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Buffalo Bills Win Probability: Tennessee Titans control second half, Malcolm Butler seals the deal

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Win probability (WP) is a number that represents a team’s chances of winning. It was originally created by Pro Football Reference (the OGs of advanced statistics) although there are some slightly different versions in use today. Win probability is determined by a formula that takes into account things such as team strength, current score, time left, field position, possession, and down & distance. Essentially, it creates a chart of how a team’s chances of winning ebb and flow (or peak and plummet) with the results from one play to the next. Each week, the WP is charted for every NFL game by numberFire, ESPN, and Lee Sharpe.


Whilst Buffalo Bills fans hope to put this loss to in the rear-view mirror the way coach-speak would encourage, a review of the Win Probability is still part of the necessary reflection.

Here are the top three WP charts of the Bills v Titans.

The Bills started the game with a minor advantage and briefly regained said advantage when they tied the game in the first quarter with an Isaiah McKenzie touchdown. That was the end of the Bills’ favorable position. The Titans took hold of the game and never looked back.

There are three specific points of interest that warrant recapping how they affected WP. First was the Ryan Tannehill scramble touchdown right before halftime to make it a 21-10 game. That play boosted the Titans from the high 60s to the high 70s in WP. The Bills’ defense’s inability to hold the Titans to a field goal before the half was a huge swing in the Titans’ direction and the beginning of the end for the Bills.

The second moment of interest was the Josh Allen interception by Malcolm Butler. With 3:30 left in the third quarter, the Bills were still down 21-10 but had a chance on that drive to make it a very even game going into the fourth quarter. The Bills were hanging around the low- to mid-20s on WP until that interception. The game nearly ended on that play in the mind of the computers as the Bills dropped to single digit WP after that interception, teetering around 5%. The subsequent touchdown three plays later left the Bills with a 1% WP according to ESPN; aka game over.

The Bills showed a glimmer of hope after a loooooooong touchdown drive that ended with a hell of a throw from Josh Allen to T.J. Yeldon. As great of an individual highlight that was for Bills fans, the game was still out of reach as it only gave the Bills a 3-5% WP depending on where you look.

We dare not speak of what came in the final ten minutes of that Tuesday night here as it has been litigated and dissected in other posts on this site. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty and if there was a way for WP to exceed 99% before the clock ran out, this was the game that would have tested those limits.