The coach’s decision to punt is the right call if you think the Chiefs’ chances of converting on fourth down are less than 20 percent. But based on my analysis, I’d give the Chiefs 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  

Go for it4th and 5, opp. 42  46%  81%  87%  +6%  
Punt  81%  81%    
Field goal try59 yard kick (est.)  9%  81%  76%  –5% 
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.
If the coach had gone for it instead of punting, I estimate the Chiefs’ chances of winning would be about 87 percent instead of 81 percent.
Based on about 1,157 fourth downs in similar situations since 2001.
Dustin Colquitt punts for 31 yards to Oak11. Dustin Colquitt punts for 31 yards to Oak11.
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!