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Win Probability: Bills took control early and didn’t let up

17-0 lead made it hard for the Seahawks to win

Seattle Seahawks v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

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.


Let’s take a look at the WP charts following the Buffalo Bills victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

The Bills’ early 17-0 lead by the beginning of the second quarter brought them from 50/50 or a little worse at kickoff to sitting incredibly comfortably at between 80-90 percent WP depending on where you look. For there to be over ten minutes left in the second quarter at that point, it’s a surprisingly high WP considering how much time is left is to the equation. Also factored into the equation is team strength, although it is not common knowledge where any team stands with that behind the scenes. Some may have been surprised to see that the Seahawks’ “strength” behind the scenes still only gave them a 20 percent WP at best with that much time left and an offense as explosive as theirs. At the same time their pass defense is.... woof.

As the day went on the Bills weren’t shooting themselves in the foot while the Seahawks continued to turn the ball over or let Buffalo’s offense continue to rack up points, the Bills bounced around 77-92 percent WP until the Seahawks had the opportunity to make a push late in the third quarter.

Buffalo had stretched their lead to 27-10 following a 22-yard Tyler Bass field goal with about 12 minutes left in the third and were sitting at 90-92 percent WP. On the ensuing drive the Seahawks went 75 yards to score a TD and close the lead to ten. The Bills punted on the following possession, dropping them down to 78-ish percent WP.

The Seahawks mounted their best chance at a comeback on the following drive, getting down to the Bills’ 24-yard line and spiking their WP up to 33 percent in one formula. However, failing to capitalize with a TD was the end of Seattle’s potential comeback. Settling for a FG to make it a 20-27 game was as close as any WP formula brought the Seahawks to winning.

The Bills answered back with a drive of their own capped off with a Zach Moss TD that rocketed them to 95% WP. Russell Wilson threw an interception to Tre’Davious White on the next drive that was quickly capped off with a Josh Allen TD run with 9:38 left in the fourth quarter making it a 41-20 game and the Bills sitting at 99% WP in all formulas.