Week 17, Jets at Bills
4th-and-6, 7:21 remaining in 3rd quarter, Up by 6
The Bills went for it on a 4th-and-6 on the Jets’ 28. 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 Bills’ chances of converting on fourth down are at least 60 percent. But based on my analysis, I’d give the Bills only a 39 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 try45 yard kick (est.) 71% 79% 81% +2%
Go for it4th and 6, opp. 28 39% 79% 78% –1%
Punt 79% 77% –2%
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-6 on opp. 28
Up by 6 with 7:21 remaining in the 3rd 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 Bills’ chances of winning would be about 81 percent instead of 78 percent.

What coaches usually do
Field goal try 61% of the time
Punt 28% of the time
Go for it 11% of the time
Based on about 856 fourth downs in similar situations since 2001.
What happened

Tyrod Taylor pass to the left to Sammy Watkins for 8 yards to the NYJ20. Tackled by Darrelle Revis and Marcus Gilchrist.

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!