Week 15, Falcons at Jaguars
4th-and-19, 1:51 remaining in 4th quarter, Up by 3
The Falcons went for it on a 4th-and-19 on the Jaguars’ 29. A no brainer here: the NYT 4th Down Bot would have attempted a field goal.
If you disagree

The coach’s decision to go for it is the right call if you think the Falcons’ chances of converting on fourth down are at least 56 percent. But based on my analysis, I’d give the Falcons only a 10 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
Field goal try46 yard kick (est.) 76% 72% 74% +2%
Punt 72% 68% –4%
Go for it4th and 19, opp. 29 10% 72% 65% –7%
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-19 on opp. 29
Up by 3 with 1:51 remaining in the 4th quarter
Behind my field goal number
How important was this call?

If the coach had attempted a field goal instead of going for it, I estimate the Falcons’ chances of winning would be about 74 percent instead of 65 percent.

What coaches usually do

Based on about 1,385 fourth downs in similar situations since 2001.

What happened

Devonta Freeman rush to the right for 1 yard to the Jax28. Devonta Freeman rush to the right for 1 yard to the Jax28.

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!