Going for it on fourth down has become as pervasive in the NFL as artificial intelligence is in today's technology. And now, Amazon will incoporate both during its weekly "Thursday Night Football" broadcasts.
The company plans to add a second on-screen line to its game stream (alongside the traditional yellow line first-down marker) which will show at what point a team should attempt a fourth-down conversion, Prime Video analytics expert Sam Schwartzstein told Sportico. Amazon will use its own AI to determine when it makes sense to go for it on fourth down.
“We’re going to mirror what teams are doing,” Schwartzstein said. “Now there’s a secondary goal on third down.”
This will be a part of Amazon's new Prime Vision feed that will give viewers an analytically minded experience. The color of the line is still to be determined.
Something like this has somewhat existed in the NFL world already.
In 2020, The Athletic's Ben Baldwin launched an automated social media feed that posted recommendations on fourth-down attempts. It showed the team's down and distance on the field, the success rate of the attempt, the win percentage if a team chose to go for it or punt and, finally, what actually happened.
ESPN has its own models as well, and NFL Next Gen Stats, which are powered by Amazon Web Services, uses an algorithm to make fourth-down recommendations.
NFL teams go for it on fourth down more
Fourth-down conversions have been on the rise in the NFL over the past several years.
Five teams attempted at least 30 fourth-down conversions in 2022 and two did it more than 40 times. Three seasons ago, only three teams attempted it at least 30 times in one season. Only nine total teams went for it on fourth down at least 30 times in one season between 1984-2013, and none in any season between 2014-2018.
There will always be pushback about whether or not teams should go for it on fourth down, especially when analytics are involved. Football purists will continue to denounce it, but teams have already adopted a numbers-based approach into their game-by-game and play-by-play decisions.
NFL head coaches like Brandon Staley of the Los Angeles Chargers have been staunch supporters of using analytics to determine how aggressive their teams need to be on offense for awhile. Staley told The Athletic in 2022 he wants to add "fearlessness" back to the game and added that “if we lose, we’re going to do it on our terms, not someone else’s terms.”
Others like Nick Sirianni of the Philadelphia Eagles, Dan Campbell of the Detroit Lions and Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers added at least 39% to their in-season win probability over expectation because of their decisions on fourth down, according to Sumner Sports.
So now, at the very least, fans can see spot-decision determinations about going for it on fourth down based on what Amazon's computer thinks. What happens in reality is entirely up to each individual team.