I lean slightly towards punting, but I don’t have strong feelings here – my numbers tell me that either punting or going for it could be the best play. Specifically, going for it would be the right call if you think the Texans’ chances of converting on fourth down are greater than 52 percent. (Based on my analysis, I’d give the Texans a 35 percent chance to get a first down here.)
Here's the full breakdown of my calculations:
|Option||Chance of converting||
Chance of winningBefore play
|Go for it4th and 8, own 20||35%||3%||3%||-|
|Field goal tryA really, really long kick||<1%||3%||2%||–1%|
|Punt||97% of the time|
|Go for it||3% of the time|
|Field goal try||-|
Shane Lechler punts for 46 yards to KC34.
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!