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Pardon me, coach

EVERY FAN in face paint thinks the man in charge should listen to his advance. Here's the shocker: The stats say he's not always crazy.

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Turns out those dudes in the gorilla suits are correct. From 2001 through Week 12 of this season, teams converted fourth-and-short 
plays (one to three yards to go) 60 percent of the time, and that climbs to 67 percent when offenses run the ball. Those are extremely favorable odds. For example, going for it on fourth and one from your own 40 is worth 0.73 expected points to your offense, which is more than triple the expected points a punt would generate.* As the chart below shows, there's no reason to get cute on fourth and short; smashmouth football will do just fine. -- Henry Gargiulo and John Parolin, ESPN Stats & Information

*Controlling for the following scenario: It's a tie game, at the beginning of the second quarter, both teams have all their timeouts and the decision is being made by the home team, which plays on a grass field.

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That old couple with matching mullets is right: Your coach should go for two—but only if he elects to run it. Since 2001, rushing tries on two-pointers have been successful 57 percent of the time, which translates to 1.13 points per attempt, more than on any other post-TD option. Conversely, as the accompanying numbers show, teams actually gain more points per attempt when they settle for the PAT rather than trying to throw their way to a two-point conversion. -- H.G. and J.P.

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Since 2001, NFL coaches have won only 39 percent of their challenges. So, sorry, Scary Guy With the Face Tattoo, but with TDs and turnovers now automatically reviewed, do you really want Coach to risk losing a TO 
to get another look at a second-down spot? No, you don't, especially in the second half, when a full portfolio of TOs is essential to a comeback. Of course, there are exceptions … -- H.G. and J.P.

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Time to drop some knowledge on the guy in the Tim Biakabutuka jersey. From 2007 to '12, the team that passed more efficiently in the first quarter won about 61 percent of the time, versus 56 percent for the team that ran more efficiently. Add in the fact that teams that ran more in the fourth quarter won about 84 percent of their games and this much is clear: Advocates of "establishing the run" have the cause and effect backward. Teams don't win because they establish the run early; they win because they establish the pass early and run the ball late to protect their lead. -- Danny Tuccitto, Football Outsiders


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This one is close, but you can -- gently -- tell the shirtless guy in the clown wig he's wrong. As tempting as it is to start on offense and "get the momentum," it doesn't really matter who has the ball first. Teams that choose to receive the opening kickoff win 49.1 percent of the time, compared with 50.9 percent for teams that defer. So you might as well follow Bill Belichick's preferred strategy: defer and get an extra second-half possession. -- H.G. and J.P.


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Since 2001, desperation onside kicks in the fourth quarter have a 13 percent success rate. But a surprise onside in the first three quarters is recovered 50 percent of the time and is worth double the expected points (0.31) of a normal kickoff (0.15).* As the chart shows, 400 fewer onside kicks have been tried in quarters one through three, but nearly the same number were recovered. So tell that lady wearing the fake beard she's right. This time. -- H.G. and J.P.

*Controlling for the following scenario: It's a tie game, at the beginning of the second quarter, both teams have all their timeouts and the decision is being made by the home team, which plays on a grass field.

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