After forcing overtime, the Jets stopped the Patriots on their first drive, reverting to the old OT format - sudden death. Geno Smith and the Jets moved downfield before being stopped for a 4th-and-7 from the New England 38. Rex Ryan had three viable options here, keeping in mind that the next score wins: Kick a low-probability (40% league-wide) 55-yard field goal, attempt to convert a low-probability (42% league-wide) 4th-and-7, or punt the ball deep and risk Tom Brady leading a game-winning drive.
The Jets elected to attempt the field goal. Nick Folk missed wide left, but in a crazy turn of events, New England was penalized 15-yards for an unsportsmanlike conduct "pushing" penalty. Before we get to the penalty, let's talk about the decision. While I almost always advocate going for it in no-man's land, in this situation, I was leaning toward the punt.
For this analysis, I used a combination of my Markov probabilities as well as Brian's overtime win probabilities.
Option 1: Field Goal
If Folk makes the field goal, ball game over, meaning 100% win probability. This is obviously the most enticing outcome to the Jets. If the Jets miss, they give the Patriots very good starting field position at the NE 45. The Patriots would have a 42.1% chance to score on that drive, and a 70.0% chance to win the ball game in that scenario:
E[WP Field Goal] = 0.40 * 1.00 + 0.60 * 0.30 = 0.58 Jets Win Probability
If the Jets convert, they have a 75.1% to score on that drive (ending the game) and an 89.0% to win overall (based on expected field position). If they fail, the Patriots have a 38.9% to drive down and win the game, and a 66.0% to win overall.
E[WP Go For It] = 0.42 * 0.89 + 0.58 * 0.34 = 0.57 Jets Win Probability
Option 3: Punt
The simplest of the three to analyze, a punt results in an expected starting field position for the Patriots around their own twelve yard line. Given that starting field position, the Patriots would have a 20.7% to score on that drive and a 38.0% chance to win overall.
E[WP Punt] = 0.62 Jets Win Probability
As for the penalty, it was a new rule instituted in 2013. After the game, head official Jerome Boger spoke about it: “The call was that No. 94 on the defense pushed his teammate into the formation,” Boger said. “That is a rule change for 2013 that a teammate cannot push a teammate into the opponents’ formation.” Obviously this was an enormous blow to the Patriots. Before the play, the Patriots held around a 40.0% to win. After the missed field goal, that jumped to 70.0%. After the penalty that plummeted to 14.0%.
Keith Goldner is the Chief Analyst at numberFire.com - The leading fantasy sports analytics platform - and creator of Drive-By Football. Follow him on twitter @drivebyfootball or check out numberFire on Facebook.