In Super Bowl LII, the Eagles shocked the NFL when they successfully converted two pivotal 4th-down conversions. And while Philadelphia finally won its first Super Bowl, the Eagles’ win may be remembered more for having finally busted one of the most frustrating myths in the NFL: punting on 4th-down is the safe, conservative choice.
Background on 4th-downs
In American football, teams have four chances (or “downs”) to either score points or advance the football ten yards down the field. If a team fails on its 4th-down, then the opposing teams takes possession of the ball.
Because coaches don’t want to set up their opponents for an easy score, NFL wisdom says a team should intentionally turn the football over on 4th-down by kicking (“punting”) it down the field. Similarly, if a team is in range of kicking a 3-point field goal on 4th-down, NFL wisdom says they should kick the field goal, rather than go for a 1st-down and risk losing possession.
Source: NY Times
The Eagles create value by embracing 4th-down conversion analytics
On the surface, the Eagles attempted more 4th-down conversions (29) than any other NFL team in the 2017 football season, and successfully converted 69% (20).  However, a closer look at the Eagles’ on-field operations shows that data analytics have become deeply woven into game prep and real-time decisions.
Even before Super Bowl LII, sports commentators acknowledged the Eagles’ analytics edge on the field. In January 2018, ESPN wrote how the Eagles’ approach to analytics is “so involved in the operation that two members of the department . . . communicate with Pederson in-game.”  Once a 3rd-down call is made, but before the 3rd-down ball is snapped, the data analytics team will run a model based on inputs like field position, number of yards needed for conversion, and game time remaining. Usually, before the third down snap, they’ll deliver a concise message to Coach Pederson: “If it’s anything less than 4th-and-N, the charts say go for it.” 
The Eagles also use data to implement real-time adaptive defense
The Eagles aren’t only using data on offense. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has invented ways to share his love of analytics with the Eagles defense. “Each week there’s a PowerPoint presentation on how many possible plays an offense can run based on time, number of timeouts, and a kicker’s maximum field goal length,” and Schwartz gives briefings that “are detailed down to the yard, personnel, formation, and more.”  Schwartz frequently gives defensive player statistical pop quizzes, which inculcates situational propensities that can be quickly recalled on the field. Many Eagles credit Schwartz’s heat maps (color-coded graphics showing play tendencies) and relentless quizzing for the defense’s ability to narrow down the options available to the Atlanta Falcons on their final attempt of the game, which led the Eagles to their first playoff win. 
But the NFL is a “copycat league”
NFL coaches are constantly searching for a competitive edge, which is why the NFL is notorious for being a “copycat league”. Thus any edge the Eagles have from analytics is likely not defensible beyond 1-2 seasons. But embracing data requires buy-in from both team ownership and the head coach, which could delay the adoption of analytics by other NFL teams. 
So will 4th-down conversions become more frequent? Probably, so long as data keeps indicating that punting is the real “risky” move…
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye6dVwDb_u0 (at 11:14). “You know, Mike, I hate to say this: I would feel better at this point taking the 3 points. If you make it, it’s great. But if you don’t make it, it’s a big momentum swing.” Id.
 See, e.g., David Romer, “Do Firms Maximize? Evidence from Professional Football,” Journal of Political Economy, vol. 114, no. 2 (2006), available at https://eml.berkeley.edu/~dromer/papers/JPE_April06.pdf.
 NY Times, “4th Down: When to Go for It and Why,” Sept. 4, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/05/upshot/4th-down-when-to-go-for-it-and-why.html (noting that as “a rule of thumb,” all teams should go for a 4th-down conversion on any 4th-and-1, so long as the team is beyond their own 9-yard-line).
 Compiled from http://www.espn.com/nfl/statistics/team/_/stat/downs, accessed April 3, 2018.
 Tim McManus, “Eagles’ secret weapon? An analytics-fueled attack,” ESPN.com, Jan. 18, 2018, http://www.espn.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/266982/eagles-secret-weapon-an-analytics-fueled-attack, accessed April 3, 2018 (note this was written before the two famous 4th-down attempts in Super Bowl LII).
 Id. (noting that “Philadelphia has gone for it on fourth down more than any other team in the NFL since Pederson became head coach last season”).
 Jeff McLane, “Jim Schwartz has his Eagles defense prepared for every possibility against Vikings,” Philly.com, January 18, 2018, http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/eagles/nfc-championship-philadelphia-eagles-minnesota-vikings-jim-schwartz-defense-coach-20180118.html.
 Id. “Based on the formation and the situation there were only one or two plays they would probably run. It’s one of their favorite concepts, [Eagles defensive safety Rodney] McLeod said. “But those are the things that [Schwartz] points out consistently week to week that give us an edge.” Id.
 Tim McManus, “Eagles’ secret weapon? An analytics-fueled attack,” ESPN.com, Jan. 18, 2018, http://www.espn.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/266982/eagles-secret-weapon-an-analytics-fueled-attack, accessed April 3, 2018 (“Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has long had an analytics team in place; the desire for an optimal fourth-down strategy is not new. The difference is that the Eagles now have a more willing dance partner on the sideline in Pederson.”)