Here is the Best and Worst from NFL Week 5.
NFL BEST Decisions – SF vs ARI
Heading into their game against the Cardinals, the 49ers were heavy underdogs (at kickoff their win probability was only 34%). Based on his team’s disadvantage in this match up, Coach Shanahan needed to be aggressive. And, in terms of 4th down decision making, he called a perfect game.
The 49ers faced 8 fourth-down decisions. Coach Shanahan decided to go for it 5 times (those decisions increased the 49ers pre-snap win probability by a combined +22%) and included the league’s best decision of the week! With 9:23 remaining in the 4th quarter and trailing the Cardinals by 3 points, the 49ers faced a 4th and 1 at the ARI 48 and Coach Shanahan’s decision to GO increased their pre-snap win probability by +9%. SF also punted 2 times and attempted 1 field goal. Each of these attempts increased the 49ers pre-snap win probability by +1%.
And while some people think using analytics means “always going for it on 4th down”, the truth is that leveraging analytics is about making decisions that give your team the best chance to win. The 49ers ultimately lost to a better team, but Coach Shanahan made 4th down decisions that gave his team the best possible chance to win!
NFL WORST Decisions – CLE vs LAC
With 2:12 remaining in the 4th quarter and leading the Chargers by 1-point, the Browns faced a 4th and 6 from their own 18-yard line. Coach Stefanski’s decision to punt cost the Browns -18% in (pre-snap) win probability.
Based on our Edj Power Indexes (EPIs -which account for how these specific teams match up) and the game state (i.e., score, down, distance, field position, time outs remaining, etc.), in this specific situation a Browns punt comes with the expectation for them to go on to win the game 41% of the time and if they go for it, they are expected to go on to win the game 59% of the time. In other words, this was a huge error!
Fourth Down Forecast
(Pre-Snap Gain in Win Probability between GO vs Punt)
In fact, as illustrated above in our “Fourth Down Forecast”, on 1st down the Browns should have realized they were in 4-down territory if they ended up facing 4th and 10 or less.
While this may contradict conventional wisdom (which tends to only focus on an unsuccessful 4th down attempt and giving the Chargers offense possession deep in Browns territory), analytics evaluate all possible outcomes, including the likelihood that a Browns punt will still leave the Chargers in great field position with plenty of time on the clock and only needing a FG to take the lead/win.
Long story short, leveraging analytics will allow you to coach more proactively by understanding on 1st down the 4th down and distance (if any) that is a GO and how much win probability is at stake. So, instead of worrying about that decision you can focus on personnel and play calling.
Notable NCAA Games of the Week
Alabama vs Texax A&M
In the fourth quarter of this game and trailing the Aggies, Coach Saban made two 4th down decisions that cost Alabama a total of -10% in (pre-snap) win probability.
With 14:38 remaining in the 4th quarter and trailing A&M by 7 points, Bama faced a 4th and 2 at the A&M 9-yard line. Coach Saban decided on a FG attempt, costing Bama -5% in (pre-snap) win probability. Based on the match up and game state, the decision to attempt a FG comes with an expectation to go on to win the game 28% of the time and the decision to go for it comes with an expectation to go on to win the game 33% of the time.
After an A&M punt, on their next possession with 8:53 remaining and now trailing by 4 points, Bama faced a 4th and goal from the A&M 4-yard line. Again, Coach Saban decided on a FG attempt, and again it cost Bama -5% in (pre-snap) win probability. This decision to attempt a FG coming with an expectation to go on to win the game 37% of the time and the decision to go for it coming with an expectation to go on to win the game 42% of the time.
Consistently making good decisions is very difficult, even for the great ones. Leverage analytics in the decision-making process to give your team the best chance to win and coach with confidence!
Notable High School Games of the Week
Cadillac Vikings (MI) vs Gaylord Blue (MI)
With 9 minutes remaining in the 1st quarter and the score tied, Cadillac faced a 4th and 1 at the Blue Devils 37-yard line. Coach Mallory made the decision to go for it, increasing the Vikings (pre-snap) win probability by +4%.
Great call Coach Mallory!
Submit your play of the week here.
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.