By: Anthony Jones
Here is the Best and Worst from NFL Week 11.
NFL BEST Decisions – LAC vs PIT
In this game the Chargers faced four 4th down decisions and Coach Staley made the correct decision on each occasion. On the first 3 decisions he decided on two FG attempts and one punt, and all together those correct decisions increased his team’s (pre-snap) win probability by +4%. His fourth and final 4th down decision was by far the most difficult and counterintuitive.
This decision came with just under 4 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter and the game tied when the Chargers faced a 4th and 1 from their own 34-yard line. While most coaches would “…punt and play defense,” Coach Staley made the correct decision to go for it, increasing his team’s (pre-snap) win probability by +14%. Based on our Edj Power Indexes (EPIs) and the game state, in this situation a GO comes with an expectation for the Chargers to go on to win the game 62% of the time and a punt comes with an expectation for them to win the game 48% of the time.
The most common line of thinking in this situation focuses on the worst-case scenario (i.e., failing to convert leaves the Steelers in likely scoring position). However, analytics evaluate all possible outcomes in the context of their effect on the game’s final outcome, as opposed to focusing on the outcome of a specific play/drive.
For more context all we need is a simple risk/reward calculation, using the three most likely outcomes.
Based on the numbers above the “Risk” is 11% (48%-37%), the “Reward” is 19% (67%-48%), and the required success rate is 37%, calculated at 11% / (11% + 19%). In other words, if Coach Staley believed his team would convert this 4th and 1 at least 37% of the time, then going for it is the correct decision, regardless of outcome.
This was a huge decision and Coach Staley got it right (despite not converting) and proved that he is committed to his process, which includes leveraging analytics to make decisions that give his team the best chance to win the game.
Congrats to the Chargers on the comeback win and their resilience!
NFL WORST Decision and Execution – DET vs CLE
In this hard-fought match up, Coach Campbell made two decisions that cost his team a total of -14% in (pre-snap) win probability.
With just over 9 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter and trailing by 6 points, the Lions faced a 4th and 1 at the CLE 25-yard line. Coach Campbell’s decision to attempt a FG cost the Lions -6% in (pre-snap) win probability. This FG attempt came with an expectation for the Lions to win the game 16% of the time and a GO came with an expectation to win the game 22% of the time.
And on their next and final possession, with 2:37 remaining in the game and trailing by 3 points, the Lions faced a 4th and 9 from midfield (DET 41-yard line). Coach Campbell’s decision to punt cost the Lions -8% in (pre-snap) win probability. This punt came with an expectation for the Lions to win the game 10% of the time and GO came with an expectation to win 18% of the time.
The Lions are playing hard but will need to improve their decision-making and play execution to win some games.
Notable NCAA Game of the Week
Oklahoma (#13) vs Iowa State
As usual, this rivalry game came down to the final few minutes of play.
After an Oklahoma punt, with 1:46 remaining in the 4th quarter Iowa State trailed by 7 points on 1st and 10 from their own 14-yard line, with a win probability of 10%. Needing a touchdown, Iowa State was in obvious in four-down territory from here on out. Twelve plays later (including a successful 4th and 6 conversion) the Cyclones faced a 1st and 10 from the Sooners 21-yard line, with a win probability of 25%.
Ultimately, an Oklahoma interception dashed Iowa State’s final hopes but kudos to both teams for playing hard to the end and providing us with another exciting finish!
Notable High School Games of the Week
As high school games move into the heart of the playoffs, instead of highlighting just one game we want to hear from you guys. Send us a note about a decision or play that you can’t stop thinking about. If we feature it in an article, we’ll send you some EdjVarsity swag.
Submit your play of the week here.
Every play matters. In addition to X’s and O’s, football is a game of coaching decisions and player execution and it’s important to understand both in the context of their impacts on win probability. For more information about how coaches in the NFL, NCAA and High School levels are using our analytics to coach with confidence, visit www.edjvarsity.com.