The NFL is now in its second season of moving back the line of scrimmage for extra point kicks to the 15-yard line, and one thing is clear: A two-point conversion is now a better bet than a one-point extra point kick. Now the only question is whether any coach will notice.
So far this season, NFL teams are 17-for-28 (60.7 percent) on two-point conversions and 344-for-361 (95.3 percent) on extra point kicks. That means the typical rate of return on going for two is 1.21 points, while the typical rate of return on kicking the extra point is 0.95 points. All other things being equal, going for two produces more points.
That was the case last season as well: Offenses went 45-for-94 (47.9 percent) on two-point conversions, while kickers went 1,146-for-1,217 (94.2 percent) on extra points. In other words, an extra point kick produced, on average, 0.94 points, while a two-point conversion attempt produced, on average, 0.96 points.
But while Year 2 of the new extra point rule is yielding results that suggest coaches should go for two more often, coaches aren’t doing that. Last year there were, on average, 0.18 two-point conversion attempts per game, and this year there are, on average, 0.18 two-point conversion attempts per game.
Why are coaches still kicking extra points 13 times as often as they go for two, when simple math says a two-point conversion is a better bet? Because coaches are cautious and conservative by nature, and even the smartest coaches do things for no reason other than that’s the way they’ve always been done.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio went for the two-point conversion and the win when his team scored a late touchdown to pull within a point of the Saints in Week One. It worked. That did not lead to a rush of other coaches showing Del Rio’s guts. But it should have.