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Beside The Points For Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018

Things That Caught My Eye

Best 2 minutes ever

With 2 minutes and five seconds to go in the fourth quarter, the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings had even chances of winning the NFC divisional playoff game. New Orleans had just scored a touchdown to take a 21-20 lead. What happened next was the stuff of legend: two field goals and a last second touchdown throw this one to Minnesota. The win probability swings were whiplash inducing: At 1:55 remaining, Minnesota had a 65 percent chance of winning; at 40 seconds left, New Orleans had a 66 percent chance; with 14 seconds to go, the Saints had a 96 percent chance; and with no time on the clock, Minnesota pulled it off. [ESPN]

Congratulations Mr. Bortles

“Blake Bortles had the highest Total Quarterback Rating of the divisional round of the playoffs after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers,” is a true sentence that you are reading in the year 2018. “Blake Bortles had a higher Total QBR than Tom Brady and his number ranks the 21st best in the stat for playoff games going back to 2006” is also inexplicably a true thing as well. Go Blake! [ESPN]

Vegas is the GOAT of newcomers

The Las Vegas Golden Knights have the best winning percentage of not only any NHL expansion team but — when adjusted to a normalized score differential and win percentage — by far the best debut season of any expansion team in any major North American league. [FiveThirtyEight]

New England: We’re unimpressed

The New England Patriots, who will have to face the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars in order to get to the Super Bowl, have the easiest postseason path to the big game of any team since 1990. Forget mincing words like “favorite,” a generic conference championship team would be expected to get to the Super Bowl with competition like that. [FiveThirtyEight]

Try out our interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?

It’s the little things that get you

A new study published in a journal of neurology suggests that CTE may be caused by repeated hits to the brain that do not result in a concussion — essentially all the subconcussive hits are the ones seriously damaging the brains of athletes. Currently, 20 percent of known CTE cases coincided with no concussion history. [NPR]

Eagles use stats

The Philadelphia Eagles have been going for it on fourth down more than most other teams in the league: going for it 26 times during the regular season and getting the needed yardage 65 percent of the time. The organization is stat savvy, which puts me, a stats-obsessed fan of an NFC East rival, in a conflicted position. Eh, SKOL. [ESPN]

Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL game: Can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions?

Big Number


Attendance at an AHL game between the Charlotte Checkers and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. In North Carolina, 2-4 inches of snow is enough to shut down a city, and while the team played, no fans were allowed inside. [Deadspin]

Leaks from Slack, Monday Night:


vikings have had this loss sewn up since the third
and payton is trying to stop them


Holy S

NFL forces them to kick PAT (to cover the spread)
Vegas sweating this out


lmao imagine losing on a ceremonial kneel down


There’s no saints left hahahahaha


There must be sports books going bananas, line closed at 5.5


You guys. I’m dying.


It’s final!
Deep breaths, Sara
The Vikings can still lose the SB at home


Oh, I know.
That is obviously preordained.
But still.

I was jumping up and down after Diggs caught the ball, and I landed on the remote and accidentally changed the channel before he actually scored.


Sara that remote story is perfect


I once was at a Kentucky Derby party when a toddler walked up to the TV and turned it off when horses were neck and neck on home stretch.


Oh, and don’t forget
U.S. Soccer’s long-time own goal.

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.