Week 8, Giants at Saints
4th-and-1, 5:51 remaining in 4th quarter, Down by 7
The Saints went for it on a 4th-and-1 on their 29. The NYT 4th Down Bot concurs.
If you disagree

The coach and I agree that going for it is the thing to do here, but you may be thinking it makes sense to punt. That would be the right call if you think the Saints’ chances of converting on fourth down are less than 37 percent. But based on my analysis, I’d give the Saints a 69 percent chance to get a first down here.

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, own 29 69% 15% 18% +3%
Punt 15% 15% -
Field goal tryA really, really long kick <1% 15% 10% –5%
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 own 29
Down by 7 with 5:51 remaining in the 4th quarter
What coaches usually do
Punt 88% of the time
Go for it 12% of the time
Field goal try -
Based on about 1,381 fourth downs in similar situations since 2001.
What happened

Mark Ingram rush to the right for 2 yards to the NO31. Tackled by Uani Unga.

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!