In American Football, each of the two teams playing each other is afforded four opportunities, or “downs”, to get a new set of downs or to score a touchdown over their rival in the game. If they don’t obtain a first down or score after three downs, they could kick the ball away so that
their rival would have to travel a longer distance to also score a touchdown. I know it sounds really technical, but it really isn’t. It has become conventional wisdom to kick the ball away on fourth down. That conventional wisdom has now been officially challenged. New data suggests you have a better chance of achieving success by going for the first down or touchdown on your fourth down instead of kicking it away. In other words, new data says you should not play not to lose but play to win.
According to an emerging number of economists, going for a first down or touchdown instead of kicking the ball is simply a better bet. One guy from this new school of thought is David Berri, a sports economist and professor of applied economics at Southern Utah University in the United States. He comes flat out and says…
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