Brandon Staley relied on analysts during the season to support his decision to move into fourth place. Head Coach Chargers followed the numbers again on Sunday night, but this time he made a decision that would make a lot of NFL fans scratch their heads.
Staley decided in fourth and first place out of 18 Chargers, his team was three points behind and 9:41 remained in the third quarter. This decision failed, though perhaps not as badly as some expected, as run back Austin Ekeler was resolved due to a loss of 2 yards to force a turnaround on the descents.
The Raiders only scored a field goal in the next race and advanced 20-14.
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Conventional wisdom, of course, would be that going for it in fourth place so deep in the team’s territory is questionable, especially when there is so much time left.
But do the numbers confirm Staley’s decision? Of course yes.
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According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the Chargers’ expected winnings increase slightly when they decided to go for it, while the decision to punch would slightly reduce the team’s chances.
The Chargers’ decision to go on 4th and 1 of their own 18-yard line was the optimal call according to the NGS Decision Guide powered by @awscloud.
– Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 10, 2022
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The Chargers and Raiders play a game with severe consequences for the playoffs. The winner goes to the AFC playoffs while the loser goes home, although a draw would both send him into the post-season via the Steelers. Staley said before the match that his team would not kneel throughout the match to ensure a tie.
If the Chargers return and win (they lost 29-14 in the fourth quarter), they would head to Buffalo to face the Bills. A victory for the Raiders would send Las Vegas to Cincinnati to face the Bengals. If the teams drew, the Chargers would play the Bills and the Raiders would face the No. 2 Chiefs.