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Improbable wins have become the norm for the Patriots

Posted by David Sabino  December 9, 2013 02:14 PM

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Amendola.jpg
Danny Amendola's game winning grab with under a minute left gave the Patriots yet another improbable comeback for the 10th win of their season.

The Patriots other-worldly come-from-behind victory over the Browns marked the team’s 10th win of the season extending Bill Belichick’s streak of double-digit totals during the regular season to 11, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the second-most in NFL history.


There’s little doubt however that this has been the most trying of those 11 seasons for the Pats franchise, weakened yet again on Sunday by the season-ending torn ACL and MCL suffered by tight end Rob Gronkowski, who as we pointed out last week is a complete game-changer when it comes to the New England attack. However now without Gronk for the rest of the year, Tom Brady will have to overcome mounting odds to somehow lead the Pats into and through the playoffs. If there’s one thing we have learned about these Patriots, it’s don’t bet against them, even when it seems like there’s no hope.

Using win probabilities calculated by the website advancednflstats.com, we looked at each game the Patriots have played this season and identified the degree of difficulty of each of their comebacks. The latest game against the Browns was a doozy, given the need for two touchdowns, a recovered onside kick and a fortuitous pass interference call in the game’s waning moments, yet it wasn’t the only game that saw the Pats’ opponents have a 99% chance of winning. The other was against New Orleans in week 6 trailing the Saints 27-23, but Brady overcame the odds, hitting Kenbrell Thompkins with a 17-yard scoring pass with just 10 seconds remaining.

Of those 10 wins, four (all occurring in the last five games played at Gillette Stadium) have come after New England’s probability of winning dipped to five percent or below—in the second half. The only outlier was the Steelers squashing when Pittsburgh’s biggest advantage came on their first drive.

Given these probabilities, arguments can be made that the Pats record could realistically have fallen anywhere between 12-1 (adding a 90% win Prob. at the Jets and 82% at the Panthers) and 4-9 (losses coming in those four plus Week 1 at Buffalo and Week 13 at Houston), given slightly different circumstances. But like the plays that landed Auburn in the BCS title game (miracle 73-yard tipped touchdown pass against Georgia and 100-yard-plus missed field goal return against Alabama), the Pats have proven that sometimes you also have to be lucky to be good.

Here’s a look at the highs and lows in win probabilities for the Patriots in each game this season, culled from the pages of AdvancedNFLStats.com.

PatsWinProb.jpg

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Stats Driven is powered by David Sabino, who over the last two decades has been a source of statistical analysis on the pages of Sports Illustrated, New York Times, and Chicago Tribune. David has written about all seven recent Boston-area championships for Sports Illustrated Presents commemorative issues, was the creator of such long time features as SI’s Player Value Ranking, NBA Player Rating and long running fantasy football and baseball columns.

He has also authored or made contributions to many books, including the Sports Illustrated’s 100 Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.

Now living in Marblehead, he’s focusing his attention on the Boston sports scene, specifically delving into the numbers affecting the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, with the goal of informing and entertaining real fans. You can follow him on Twitter at @SabinoSports.

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