Week 1, Panthers at Jaguars
4th-and-9, 5:28 remaining in 1st quarter, Up by 3
The Panthers attempted a field goal on a 4th-and-9 on the Jaguars’ 35. The NYT 4th Down Bot would have punted.
If you disagree

The coach’s decision to attempt a field goal is the right call if you think your chances of making the kick are greater than 67 percent. But based on my analysis of over 13,000 field goal attempts since 2001, I give the average kicker only a 49 percent chance to make a kick from this distance in a outdoor stadium.

Here's the full breakdown of my calculations:

Option Chance of converting
Chance of winning
Before play
After play Change
Punt 61% 62% +1%
Field goal try52 yard kick (est.) 49% 61% 60% –1%
Go for it4th and 9, opp. 35 30% 61% 60% –1%
My decision in context

Along with some circuitry to come up with a win probability for every game situation, all you need to figure out what you should do next is an estimate of how likely you are to make a field goal or convert a first down.

My estimates for these are based on the results of thousands of similar plays, but you may think you're smarter than I am. This chart shows you how changing those estimates would change my recommendation.

What to do on 4th-and-9 on opp. 35
Up by 3 with 5:28 remaining in the 1st quarter
How important was this call?

If the coach had punted instead of attempting a field goal, I estimate the Panthers’ chances of winning would be about 62 percent instead of 60 percent.

What coaches usually do
Field goal try 69% of the time
Punt 28% of the time
Go for it 3% of the time
Based on about 1,385 fourth downs in similar situations since 2001.
What happened

53 yard field goal attempt by Graham Gano is NO GOOD.

Where did these numbers come from?

To estimate a team’s chances of winning, I use a mathematical model that accounts for a whole lot of variables — including the difference in score, the time remaining in the game, and the number of timeouts each team has left. On top of that, I have models for the likelihood that a team makes a field goal and the likelihood that it will convert a first down.

By combining all of this information, I can come up with the best decision a team can make, according to math.

If you want even more details about the numbers behind my decisions, my full model is available on GitHub. Help make me better!