NFL teams have gone for a two-point conversion 59 times this year through seven weeks and have converted 34 (a 58 percent success rate), according to Pro Football Reference.
Given the new rules that seem to favor offenses and the not-so-sure-thing of a 33-yard extra point, should teams be going for two even more regardless of the score?
First take: Michael Rand
Well, the short answer is yes.
I know some (and probably still most) coaches are hesitant to eschew what is still a high likelihood of one point in search of two, but if the current conversion trend continues, it will simply be bad math to adhere to the status of kicking by default.
While teams have gone for two 59 times, they’ve kicked 528 times this year, making 501 (95 percent). Had they gone for two each time and made them at the aforementioned 58 percent rate, they would have scored 107 more points than they had by kicking.
Obviously there are other factors in play, such as wind, relative strength of an offense and defense and even an intangible like momentum, but if you are a good offensive team playing with confidence, you should be going for two more often than you kick.
Vikings writer Andrew Krammer: The answer is absolutely yes.
It has been amazing to see how conservative football coaches continue to be as probabilities seep into and alter other professional sports around them. We should applaud Pat Shurmur for calling a two-point attempt following a touchdown that cut into the Giants’ 14-point deficit against the Falcons on Monday night.
Since the long-term two-point success rate hovers above 50 percent, and as aforementioned is closer to 60 percent this season, probabilities indicate the Giants were likely to make the two-point attempt after a second touchdown to tie the game — if the first two-point try failed. If it succeeded, they were an extra point away from a win.
It feels like we’re on the cusp of change, led by such coaches as Shurmur and the Eagles’ Doug Pederson.
Rand: Here’s where I’ll play devil’s advocate for a moment: As teams put more successful two-point plays on tape for opponents to study, might defenses start to catch up and tilt that success rate down under 50 percent?
Even a small shift in this year’s sample size could make the decision between consistently going for one or two a mathematical coin flip. And if that’s the case, I still think more coaches than not — with inertia and self-preservation as motives — will keep kicking.
Krammer: I think it’s fair to question how much room for improvement defenses have in those instances. A two-point play is no different from any other goal-line stand that defenses already practice and face weekly.
Since 2000, only five times has the NFL’s No. 1 red-zone offense had a touchdown success rate of 72 percent or better, per Football Outsiders. Three of those leaders — the 2016 Titans, 2014 Raiders and 2013 Broncos — have come within the past five years. And the Seahawks (73.3 percent) are on pace to do it again this season.
Offenses are setting leaguewide scoring records, which theoretically should force the evolution of the game’s leading coaches.
Rand: The Vikings have a defense-minded head coach in Mike Zimmer. It would sure be something to see him turn OC John DeFilippo loose with a bunch of two-point conversions!
Final word: Krammer: I’m not holding my breath, especially with Dan Bailey bringing a steadying presence at kicker. But hey, we’ve never seen issues with a veteran kicker in Minnesota, so it’s not like that’s a shoe waiting to drop or anything.
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