Each week coaches around the country are faced with real-time critical calls. By evaluating how teams manage their win probability, you can learn how to optimize future decisions and give your team the best chance to win.
Let’s a take a look at one of the best and worst decisions from Week 12 in the NFL.
Week 12 in the NFL saw both BEST and WORST decisions from 4th and 1 plays from the team’s own territory.
Best Decision – NO vs CAR
With 6:47 remaining in the 4th quarter, 2 timeouts, and the score tied, the Saints faced a 4th and 1 from their own 45-yard line. By deciding to go-for-it, Coach Payton made the correct call and increased the Saints (pre-snap) win probability by +10%. Our Edj Power Indexes (EPI’s), had the Saints rush offense ranked above league average (#7) and the Panthers rush defense ranked as the worst in the league (#32). Based on our EPI’s and the game state, teams that go-for-it, go on to win the game 73% of the time and teams that punt go on to win the game 63%. Despite not converting, this was the right call. And, the Saints went on to win the game.
Worst Decision – DAL vs NE
With 6:29 remaining in the 3rd quarter, 3 timeouts, and trailing by 4, the Cowboys faced a 4th and 1 from their own 37-yard line. By deciding to punt, Coach Garrett made an error that cost the Cowboys -6% in (pre-snap) win probability. Our EPI’s had the Cowboys rush offense ranked as one of the best in the league (#3) and the Patriots rush defense as slightly above league average (#13). Based on our EPI’s and the game state, teams that go-for-it, go on to win the game 29% of the time and teams that punt only go on to win the game 23% of the time.
For more perspective on why punting was a bad decision, let’s take a look at the actual punt result along with the possible outcomes from a league average (net) punt and the optimal punt – to do this, we’ll compare the Cowboys optimal pre-snap win probability (29%) to all 3 outcomes with the actual subsequent time of 6:19 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
ACTUAL: After the DAL punt, NE faced a 1st and 10 from the NE 28. At this point the Cowboys win probability dropped to 21% (the actual punt cost DAL -8% in win probability).
LEAGUE AVG: If the Cowboys punt had been equivalent to the NFL league average (43-yard, net), NE would have faced a 1st and 10 from the NE 20. In this case, the Cowboys win probability would have been 22% (a league avg punt would have cost DAL -7% in win probability).
BEST CASE SCENARIO: If the Cowboys had been able to down the ball at the NE 1-yard line (a 62-yard net punt), NE would have faced a 1st and 10, backed up at their own 1. In this case, the Cowboys win probability would have been 26%, and still cost DAL -3% in win probability. In other words, any situation where NE takes over possession, costs DAL win probability.
The was just one of several play calling errors by DAL, and part of the reason they went on to lose the game.
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Images via USA Today Sports.