clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Kick the PAT or go for 2? Math favors the 2-point conversion

We have a rule change to examine.

Joe Robbins-Getty Images

The NFL voted to move the line of scrimmage back to the 15 yard line yesterday meaning that most extra points will fall into the 32-33 yard range as opposed to the 19-20 yard range it was before. A part of the new rule change also means that defenses can now run back turnovers on 2-point conversions for a 2-point conversion of their own.

Given the new landscape of the score after touchdown, does it make more sense to kick or to go for 2?


You have to know what you're dealing with before you can draw any conclusions. In this case we should know the kicking percentage of FG's when the LOS is the 15 yard line, the conversion rate of 2-point conversions, and also the turnover to touchdown rate on plays from the 2 yard line.

All of the following stats were compiled by Topher Doll who's knowledge and research capabilities continue to make MHR one of a kind when it comes to unique statistical analysis.

% on kicks from the

Topher was able to research the Pro Football Reference database and find that kicks from the 15 yard line have a 90% accuracy. This means that for every 100 kicks, the offense will score 90 points. Reduced, for every 10 kicks, the offense will score 9 points.

Career wise, Connor Barth has 3 kicks from the 15 yard line--all of which are good.

Conversion rate on two-point conversions

Over the past five NFL seasons, the conversion rate on two-point tries is exactly 50%. That means for every 100 attempts the offense will score 100 points (half of 100 is 50. 50 times 2 is 100). That means a team just has to break even on extra points in order to outscore those who just kick the PAT by one point.

If you go 5/10 on 2 point attempts, you are scoring 10 points which is still a higher output than making 9/10 PAT's. It makes more mathematical sense to go for two points every time than it does to kick the PAT everytime. In the long run, your team will end up scoring more points.

But what about the defensive scoring component?

From 1998 to the present there have been 3104 plays that have been run on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down from the 2 yard line. Of those plays, only 12 resulted in a turnover for a touchdown. That rate comes out to 0.0038 or 0.004 (rounding up) percent of all plays run from the two yardline. That means the defense will score 2 points once in every 250 two point conversion tries. Breaking it down further, that means the defense can expect to add .8 points for every 100 attempts.

Putting it together

Assuming you either kick the PAT every time or go for 2 every time...

A PAT attempt from the 15 yard line will yield 9 points for every 10 tries

A 2-point conversion will yield 9.92 points for every 10 tries

The offense that goes for 2 every time will average .92 points more for every 10 attempts over the team that kicks every time.

Last season, the Denver Broncos had 58 attempts on a score after touchdown. There were 56/56 kicking (56 points) and 2/2 on two point conversions (4 points) for 60 total points.

If the Broncos decided to go for two every time under the same circumstances under the new rule changes, their point total drops to 52 points.

Looking ahead to next season, if the Broncos had the same 58 opportunities, their expected point value under the new rules if they decided to kick every time would be 52.2 points.

If they decide to go for two every time, their expected point value would be 58 points.

Over the course of a season, a gain of 5.8 points might not seem like much, but it is one way to gain a fair competitive advantage over the opponent.

Sure beats deflating footballs wouldn't you say?