Week 2, Texans at Panthers
4th-and-1, 1:27 remaining in 4th quarter, Down by 7
The Texans went for it on a 4th-and-1 on the Panthers’ 29. The NYT 4th Down Bot concurs.

In this situation, the numbers are pretty clear: For the Texans to have any chance of winning, they have to go for it. A decision so easy, a human could make it.

Here's the full breakdown of my calculations:

Option Chance of converting
Chance of winning
Before play
After play Change
Go for it4th and 1, opp. 29 67% 11% 17% +6%
Field goal try46 yard kick (est.) 71% 11% <1% –11%
Punt 11% <1% –11%
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-1 on opp. 29
Down by 7 with 1:27 remaining in the 4th quarter
What coaches usually do

Based on about 851 fourth downs in similar situations since 2001.

What happened

Chris Polk rush to the right for 3 yards to the Car26. Tackled by Thomas Davis.

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!