to hold off the Browns for eight straight plays on Buffalo’s 1-yard line. After the final stop on 4th and 1, the Browns dropped 6.03% in the win probability, and had gone from an 80.52% chance of winning to a 69.34% chance all within that 1-yard line.

Despite only having the ball for 10:24 of the first half, the Bills would walk into halftime down two points thanks to a 10-yard Josh Allen touchdown run in the second quarter. Allen’s touchdown would swing the Bills +4.65% and put a Buffalo win back within reach.

The play of the second half would be a safety that came on an early third-quarter sack from Tremaine Edmunds. Due to a missed extra point by Cleveland earlier in the game, the safety would tie the game at 9 and put Buffalo at 47.83% win probability. Although the game didn't end up in the Bills’ favor, this is the play that saw them take control of the second half momentum and made it anyone‘s game to lose.

Josh Allen’s second rushing touchdown of the day would see the Bills take a commanding lead in win probability. After being as low as 19.65% in the first half, Buffalo was sitting at 75.61% win probability with 5:34 left in the game. With five minutes left, Baker Mayfield and company would drive down the field and score with 1:48 left in the game, putting them at an 80.78% favorite to win. A huge swing.

After leading the Bills into field position Josh Allen would throw incomplete on 3rd and 4, in what would be a point of controversy among fans and analysts. The Bills had wasted 33 seconds in between the offense’s final two plays and had many questioning the coaching staff’s judgement on time management and the third-down play call. What followed was a 53-yard missed field goal by Stephen Hauschka that would seal the game for the Browns.

Contextually, a good day by the Bills’ defense and the Browns’ inability to execute gave the Bills every opportunity to take control of this game. However, you can only win so many close ones before lady luck swings in someone else's favor.