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Bills-Packers recap: win probability reflects a confounding second half

The Bills’ win probability never fell below 90% in the second half, despite several costly errors

Green Bay Packers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images

The expectations for the Buffalo Bills to dominate the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football at home were very high, considering they had the entire bye week to prepare for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and company. And, for the most part, that’s exactly what played out in the Bills’ 27-17 win, despite the final score being closer than what many expected—and what felt possible at the end of the first half.

The Bills’ lowest win probability (69.3%), per ESPN Analytics, came just five minutes into the game—immediately after the Bills went three-and-out on their opening drive. After a short, five-minute Packers drive accumulating only 34 yards and turning the ball over on downs on the Buffalo 38-yard line, the first half momentum swayed and the Bills started scoring easily.

Buffalo walked into halftime with a 24-7 lead, but posted easily their worst second-half performance of the season, scoring just three points. They won, yes, but this was also quarterback Josh Allen’s worst game of the season, despite looking unstoppable in the first half. Nonetheless, the Bills still won by 10 points and are 6-1.

Compared to Week 6’s back-and-forth win probability metrics against the Kansas City Chiefs, this game was much less stress-inducing for Bills Mafia. The Packers offensive gameplan was... interesting, to say the least. The Packers ran the ball more (31 carries) than they threw it, with Rodgers attempting just 30 passes for 203 yards despite playing from behind the entire game.

Green Bay was unable to get the win probability curve below 90% in favor of Buffalo in the entirety of the second half, despite the Bills repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot offensively. Let’s take a look at some notable win probability changes, and how the Bills still came out on top in the end despite their abysmal second half offensively.

1st quarter, 10:49 remaining — BUF with a 69.3% win probability: Following the Bills three-and-out on the opening drive, the win probability (69.3%) was at the lowest it’d be for the rest of the game. The 4th & 3 stop on its own 38-yard line after a quick Packers drive was ultimately the catalyst to an explosive first half for Buffalo.

1st quarter, 3:34 remaining — BUF with a 87.1% win probability: After stopping the Packers on their opening drive, the Bills orchestrated a beautiful eight-play, 61-yard drive ending in a touchdown catch by tight end Dawson Knox. The run game looked at its best during this drive, something the Bills clearly wanted to establish early on to open up their passing opportunities.

2nd quarter, 6:15 remaining — BUF with a 85.4% win probability: After Buffalo took a 14-0 lead, the Packers orchestrated a very long but successful drive ending in a rookie wide receiver Romeo Doubs impressive touchdown grab. The Packers’ 12-play, 80-yard drive took 8:38 off the clock. This was the lowest win probability the Bills had for the rest of the game, as it rose back up to above 90% following a seven-yard rushing touchdown by wideout Isaiah McKenzie on the ensuing drive.

Despite entering the second half with a ton of momentum and a 17-point lead, Buffalo’s offense absolutely folded in the second-half. This is where the Packers’ questionable game plan comes into play, because with how underwhelming the Bills’ offense was, they could have easily gotten back into this game—if they threw the ball.

On Green Bay’s first two drives of the second half, they dialed up 14 runs to just five passes, burned 11:27 of game clock, and scored just three points. On a 4th & 1 attempt in Buffalo territory, the Packers ran it for a ninth time with running back Aaron Jones where he was stuffed for a loss.

Edge rusher Von Miller mentioned in a post-game press conference how shocked he was that Green Bay decided to run the ball as many times as they did. Miller said he asked Rodgers why he didn’t drop back and pass the ball there but obviously didn’t specifically say what he said back.

The Packers had every opportunity to get back into this game, with a touchdown called back due to offensive pass interference on their first second-half drive and Allen throwing back-to-back interceptions on the Bills’ second and third drives.

4th quarter, 6:32 remaining — BUF with a 97.1% win probability: Following Allen’s second interception and safety Jordan Poyer exiting the game with an elbow injury, the Packers had no trouble driving 95 yards in just 3:33, decreasing the deficit to just 10 points. The time remaining and double-digit deficit was too much for Green Bay in the end.

Despite the noticeable second-half offensive woes, the Bills still won by double-digit points and are 6-1. There are many factors Bills Mafia and the media can run with as to why Allen looked so off in the second half and how they were only able to amass three points compared to their first-half explosion of 24 points. Maybe we’ll hear about “sugar-high Allen” or how the Bills need to trade for an elite running back right now.

Nonetheless, a win is a win no matter how ugly it was. It can be a good thing sometimes when your fan base is still angry even after a win. Bills Mafia doesn’t just want wins—every week they want the blowout wins we’ve seen a few times so far this season, and rightfully so.