Week 9, Eagles at Cowboys
4th-and-21, 2:24 remaining in 2nd quarter, Tied
The Cowboys punted on a 4th-and-21 on the Eagles’ 40. The NYT 4th Down Bot abides.
If you disagree

The coach and I agree that punting is the thing to do here, but you may be thinking it makes sense to attempt a field goal. That would be the right call if you think your chances of making the kick are greater than 53 percent. But based on my analysis of over 13,000 field goal attempts since 2001, I give the average kicker only a 39 percent chance to make a kick from this distance in an indoor stadium.

Here's the full breakdown of my calculations:

Option Chance of converting
Chance of winning
Before play
After play Change
Punt 44% 46% +2%
Field goal try57 yard kick (est.) 39% 44% 43% –1%
Go for it4th and 21, opp. 40 10% 44% 41% –3%
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-21 on opp. 40
Tied with 2:24 remaining in the 2nd quarter
Behind my field goal number
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

Chris Jones punts for 34 yards to Phi6.

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!