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 15 in the NFL.
The Week 15 recap of the NFL’s BEST and WORST decisions, focuses on two very similar situations.
Coach Kingsbury (ARI) and Coach Shanahan (SF) faced similar forks in the road with decisions to go-for-it OR attempt a field goal, in games states where their teams were expected to go on to win the game regardless of which path they chose. Their decisions highlight a question that often comes up in analytics conversations with coaches who ask “does it really matter which option I choose if my team is expected to go on to win, either way”. These decisions are great examples of why every decision matters.
Best Decision – ARI vs CLE
With 2:12 remaining in the 2nd quarter, 2 timeouts, and leading by 4, the Cardinals faced a 4th and 1 at the CLE 26-yard line. By deciding to go-for-it Coach Kingsbury made the correct call and increased the Cardinals (pre-snap) win probability by +7%. Our Edj Power Indexes had the Cardinals rush offense ranked as one of the best in the league (#2) and the Browns rush defense ranked very low (#27). Based on our EPI’s and the game state, teams that go-for-it, go on to win the game 67% of the time and teams that attempt a FG, go on to win the game 60% of the time. As a result of decisions like these, the Cardinals went on to win the game.
Worst Decision – SF vs ATL
With 1:52 remaining in the 4th quarter, 3 timeouts (ATL had 1 timeout), and leading by 2, the 49ers faced a 4th and 1 at the ATL 25. By deciding to attempt a FG, Coach Shanahan made an error that cost the 49ers -11% in (pre-snap) win probability. Our EPI’s had the 49ers rush offense ranked at league average (#17) and the Falcons rush defense ranked slightly below league average (#19). Based on our EPI’s and the game state, teams that go-for-it, go on to win the game 90% of the time and teams that attempt a FG, go on to win the game 79% of the time.
Let’s look at the 49ers game and analytics from another perspective. Coach Shanahan’s decision to attempt a FG came with an expectation to go on to win the game 79% of the time, but that also means they were expected to go on to lose the game 21% of the time. If he had decided to go-for-it, SF was expected to go on to win the game 90% of the time, also meaning that they were expected to go on to lose the game only 10% of the time. The decision to attempt a FG instead of going for it more than doubled their chances of losing the games – and, SF went on to lose the game.
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Images via USA Today Sports.