Here is the Best and Worst from NFL Week 6.
NFL BEST Decision - MIA vs JAC
In his team’s final two drives of the game, Coach Flores faced two 4th and 1 decisions from the exact same field position, and made two different decisions.
With 1:49 remaining in the 4th quarter and the game tied, the Dolphins faced a 4thand 1 from the MIA 46-yard line. Coach Flores’ decision to go for it increased his team’s (pre-snap) win probability by +21% and is the league’s best decision of the week. Based on our Edj Power Index (EPIs) and the game state, in this situation a GO comes with an expectation for the Dolphins to go on to win the game 67% of the time and a punt comes with an expectation for them to win the game only 46% of the time. In other words, this was a clear GO. Even CBS announcer (and former NFL QB) Trent Green said, “I don’t think this is a trick, I think they’re going for it.”
However, five minutes earlier (with 6:46 on the clock) and with a 3-point lead, the Dolphins faced a 4th and 1 from the exact same field position (i.e., the MIA 46-yard line). In this situation, Coach Flores’ decision to punt cost his team -4% in (pre-snap) win probability - the #4 worst decision of the week (see below for #1 thru #3). However, Green got this one wrong on the broadcast, saying you have to punt here because “…you’ve got a field goal lead and you’d be giving the ball to Jacksonville at the (MIA) 45.”
In every situation, it’s important to consider the likelihood of all possible outcomes, not just the worst-case scenario. Needless to say, with so much to consider, the best decisions aren’t always obvious. That’s why it’s important to leverage analytics to proactively understand each decision in terms of what gives your team the best chance to win the game and how much win probability is at stake.
NFL WORST Decisions – DAL vs NE and PIT vs SEA
Both of these games went to overtime due, in part, to decision making errors by the head coaches.
In the DAL vs NE game, with 2:47 remaining in the 4th quarter and trailing by 1 point, Coach McCarthy and the Cowboys faced a 4th and 2 from the NE 33-yard line. The decision to attempt a FG cost the Cowboys -13% in (pre-snap) win probability. Whether they make or miss this FG, the decision to attempt one is a big error!
In the PIT vs SEA game, Coach Tomlin made two decisions that cost his team a combined -19% in win probability. With 1:35 remaining in the 4th quarter and the game tied, PIT faced a 4th and 3 from the SEA 34-yard line. The decision to attempt a FG cost the Steelers -9% in (pre-snap) win probability. And, with 4:33 remaining in overtime and the game tied, PIT faced a 4th and 1 from the PIT 29-yard line. This decision by Coach Tomlin to punt, cost the Steelers -10% in (pre-snap) win probability.
To evaluate in-game decision making, it’s important to focus on pre-snap numbers that evaluate all possible outcomes, as opposed to second-guessing based solely on play result. And to remember that correct calls don’t always result in wins and errors don’t always result in loses (play execution also plays a big role). As a coach, the important thing is to make the decisions that give your team the best chance to win!
Notable NCAA Game of the Week
Sacramento State Hornets vs Montana Grizzlies
Like all lesser-known conferences, the Big Sky Conference plays really good football despite not always being recognized outside the member team’s home markets. And Saturday’s game between the Hornets and Grizzlies was a great example. Montana entered this game as the #5 ranked FCS team, hoping to avenge their loss in this rivalry’s last meeting (back in 2019 at Sacramento) and having never lost two in a row to Sac State.
Not surprisingly, this game came down to the wire. And with 2:11 remaining in the 4th quarter and leading Montana by 7 points, Sac State faced a 4th and 1 at the Montana 30-yard line. Coach Taylor made the correct decision to go for it, increasing Sac State’s (pre-snap) win probability by +3%.
Despite failing to convert on this attempt (which included a very questionable spot by the referees), Coach Taylor’s decision to go for it was still the correct decision because at the time of decision (i.e., pre-snap), it was the one that gave his team the best chance to go on to win the game - based on an analysis of all possible outcomes, including the likelihood of successfully converting AND the fact that an unsuccessful conversion would give Montana possession at their own 30-yard line, in need of a TD and successful PAT to tie the game.
On the ensuing Montana possession, the Sac State defense stopped the Grizzlies on downs. It was a total team effort (great late-game decision making by coaches and execution by players), and for the first time in 13 visits to Missoula, Sac State came away with a win.
Congrats Sacramento State!
Notable High School Games of the Week
Oconee County Warriors (GA) vs. Hart County Bulldogs (GA)
With 6:57 remaining in the 2nd quarter and the game tied 7-7, the Warriors faced a 4th and 1 at the HC 33. Coach Noland's decision to GO increased the Warriors' (pre-snap) win probability by +7%. This decision and successful conversion led to a TD, completing a drive worth +17% in win probability.
Great call by Coach Noland and play execution by the Warriors!
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.