Week 14, Falcons at Panthers
4th-and-21, 5:50 remaining in 3rd quarter, Up by 28
The Panthers attempted a field goal on a 4th-and-21 on the Falcons’ 21. It doesn’t matter to NYT 4th Down Bot.

No matter what happens on this play, the Panthers 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, I’m taking a break from the game for a spot of Earl Grey.) Here’s the breakdown for the Panthers’ scenario.

Option Chance of converting
Chance of winning
Before play
After play Change
Field goal try38 yard kick (est.) 85% >99% >99% -
Go for it4th and 21, opp. 21 10% >99% >99% -
Punt >99% >99% -
Behind my field goal number
What coaches usually do
Field goal try 64% of the time
Punt 32% of the time
Go for it 5% of the time
Based on about 1,135 fourth downs in similar situations since 2001.
What happened

Graham Gano 38 yard field goal attempt is GOOD. Graham Gano 38 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!