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Tuesday, November 8, 2011
2011 Week 9: NFC West game changers

By Mike Sando

The Arizona Cardinals have not been hurting for drama.

Despite a 2-6 record, they've been tied or close in the fourth quarter against six of eight opponents so far.

No Cardinals finish this season could match the one Patrick Peterson provided with his 99-yard punt return for a touchdown in overtime Sunday.

"Thank goodness that we got him [in the draft]," coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters Monday.

Peterson's play tops our weekly list of game changers in the NFC West -- those plays affecting win probability the most for games involving teams in the division. This week marks the second in a row featuring all five plays from a Cardinals game. Arizona's win probability jumped from 56.8 percent to 100 percent upon Peterson's game-ending return, according to ESPN's analytics team.

The 43.2-point shift was the largest in the division, just ahead of the 41.4-point change when the Cardinals' Calais Campbell blocked Josh Brown's field-goal try as regulation expired.

The most pivotal play in the league from Week 9 belonged to the Seattle Seahawks' next opponent, Baltimore. The Ravens' win probability jumped 81.7 points to 97.8 percent when Joe Flacco connected with Torrey Smith for a 26-yard touchdown on third-and-10 with Baltimore trailing by four and 14 seconds remaining.

The chart breaks out the five most pivotal plays in the NFC West. I've framed them all from the Cardinals' perspective for clarity.