From this weekend’s Conference Championship games, we’ll recap all 4th down decisions that had at least 2% (pre-snap) win probability at stake. As a reminder, our analyses always consider two critical factors: 1) how the teams match up (i.e. our analytics are customized for the strengths and weaknesses of two teams playing) and 2) the game state (i.e. quarter, clock, score, timeouts, down, distance, field position, etc.).
AFC Conference Championship
Once again, the Chiefs and Coach Reid proved they can play (and coach) from behind or leading. During Sunday’s game they faced two tough decisions while trailing. They made one error and one correct decision, for a net (pre-snap) win probability gain of +1.7%.
The Bills faced six tough (pre-snap) decisions. They made two correct decisions that increased their win probability by a combined +8.5% and four errors that cost them a combined -11.3%, for a net win probability loss of -2.8%.
Interestingly, on their first drive of the game BUF made a correct decision to “GO” (worth +5.6%) to keep the drive alive, but later in that same drive made an error in deciding to attempt a FG (cost -3.4%). Coach McDermott went on to make 2 more errors with FG attempt decisions – one with the ball spotted at the KC 2-yard line and the other from the KC 8-yard line. Against the Chiefs, FG attempts from these field positions isn’t going to get it done.
NFC Conference Championship
In a somewhat uncharacteristic move by Coach Arians, just before halftime he went for it on 4th and 4 from midfield. It was the correct decision and led to a touchdown 2 plays later, and a series of plays that increased the Bucs win probability by 18.1% (from 61.6% to 79.7%).
Coach LaFleur made an error late in the 4th quarter and trailing by 8 points, in deciding to attempt a FG instead of going for it. And, this will be one the most hotly debated decisions of the weekend because GB lost.
At first glance, a 3.0% error may not seem like that big of a deal. But, it’s a deceivingly small number mainly because their overall win probability was so low. If GB had decided to go for it, they would have been expected to go on to win the game 10.8% of the time. The decision to attempt the FG came with an expectation to go on to win the game 7.8% of the time.
However, if you look at the relative change (i.e. what the increase represents in terms of the win probability available), 3.0% represents 28% of the win probability associated with attempting a FG (calculated as 3.0% / 10.8%). In other words, this was a very big decision!
This is what you play for.
Hats off to all teams for hard fought games and making it through this unusually challenging season. The KC vs TB Super Bowl should be a good one.
Notable High School Calls of the Week
Totino-Grace Eagles (MN) vs Osseo Orioles (MN)
Trailing 19-22 with 5:27 remaining in the game, the Eagles faced a 4th and 7 at the Osseo 37-yard line. By deciding to go for the first down instead of punting, Coach Anderson made the correct decision and increased the Eagles’ (pre-snap) win probability by +6%.
Milton Eagles (GA) vs Cedar Grove Saints (GA)
With 4:12 remaining in the game and trailing 7-14, Coach Clack and the Eagles faced a 4th and 1 at the Cedar Grove 27-yard line. By deciding to go for the first down instead of attempting the long field goal, Coach Clack made the correct decision and increased the Eagle’s (pre-snap) win probability by +11%.
Great calls Coaches!
Have a play of the week you would like to submit or a question about a coaching situation you were in? We would love to hear from you.
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Every decision matters and it’s important to make the ones that give your team the best chance to win the game
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