Mathematically, Pacman Jones' Penalty Is Being Overblown
Full disclosure: I'm a Steeler fan. I was rooting for them against the Bengals on Saturday. And when they won, I danced in my living room like an idiot.
Anyone reading this, though, needs to understand that this article is completely, 100% math-driven. It's based on our algorithms, which are influenced and generated by our brilliant Chief Analyst, Keith Goldner. Keith, for what it's worth, is an Eagles fan. (And he thinks Wawa is better than Sheetz which, to me, kind of ruins his credibility.)
There's no doubt that Saturday's contest between the Steelers and Bengals was filled with unfortunate controversy. If this were strictly an op-ed, I'd sit here and explain how both teams were at fault, how neither team was classy, and how Jeremy Hill's fumble is the core piece of this entire game -- not the referees.
But everyone wants to talk about the calls those the referees made, and how much of an impact the calls had on the game. Understandably so, too -- Saturday's contest featured two really, really huge late-game personal foul calls, both favoring the Steelers.
Let's dig into what these calls actually did, mathematically, to this game.
We'll start with Vontaze Burfict's shoulder-to-head personal foul. The Steelers faced a 1st-and-10 on the Cincinnati 47, a play that came after a big 4th-and-3 conversion. Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to pass, failed to complete the pass to Antonio Brown, but Burfict's 15-yard penalty pushed the chains to the 32.
Entering that play, according to numberFire Live, the Steelers had a 46.34% chance to win the contest. Meaning, even before Burfict's big hit on AB, the Steelers had inched oh-so-close to making this a 50/50 game.
Burfict's penalty, though, pushed the Steelers' win probability to 66.62%. That's because it placed them into field goal range with 18 seconds to go -- though the field goal was a near 50-yarder, Pittsburgh had a chance to run a play or two in order to increase the odds of it being made.
As football fans know, the personal fouls didn't stop with Burfict. Seconds later, Adam "Pacman" Jones was flagged for shoving Steelers linebacker coach Joey Porter and making contact with a referee.
The 15-yard penalty then pushed the Steelers into comfortable field goal range, increasing their win probability to 81.08%.
According to numberFire Live, the biggest play after the Bengals took the lead was Roethlisberger's completed 4th-and-3 pass to Brown -- the one that occurred before all hell broke loose. That play alone took the Steelers from 17.50% odds of winning all the way up to the 46.34% chance mentioned earlier.
There's little doubt that Pacman's penalty made in impact on the game -- the Steelers' win odds went up by 14.46% as a result. But it's important to remember the Steelers were still favorites to win the contest after Burfict's hit to the head, a penalty that's under far less scrutiny since that type of play will almost always be flagged.
In other words, we -- fans, the media -- may be making too big of a deal out of what happened with Pacman Jones at the end of Saturday's contest. Because even without it, the Steelers would've been favorites to win the game.