Week 13, Bengals at Browns
4th-and-2, 5:48 remaining in 4th quarter, Up by 31
The Bengals attempted a field goal on a 4th-and-2 on the Browns’ 2. It doesn’t matter to NYT 4th Down Bot.

No matter what happens on this play, the Bengals will almost certainly win the game. In situations like these, what happens on this down is basically inconsequential, so there's no real recommendation here. (In fact, instead of watching the game, I’m playing this nifty New York Times Crossword app, which is not at all difficult to operate with my hands.) Here’s the breakdown for the Bengals’ scenario.

Option Chance of converting
Chance of winning
Before play
After play Change
Field goal try19 yard kick (est.) 99% >99% >99% -
Go for it4th and 2, opp. 2 46% >99% >99% -
Punt >99% >99% -
What coaches usually do
Field goal try 80% of the time
Go for it 20% of the time
Punt -
Based on about 991 fourth downs in similar situations since 2001.
What happened

Mike Nugent 20 yard field goal attempt is GOOD. Mike Nugent 20 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!