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 16 in the NFL.
The Best and Worst Decisions from this week come from back-to-back drives in the HOU @ TB game…
Best Decision – BUCCANEERS
With 3:38 remaining in the 4th quarter, 3 timeouts, and trailing by 3, TB faced a 4th and 3 at the HOU 40. By deciding to go-for-it, Coach Arians made the correct call and increased the Buccaneers (pre-snap) win probability by +9%. Our Edj Power Indexes (EPIs) had the Buccaneers rush offense ranked very low (#27) versus the Texans rush defense ranked below league average (#20) and, the Buccaneers pass offense ranked close to league average (#14) versus the Texans pass defense ranked near the bottom of the league (#30). Based on our EPIs and the game state, teams that go-for-it, go on to win the game 44% of the time and teams that attempt a FG, go on to win the game 35% of the time. Despite not converting, Coach Arians made the correct call – the one that gave his team the best chance to go on to win the game.
Worst Decision – TEXANS
On the very next series, with 2:27 remaining in the 4th quarter, 3 timeouts, and leading by 3, the Texans faced a 4th and 1 at midfield (HOU 49). By deciding to punt, Coach O’Brien made an error that cost the Texans -15% in (pre-snap) win probability. Our EPIs had the Texans rush offense ranked at league average (#14) and the Buccaneers rush defense ranked very low (#28). Based on our EPIs and the game state, teams that go-for-it, go on to win the game 81% of the time and teams that punt, go on to win the game 66% of the time. Despite going on to win the game, the decision to punt was a huge error!
To determine whether a decision is correct or an error, we evaluate all possible outcomes in terms of their likelihoods and impacts on a team’s chances of winning the game. And, to get a better understanding of why this decision was such a big error, let’s take a look at a few of the most common possible outcomes associated with this decision (in each case we’ll assume TB takes possession with 2:21 remaining in the game and has 1 timeout).
After the HOU punt, TB took over and faced a 1st and 10 from their own 10-yard line (and HOU, most likely, considered this a good result). However, at this point, the Texans win probability was 64%, meaning the punt cost them -2% in win probability. To break-even in win probability, HOU would have had to down the ball at the TB 6-yard line. In fact, as a result of the punt TB took possession with plenty of time remaining in their attempt to tie or win the game (2:21 remaining, 1 timeout, and he 2-minute warning stoppage).
Go-for-It: Successful conversion
If HOU had gone for it and converted (assuming they only gained 1-yard), their resulting win probability would have been 96%. If HOU had gained more than 1-yard, their win probability would have been even higher. And, the ability to run more time off the clock, force TB to use their final timeout, and to get past the 2-minute warning are all critical factors at this point in the game.
Go-for-It: Unsuccessful conversion
If HOU had gone for it and failed to convert, TB would have taken possession at the HOU 49-yard line. However, the Texans still would have had a win probability of 52%.
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Images via USA Today Sports.