Week 14, Cowboys at Packers
4th-and-5, 7:01 remaining in 2nd quarter, Down by 7
The Cowboys punted on a 4th-and-5 on their 38. The NYT 4th Down bot concurs, although going for it would have been fine, too.
If you disagree

I lean slightly towards punting, but I don’t have strong feelings here – my numbers tell me that either punting or going for it could be the best play. Specifically, going for it would be the right call if you think the Cowboys’ chances of converting on fourth down are greater than 47 percent. (Based on my analysis, I’d give the Cowboys a 46 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
Punt 14% 14% -
Go for it4th and 5, own 38 46% 14% 14% -
Field goal tryA really, really long kick <1% 14% 9% –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-5 on own 38
Down by 7 with 7:01 remaining in the 2nd quarter
What coaches usually do
Punt 96% of the time
Go for it 4% of the time
Field goal try -
Based on about 1,666 fourth downs in similar situations since 2001.
What happened

Chris Jones punts for 43 yards to GB19. Chris Jones punts for 43 yards to GB19.

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!