Everyone loves an exciting game. Just imagine the excitement if most teams started going for two on every touchdown instead of kicking an almost-automatic-extra-point.
Which is why I love that the NFL has moved the distance back for extra points this season. Hopefully it will encourage more teams to go for the 2-point conversion. However, we will have to see how this effects the key numbers to see if games land on 7, 10, or even 14 quite as often and how the NFL spreads might change accordingly.
So far the changes appear to be working. During the 2015 season extra points are being made only 95.2% of the time. This is in stark contrast to the 99.5% of the extra points that were made over the previous five seasons.
Instead of having to find success going for two 49.75% of the time like in years past, coaches now only have to convert 47.6% of their 2-point attempts to make going for two the proper choice.
The 2-point conversion has been around for quite some time in college football but is only a recent addition to the NFL, beginning in 1994. Many people looked at this as a great thing, it had the potential to change how games were played. That wasn’t the case. In the years 2000-2014 only 997 2-point conversions were attempted. But why?
In the years mentioned the success rate was 48.2%. This would have made going for two have a negative expected value, and the smart choice would have been to kick it.
Now however, the smart play might be to attempt the two-point conversion. The expected points from a kick would be 1 point * 95.2%: .952. The expected points from going for two would be 2 points * 48.2%: .964.
NFL teams should start going for 2 more often. The problem doesn’t lie with the performance of the team or the confidence of the coach in his players, the problem lies with job security.
The NFL is a league that prides itself on winning and time-honored traditions. Any coach who did something this drastic would instantly be subjected to scrutiny. Any mistake would be blown out of proportion and his job would be on the hot seat. This is the same reason more coaches don’t go for it on 4th down and short.
So how does this information help us? We can take what we learn here, and other areas, and use them in our NFL handicapping models. By looking at 2-point conversions, trick plays, 4 th down tendencies etc. we can begin to develop tendencies about teams and coaches. It also shows us which coaches pay attention to the numbers and put their teams in the best position to win. Everything counts when your money is on the game and greatness is in the details. We have to use every available resource to come out ahead.
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