Week 8, Titans at Texans
4th-and-4, 5:58 remaining in 3rd quarter, Down by 7
The Titans attempted a field goal on a 4th-and-4 on the Texans’ 26. The NYT 4th Down Bot was thinking the same thing.
If you disagree

The coach and I agree that attempting a field goal is the thing to do here, but you may be thinking it makes sense to go for it. That would be the right call if you think the Titans’ chances of converting on fourth down are at least 61 percent. But based on my analysis, I’d give the Titans only a 45 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
Field goal try43 yard kick (est.) 79% 25% 26% +1%
Go for it4th and 4, opp. 26 45% 25% 24% –1%
Punt 25% 19% –6%
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-4 on opp. 26
Down by 7 with 5:58 remaining in the 3rd quarter
Behind my field goal number
What coaches usually do
Field goal try 50% of the time
Go for it 36% of the time
Punt 15% of the time
Based on about 889 fourth downs in similar situations since 2001.
What happened

Ryan Succop 44 yard field goal attempt is 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!