NFL Analysis: Week 14 Action Full of Comebacks

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ESPN's stat-savvy NFC-West blogger Mike Sando points out that this past week was the first in NFL history that produced 5 comebacks of 12 or more points, which doesn't even consider the 10-point comeback win by the Denver Tebows. It was a fun weekend in the NFL, no doubt, and there's still one game to go. But have there been other weekends with even better comebacks?

Total points is one way to gauge a comeback, but it may not be the best way. A comeback from a 10-point deficit in the 1st quarter is not the same as a 10-point comeback with under 5 minutes to play in the 4th quarter. An alternative way to measure the comebackiness of comebacks is by using the win probability graphs.

One of the two cryptic acronyms on the bottom right of each of the WP is CBF, which stands for Comeback Factor. CBF represents the chance that the winning team would be victorious at their low point in the game. For example, the Giants beat the Cowboys last night despite having a WP of only 0.02 at their nadir. That translates into a CBF of 50, because the Giants had about a 1 in 50 shot at winning. WP is not measured below 0.01, so the maximum CBF is 100.

This past weekend's average CBF for all games is 14.7, meaning the winning teams averaged a low-point WP of 0.14. That's good enough for the 8th biggest comeback regular season week since 2000. The biggest comeback week in the data was week 12 in 2003. In that week, there were seven highly improbable comebacks, including two games with a 100 CBF.

NYJ won 13-10 over JAX, despite a 0.11 WP--trailing by 4 points with 3:33 to play and facing a 4th down at their own 40.

IND beat BUF 14-10 on a TD from 4 and goal at the 1 with 1:42 to play.

Billy Volek led TEN to a 38-31 win over ATL despite trailing 21-0 in the first half.

MIA beat WAS 34-23 despite muffing a punt on their own 15 while trailing 20-10 late in the 3rd quarter.

The STL-ARI game was crazy. Both teams came back from WPs of 0.03. STL ultimately won thanks to a 23-yd pass from Bulger to Holt on 4th and 7 that led to the tying TD with only seconds remaining. STL went on to win with an OT FG.

The NE-HOU game was an even bigger roller coaster. NE tied it up on a 4th and goal Tom Brady TD pass in the final seconds to force OT. Then in the first play in OT, Tony Banks threw an interception inside HOU's own 30. HOU managed to block the NE FG attempt, then drove to the NE 35 with a 1st and 10. HOU was driven back out of FG range, punted, and allowed NE to drive for the winning FG with only 45 sec remaining in OT.

BAL beat SEA 44-41 despite trailing 41-24 while on defense as late as 7:19 to play in the 4th quarter. Blocked punt for a TD, a fumble recovery on their own 30, a heroic effort by QB Anthony Wright, and a clutch FG by Matt Stover brought BAL back from the brink to win in OT. This wasn't one of those games where a team's WP spiked to a low-point before a clutch conversion or score. This was a type of game I call a "flatline," where one team has such an insurmountable lead the WP graph is pegged at 0.99 WP for an extended period.

Although it's not something you ever thought you'd think about again, 2003's week 12 stands out as the biggest comeback week in recent memory.

For an index of the biggest comebacks by year or by team, you can use the Top Games tool.