Week 13, Colts at Steelers
4th-and-1, 4:20 remaining in 4th quarter, Down by 28
The Colts punted on a 4th-and-1 on their 22. It doesn’t matter to NYT 4th Down Bot.

No matter what happens on this play, the Colts will almost certainly lose 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 Colts’ scenario.

Option Chance of converting
Chance of winning
Before play
After play Change
Go for it4th and 1, own 22 69% <1% <1% -
Punt <1% <1% -
Field goal tryA really, really long kick <1% <1% <1% -
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

Pat McAfee punts for 49 yards to Pit29. Pat McAfee punts for 49 yards to Pit29.

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!