Mathematically, Should NFL Teams Go for Two Now That the Extra Point Is Moved Back?
We haven't cared about the extra point in football for years, because getting a point after a touchdown has been close to automatic in the NFL. No, seriously -- according to our Chief Analyst, Keith Goldner, the success rate of hitting an extra point from the 2-yard line is a crazy 99.7%. Meaning, teams would be expected to score .997 points with each extra point try.
The NFL and Roger Goodell wanted no more of this, and announced yesterday that the point after touchdown will be moved to the 15-yard line, 13 yards deeper down the field than what we've become accustomed to. Meanwhile, the two-point conversion try will continue to stay at the 2-yard line.
Mathematically, what does this all mean?
Well, for starters, there's an obvious drop in expected points from the 15-yard line as opposed to the 2. Per Mr. Goldner's math, while the old extra point had a success rate of 99.7%, this new one has one of roughly 93.58%. In other words, the drop in expected points on an extra point, given the rule change, is 0.06 points.
This is actually more significant than you might think, especially when you factor in the expected point total coming from a two-point conversion.
Two-point conversions are successful roughly 48% of the time they're run. Because you're getting two points with a successful conversion, the expected point total that comes from a two-point try is .960, which is actually higher than what we'd expect from an extra point try from the 15-yard line.
To put it simply, going for two, under these new rules, is probably smarter.
Now, a lot goes into that decision, like team personnel and game situation. And, of course, the rate of hitting a two-point conversion can increase with a little more practice.
According to Keith's math, which you can see here, if we wanted the expected points on each type of try to be equal, the logical placement for the extra point would be on the 9-yard line, not the 15.
Will coaches let math help make their decisions this season? We'll find out in just a few months.