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Ranking NFL’s Best, Worst Coaching Decisions From Week 8

Following a week full of upsets and surprises, we’re breaking down the best and worst coaching decisions from Week 8 in the NFL.

4 Best, Worst Decisions of Week 8

Second-worst: Mile-High Miracle

The situation: Three minutes left in the third quarter, Chiefs down by five points, fourth-and-5 at the Broncos’ 42-yard line

The decision: Punt and not put the ball in Patrick Mahomes’ hands

The result: Pinned deep, ultimately lost

Although this was not the worst decision this week, we would expect Andy Reid to be a bit more aggressive in this situation. The Kansas City Chiefs have flat-out owned the Denver Broncos for the last few years. Given the Chiefs’ history of previous success against an opponent they see regularly, as well as having the best player in football in Patrick Mahomes, we would have liked to see Reid take a shot and go for it on this fourth down. 

At this stage in the game and down by only one possession, Kansas City could have afforded the risk of giving the ball back if it failed to convert. In that case, you hope your defense can get the ball back while keeping it a one-possession game. Yes, Tommy Townsend had a fantastic punt that pinned the Broncos back at the 9-yard line, but taking the risk with Mahomes at quarterback (even though it was not his best game) would’ve been a better play based on the numbers:

The Chiefs only had a 26 percent win probability at the start of the play, and a conversion here would’ve been their last, best chance to increase that number. Instead, even with the excellent punt, they ended the play with a meager 27 percent win probability. With a conversion, they would’ve been up well over 30 percent.

Second-best: Playing the Field Position Game

The situation: Start of the second quarter, Bills up by three points, fourth-and-goal from the Buccaneers’ 1-yard line

The decision: Go for the touchdown

The result: Incompletion to Dalton Kincaid, touchdown on subsequent drive with good starting field position

This is a pretty clear “go for it” decision. Up only three points early in the game, the Buffalo Bills opted to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. With Josh Allen as your quarterback and with a high-powered offense, taking the chance and putting the ball in your best player's hands in crucial situations is the optimal choice early in the game. The Bills added 5.3 percent of expected win probability added (xWPA) by making this decision.

Although the Bills failed to score, this gave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers poor field position; they only gained two yards and had to punt from their 3-yard line. After a solid punt return, Buffalo was able to get the ball back and start its drive in the red zone. (Had this decision been made at the end of the half, it would have been a completely different story because field position gets reset at the start of the second half.)

Worst: Another Slug in the Slugfest

The situation: Second quarter, just under 13 minutes left, Giants losing by four points, fourth-and-1 from the Jets’ 29-yard line

The decision: Kick a 47-yard field goal

The result: Kick misses wide left

On a rainy Sunday in East Rutherford, the New York Giants and New York Jets struggled to amass any points. In a miserable first quarter where the only spark of offense by either team was a 50-yard touchdown pass to Breece Hall, the Giants found themselves inside the Jets’ 30-yard line only needing one yard for a first down.

Even with a then-healthy Tyrod Taylor and non-ideal kicking conditions, the Giants elected to kick a 47-yard field goal to make a one-possession game... a one-possession game. The Giants have struggled with short-yardage play calls the last couple of weeks. Factoring in the weather, field position and game situation, this decision lowered their expected win probability by five percent and their actual win probability by 11 percent. The decision may have cost the Giants the game in a close one.

The two New York teams combined to kick or punt on six separate fourth-and-1 occasions in just this one game. They sacrificed over 40 percentage points of expected win probability on these plays. This game was truly as bad as it gets.

Best: Stranded in No-man’s Land

The situation: Three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Panthers down by one point, fourth-and-2 from the Texans’ 47-yard line

The decision: Go for it

The result: Completion to Adam Thielen for three yards

Searching for their first win of the year, the Carolina Panthers and coach Frank Reich were stranded in no-man’s land. Down only one point but much too far for an Eddy Piñeiro field goal attempt, the Panthers had limited options. With a current win probability of 47 percent and all three timeouts, they could’ve punted, but that would’ve lowered their expected win probability to 38 percent.

Instead, they made the correct decision, which paid off big time, as Adam Thielen laid out for the catch to move the chains. The decision added 13 percentage points of xWPA, and the result of the play increased the Panthers' win probability to 64 percent.

Thielen has been Bryce Young’s go-to receiver early in his career, and this ball was going to Thielen no matter what. A wide-split Miles Sanders nearly ruined his team’s chances of a win because it looked like he ran the wrong route, making it an extremely tight window to fit the throw in against man coverage.

After converting 33 percent of fourth downs in previous games and failing to convert on a fourth-and-goal on another attempt to Thielen in the second quarter, the Panthers were able to convert, subsequently drain the clock and get into field goal range for an easy game-winning chip-shot.

This article was written by Ryan Rubinstein.