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Math Meets Football: Is the New Extra Point a Game-Changer?

Math Meets Football Is the New Extra Point a Game Changer The Players Tribune


It doesn’t take a probability theorist to know that the expected points (the sum of each possible point outcome times the likelihood of each occurring) of the two-point conversion is now higher than that of an extra point kick:

E(two-point conversion) = 2x.479 + 0x(1-.479) = .958 pointsE(extra point) = 1x.928 + 0x(1-.928) = .928 points

It’s simple math, right? The expected points for two-point conversions is greater, so of course all 32 NFL teams are going to do away with extra points and go for two every time, right?

Not so fast.

Just because the expected points of one endeavor is greater than the other, doesn’t mean it is what coaches are going to do.

Why? Because, as you might have surmised at some point, NFL coaches are risk averse. Coaches like low variation, and a difference of .03 expected points per extra point is not nearly enough to deter them from the safer choice of going with a slightly longer kick (which has variance of .07) as opposed to the much riskier two-point conversion (which has variance .25).

There may be some who embrace the new system and take advantage of this opportunity, but my guess is most won’t.

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There's still no good reason to go for 2 unless you have to.

Because kicking still has less wear and tear on a team than going for 2.

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