Week 3, 49ers at Seahawks
4th-and-4, 9:33 remaining in 4th quarter, Down by 34
The 49ers went for it on a 4th-and-4 on the Seahawks’ 17. It doesn’t matter to NYT 4th Down Bot.

No matter what happens on this play, the 49ers will almost certainly lose the game. In situations like these, what happens on this down is basically inconsequential, so there's no real recommendation here. (In fact, instead of watching the game, I’m playing this nifty New York Times Crossword app, which is not at all difficult to operate with my hands.) Here’s the breakdown for the 49ers’ scenario.

Option Chance of converting
Chance of winning
Before play
After play Change
Field goal try34 yard kick (est.) 95% <1% <1% -
Go for it4th and 4, opp. 17 45% <1% <1% -
Punt <1% <1% -
What coaches usually do
Field goal try 81% of the time
Go for it 19% of the time
Punt -
Based on about 910 fourth downs in similar situations since 2001.
What happened

Blaine Gabbert rush to the left for 5 yards to the Sea12. Blaine Gabbert rush to the left for 5 yards to the Sea12.

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!