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The Not-So-Extra Points of the Future

Updated on April 8, 2014

The Facts

Reports have swirled about various rule changes being kicked around by the NFL's competition committee, ranging from added penalties for a certain racial slur and beloved touchdown celebration to minor tinkering with the league's review policies. One such proposal, put forth by the New England Patriots, suggests that extra points be moved from the 2 yard line, which amounts to a 20 yard chip shot, all the way back to the 25 yard line, making it a 43 yard try.

Before you go crazy about how much the game you love is about to change, it might help to know that this proposal is unlikely to pass this season. However, the committee will be open to experimenting with this idea in the preseason this year. According to the committee's proposal, for one week during this year's preseason, all extra points in all games would be attempted from the 20 yard line, a 37 yard field goal. Depending on the result of this experiment, the committee could potentially go forward with this rule change in future seasons.

As interesting as this proposal is, however, I couldn't help but wonder just how much of a difference it would really make. I decided to take the kicking statistics for all 32 teams' primary kickers (it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to look at one's with only a handful of attempts) to see if I could get a general idea. Here's a look at what I found.

The Stats: Grouping Them Up

I began by separating the kickers into three groups: the above-average group consisting of the top 10 field goal kicking percentages, the average group consisting of the middle 10, and the below average group consisting of the bottom 12 percentages. From the current extra point distance, there is almost no difference in kicking percentage, with a mere tenth of a percentage separating each group. Nothing really exciting there.

Next, I assumed that extra points were moved back to the 20 yard line, as in the proposed trial run. I shifted my focus to each kicker's percentage on kicks of 30-39 yards. At first, it seemed that my foray into the stats was all for naught: the above average group made a mere .4% more kicks than the average group. However, when I examined the below average group, things began to get interesting. There was an 8.2% drop in field goal percentage from the average group to the below average group. That's double the number of missed kicks in the other two groups! Over an entire season, the misses would really start to add up for the members of that below average group, and even worse, for their offenses. Don't believe it? Check out the stats:

2013 NFL Kicking Stats: By Group

Stat
Above Average
Average
Below Average
XP's Attempted
401
395
456
XP's Made
400
393
454
XP Percentage
99.7%
99.5%
99.6%
30-39 Field Goal Attempts
113
80
102
30-39 Field Goals Made
105
74
86
30-39 Field Goal Percentage
92.9%
92.5%
84.3%
Kickers like former New Orleans Saint Garrett Hartley, who missed a league high 3 field goals of 30-39 yards, could cost their teams dearly on extra points.
Kickers like former New Orleans Saint Garrett Hartley, who missed a league high 3 field goals of 30-39 yards, could cost their teams dearly on extra points. | Source

So what could this mean? Clearly, there is a large disparity between the top 20 kickers in the NFL and the bottom 12. Longer extra points could make those top 20 an even more valuable commodity, especially for defensive teams that play a high number of close games, where every point counts. If your favorite team was in a tight battle and needed an extra point to win or tie, would you want one of those bottom 12 kickers and their 84% success rate? I would have to go with no. However, what if we're dealing with an offensive-based team such as Denver (which attempted a league high 75 extra points last year)? Could a team possibly score enough to bail out a below average kicker...

More Stats: The Power of Offense

To answer that question, I had to redivide the kickers into two more groups, one for those associated with high scoring offenses and one for those in low scoring offenses. To do this, I placed kickers with 40 or more extra point attempts in 2013 in the high-scoring, or "prolific" group and those with less than 40 attempts in the low scoring or "non-prolific" group. And what do you know, it worked out that each group split perfectly into an even 16 teams and their kickers, with the prolific group consisting of Denver, Seattle, Dallas, New England, San Diego, Chicago, Green Bay, San Francisco, Carolina, Minnesota, Tennessee, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Detroit, Kansas City, and New Orleans, and the non-prolific group including Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Baltimore, Jacksonville, the Jets, Buffalo, Atlanta, the Giants, Indianapolis, Arizona, Washington, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Miami, Houston, and Oakland.


Teams like Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos score so often, they can afford to miss an extra point or two over a full season.
Teams like Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos score so often, they can afford to miss an extra point or two over a full season. | Source

The results were a bit deceiving initially. On the whole, the non-prolific group had better kicking numbers, converting .3% more extra points and 1% more 30-39 yard field goals. Nevertheless, don't be misled by the apparent disparity. The prolific group attempted a full 238 more extra points than their non-prolific counterparts. So despite an increase of missed extra points from 4 at the current distance, to a projected 80 at the new distance (or about 5 per team), it is spread over such a large sample size as to be almost negligible. On the other hand, the non-prolific group would have a total number of 49 misses (about 3 per team), up from only 1 in 2013! While 5 misses would be nothing for a team that kicks 45-50 extra points in a season, 3 misses could be huge for a team that attempts say 23 extra points (attempts by Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee, fewest in the league in 2013). Teams in the non-prolific group would have to obtain stronger kickers with better than a 1% edge in accuracy if they hope to capitalize on their limited scoring opportunities and stay even with their high-scoring counterparts.

2013 NFL Kicking Stats: By Offense

Stat
Prolific Offense
Non-Prolific Offense
XP's attempted
745
507
XP's Made
741
506
XP Percentage
99.5%
99.8%
30-39 Field Goal Attempts
140
155
30-39 Field Goals Made
125
140
30-39 Field Goal Percentage
89.3%
90.3%
Offense may be quickly surpassing NFL defenses, bu don't tell the Seattle Seahawks and their secondary, aptly dubbed the "Legion of Boom."
Offense may be quickly surpassing NFL defenses, bu don't tell the Seattle Seahawks and their secondary, aptly dubbed the "Legion of Boom." | Source

The Impact

If you hadn't gathered by the fact that 11 of 2013's 12 playoff teams found themselves in the prolific group, the NFL is becoming an offense-driven league. With that said, it looks like this rule, if it were to pass, would favor those high scoring teams even more, by making even the easiest of points more difficult for low scoring teams to achieve. Personally, I think it would be a great added wrinkle in games, making them even more exciting and unpredictable with no point a given. But that is just my opinion. Whether or not this rule change passes one day, I thought this article might be an interesting look into what the league would look like if it did. A look at a league where above average kickers would be viewed as an even more valuable commodity, and defensive teams continue their downward fall. Though as Seattle proved in the Super Bowl, defense isn't quite dead just yet.

Would you support lengthening extra points in future seasons?

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