Week 3, Bears at Cowboys
4th-and-8, 0:45 remaining in 3rd quarter, Down by 14
The Bears punted on a 4th-and-8 on the Cowboys’ 40. It doesn’t matter to NYT 4th Down Bot.
If you disagree

Well, this is weird — it seems that the Bears’ chances of winning are about the same no matter what they do. I lean very slightly toward going for it, but I don’t have strong feelings here — just go with your gut, coach.

Here's the full breakdown of my calculations:

Option Chance of converting
Chance of winning
Before play
After play Change
Go for it4th and 8, opp. 40 34% 5% 6% +1%
Field goal try57 yard kick (est.) 36% 5% 5% -
Punt 5% 5% -
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-8 on opp. 40
Down by 14 with 0:45 remaining in the 3rd quarter
Behind my field goal number
What coaches usually do
Field goal try 59% of the time
Punt 21% of the time
Go for it 19% of the time
Based on about 1,431 fourth downs in similar situations since 2001.
What happened

Patrick O'Donnell punts for 28 yards to Dal12. Patrick O'Donnell punts for 28 yards to Dal12.

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!