Week 17, Titans at Colts
4th-and-21, 1:31 remaining in 4th quarter, Down by 6
The Titans went for it on a 4th-and-21 on their 35. The NYT 4th Down Bot agrees.

In this situation, the numbers are pretty clear: For the Titans to have any chance of winning, they have to go for it. A decision so easy, a human could make it.

Here's the full breakdown of my calculations:

Option Chance of converting
Chance of winning
Before play
After play Change
Go for it4th and 21, own 35 10% <1% 3% +3%
Punt <1% <1% -
Field goal tryA really, really long kick <1% <1% <1% -
What coaches usually do

Based on about 2,753 fourth downs in similar situations since 2001.

What happened

Alex Tanney incomplete pass to the middle intended for Delanie Walker. Alex Tanney incomplete pass to the middle intended for Delanie Walker.

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!