Impact of New Rule on NFL Picks: Much Ado About Nothing?

Matthew Jordan

Friday, May 29, 2015 4:05 PM UTC

Friday, May. 29, 2015 4:05 PM UTC

Last Tuesday, NFL owners took the easy way out when deciding to alter the extra-point rule. Now those will be kicked from the 15-yard line so it will the same as a 32-yard field goal. 

PATs .... Yawn!
Extra points have become the most boring thing about the NFL -- well maybe all those touchbacks on kickoffs are right there too. Kickers just don't miss those extra-point kicks from the 2-yard line. Last year, 26 of the league's 32 teams were at 100 percent on PAT tries. The only ones who weren't were New Orleans, St. Louis, Buffalo, Washington, Green Bay and Chicago. These conversions have been accurate more than 99 percent of the time this decade. There hasn't even been a season under 97 percent since 1988.

So the NFL decided to do  something about that and considered three proposals.

*-The competition committee proposed simply moving the one-point PAT try to the 15-yard line. The one caveat, however, is that the defenses can return a missed or blocked kick for 2 points.

*-The Patriots had proposed snapping the ball from the 15-yard line for an extra point kick or trying a two-point conversion from the 2-yard line.?

*-The Eagles proposed from the 15 for the kick, but moving the ball to the 1 for a 2-point conversion. The Eagles also wanted the defense to be able to score the points if it returned a turnover on the 2-point conversion to the other end zone.

To no surprise, the competition committee's proposal was the winner -- but it's just for 2015. The rule passed 30-2, with Oakland and Washington voting against the measure. Sports Illustrated's Peter King, for one, believes there will be more significant changes to the PAT in 2016 once the league gets a look at it for a year. He reported that many owners didn't like the Eagles' proposal because they were worried about quarterbacks getting injured while trying to dive over piles and sticking the ball out to try and convert a 2-pointer from the 1.

In-Depth Details on How New Extra Point Rule Could Affect Totals in Games

Much Ado About Nothing?
I don't believe this change will have much affect on the NFL odds or how we place NFL picks -- I don't expect teams to go for it more often because kickers are still nearly as automatic from 32 yards out. If anything, this change might make accurate kickers more important instead of less. The competition committee expects there to be a 93 to 94 percent conversion rate on extra points tries from the 15 in 2015.

Since 1998, kickers have made extra points 98.7 percent of the time for an expected point value of 0.987. They have made field goals from the 15-yard line at a 90.0 percent rate, which would yield 0.900 expected points on each kick. Over the past five years, that rate jumped to 94.1 percent, or 0.941 expected points.

The NFL instituted the 2-point conversion in 1994. Last year, teams converted 27 of 56 2-point attempts (47.5 percent). Since the rule was adopted, there have been only four seasons with a success rate of better than 50 percent. The overall percentage is 47.9, which is an expected point value of 0.958. Over the past five years, the 2-point percentage is right at 50, for an expected point value of 1.000. So as you can see, it's slight value to go for 2. The record for most two-point attempts in a single season is held by the 2002 Saints with 11, in which they converted on just four for an average of 36.4%.

The average team scored 40.4 touchdowns in 2014. Using that 94.1 percent success rate on extra-point tries, that would yield 38.0 points on those tries by the end of the year. If a team scored every time on a 2-point conversion, that means 80.8 points, an increase of 42.8 points per year.

About 60 percent of the all-time 2-point tries are attempted by a team that's trailing. But teams leading converted 53 percent of the time, compared to 49 percent among trailing teams. Teams passed the ball on 71 percent of their conversion attempts even though only 48 percent of passing 2-point tries have worked compared to 59 percent of rushes.

New Denver coach Gary Kubiak has said he believes the change will have a big impact and that some teams might add a 2-point specialist to run a Wildcat-type of play. Mad genius Chip Kelly of the Eagles already has added one of those guys in Tim Tebow -- if Tebow  makes the roster. I would think Carolina with big Cam Newton at QB would be good at 2-pointers. I'm sure it will just depend on the coach's personality. Kelly seems likely to go for 2 more often than, say, a more conservative guy like Bill Belichick. 

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