EdjVarsity - Best and Worst Coaching Decisions (Week 3)

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After another week of exciting games, here are the Best and Worst Decisions from Week 3.

BEST Decision - DAL @ SEA

At the beginning of the 4th quarter and trailing the Seahawks by 8 points, the Cowboys faced a 4th and 1 at the SEA 48-yard line. Coach McCarthy made the correct call by deciding to go for it and the decision increased the Cowboys (pre-snap) win probability by +6%.

Our EdjSports Power Indexes (EPIs) had this run-game match up as fairly even, with the Cowboys rush offense ranked among the league’s best (#4) and the Seahawks rush defense ranked above league average (#11). Based on our EPIs and the game state, teams that go for it, go on to win the game 19% of the time and teams that punt, go on to win the game 13% of the time.

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From the numbers above (based on very conservative assumptions), the “Risk” is 4% (14%-10%) and the “Reward” is 8% (22%-14%), which means the required success is 33% (calculated as 4% / 4%+8%). An average NFL offense is expected to convert this attempt more than 70% of the time. And, if we assume DAL gains more than 1-yard on a successful conversion or the punt is not downed at the 1-yard line, the required success rate is even lower.

The Cowboys made the correct decision and went on to score a TD on this drive. Great call Coach McCarthy!

Honorable Mentions - BUF @ LAR and ARZ vs DET

Both of these games had really good decisions early in the game.

With 1:46 remaining in the 1st quarter and the game tied, the Bills faced a 4th and goal from the Rams 1-yard line. Coach McDermott made the correct call by deciding to go for it. The decision increased the Bills (pre-snap) win probability by +4%.

And, with 7:00 remaining in the 1st quarter, while trailing the Lions by 3 points, the Cardinals faced a 4th and 1 from their own 37-yard line. Coach Kingsbury made the correct call by deciding to go for it. This decision also increased the Cardinals (pre-snap) win probability by +4%

Both of these games went down to the wire. The Bills went on to win by 3 points and the Cardinals went on to lose by 3 points. However, both Coach McDermott and Coach Kingsbury both made early decisions that are examples of calls that gave their teams the best chances to go on to win the game. Good calls Coaches!

WORST Decision - PIT vs HOU

With 5:33 remaining in the 3rd quarter and trailing the Texans by 1 point, the Steelers faced a 4th and 1 at their own 46-yard line. Coach Tomlin made an error by deciding to punt. The decision cost the Steelers -6% in (pre-snap) win probability.

Our EPIs had this as an equal match up, with the PIT rush offense ranked below league average (#26) and the HOU rush defense also ranked below league average (#22). Based on our EPIs and the game state, teams that punt, go on to win the game 55% of the time and teams that go-for-it, go on to win the game 61% of the time.

However, although Coach Tomlin made an error on this call, PIT did come out ahead of HOU in terms of their net gain/loss on 4th down decisions. PIT had two correct calls for +10% and 3 errors for -9%, for a net of +1% for the game. HOU had zero correct calls and 3 errors for -4%, for a net of -4% for the game. Rest assured, the +5% overall differential in win probability in favor of the Steelers, played a role in the outcome of this close game.

Notable Execution Error - SEA vs DAL

This week I also wanted to highlight an execution error in the context of win probability.

With 22 seconds remaining in the 1st quarter, SEA QB Wilson completed a 62-yard pass to WR DK Metcalf. However, in very uncharacteristic fashion, Metcalf slowed up before getting into the end zone and the defender was able to catch him and force a fumble that went out of the back of the end zone. So, instead of a SEA TD the play resulted DAL taking possession with a 1st and 10 at the DAL 20-yard line. The error in execution cost the Seahawks -18% in win probability.

Notable High School Calls of the Week

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Mercer County Titans (KY) vs. Taylor County Cardinals (KY)

With 3:49 remaining in the 3rd quarter and leading by 6 points, the Titans faced a 4th and 1 from the Cardinals 25-yard line. Coach Buchanan made the correct call by deciding to go for it and increased the Titans’ (pre-snap) win probability by +5%.

Lexington Christian Academy Eagles (KY) vs. Lexington Catholic Knights (KY)

In a classic cross-town rivalry game with 8:40 remaining in the 3rd quarter and trailing the Knights by 10 points, the Eagles faced a 4th and 8 from the Knights 47-yard line. Coach Charles made the correct call by deciding to go for it and increased the Eagles (pre-snap) win probability by +4%.

Great calls Coaches!

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Bottom Line

Once again, analytics show that good calls aren’t always conventional and don’t always result in wins and bad calls don’t always result in loses. The one sure thing is that every decision matters and it’s important to make the ones that give your team the best chance to win the game.

For more information about how coaches are using analytics to make better decisions, visit EdjVarsity.