The NFL’s New PAT Rule

The new rule for 2015 govorning the Point After following touchdowns, calls for teams to declare to the referee their intent to try for 1 or for 2 points after the TD.  If they intend to go for 2 points, the line of scrimage will remain at the 2 yard line where it’s always been, but if the team wants to kick the extra point, the line of scrimage will be placed at the 15 yard line.  Teams will be allowed to change their decision if there is a play stoppage either by timeout (either team) or a penalty that results in a replay of the down.  It also allows the defense to score 2 points (or the offense for that matter) by advancing the ball to their respective goalines should there be a fumble, interception, or blocked kick – before now, the play was ruled dead in an event like that.  The consensus among fans seems to be, ‘so what, they’re moving the kicks back to the 15, no big deal, it’s not really going to change much.’  Well, let’s see if that’s right.

In 2014, with the line of scrimage for point after attempts set at the 2 yard line (making it about a 19 yard kick) there were 1230 PATs attempted and 1222 of those were successful according to NFL.com).  That’s 8 misses, meaning we watched an extra point get blocked or otherwise go wrong on the average of once every two weeks.   Moving the line of scrimage to the 15 yardline for the point after means it becomes about a 32 yard attempt.  looking at field goals to compare, we can look at the numbers for kicks of 20-29 yards or for 30-39 yards.  Just to allow room for error, let’s take the shorter set. In 2014, again, from NFL.com, there were 231 field goals made on 247 attempts (20-29 yards) for a 94% rate (the rate drops to just 90% for 30-39 yards).  If you apply that 94% rate to the new rule, it would give you a total of 1156 PATs made on that same 1230 attempt number.  That takes it from 8 missed in a season to 74 missed, or about once every 16 attempts -roughly 4 and a half times each Sunday.wide right

From a fan’s perspective, that indicates that the move will be fairly significant as far as the point after attempt being something worth watching.  Will it make a difference in wins and losses on the field?  According to handicapping site Marasoft.com, over the last 20 years, the combined number of games that have been decided by 1 point or less is 4.47% which is significant enough to mean that, yes, we should expect to see at least 10+ games next season where the new spot for point after attempts has a direct effect on the outcome of the game. But it goes beyond that.

According to NFLPenalty.com there were a combined 69 instances last season of holding and false start penalties on extra point attempts.  Under the new rule, these penalties would push the extra point attempt back even further, making for a 37 or 42 yard attempt.  The success rate of field goals from that distance drops dramatically from the 99% rate of the original 2 yard PAT.  Under the new rule, if a team attempts the kick, and a holding penalty pushes the line of scrimage back to the 42, that team would have the option of changing their mind and going for 2 instead (presumably with the 10 yard penalty tacked on to the line of scrimage, placing the ball at the 12 yard line).  The success rate for 2 point conversions hovers at around 50%, and last year there were 27 successfull 2 point tries.  If only half of those 69 point after attempts that get pushed back by penalty, change to a 2 point try, and if only half of those are successfull, it’ll mean at the minimum we should get to see an additional two point score at a rate of about 1 per week.  Add weather in as a factor and it’s likely to be even greater than that.

going for 2It’s also important to point out, that at first glance, declaring for a 1 point try and having the line of scrimage set as the 15 yardline in those instances seems,  to be the end of the already rare fake kick attempt.  Why would a coach fake a point after to go for 2 all the way back from the 15?  But the opposite may actually turn out to be the case.  A fake field goal play run from the 2 yard line means there’s only a space roughly the size of the endzone for defenders to guard once they react to the fake.  But, if the line of scrimage is the 15, and the kicking team runs a fake, there’s an area 2 and a half times as large for a receiver to slip into and try to get open for a rainbow pass from a noodle-armed kicker.  The end result of this rule, because of this factor as well as because of weather and increased distance due to penalties, could actually mean a rather significant increase in 2 point conversions and attempted conversions.  From a fan’s perspective, it should all mean more excitement.

Wil this have any fantasy impact at all?  Well, there are no statistics, of course, on fantasy games that have been decided by 1 point or less, but we’ve all certainly been there, so yes, somewhere, at sometime you can expect to win or lose because one of these new extra points is missed, or because the team decides to go for two and your kicker never gets the attempt, or because your opponent happens to get 2 points from it while your kicker is on the sidelines, or because of any number of other factors all trickling down from this rule change.  When you’re eyeing kickers, their accuracy rate now might be just the slightest bit more important, but I think the most important lesson we can take from this rule change is in being aware of the home field advantage some kickers will now enjoy.  Imagine the difference between kicking 32 yard extra points in November at Soldier Field vs kicking them in San Diego or in the Super Dome.  When every point counts, it’s something to think about.

The other part of this rule is that the ball is not immediately ruled dead in the event of a fumble, interception, or blocked kick.  This should lead to a few extra successful offensive 2 point scores, and maybe as many as 5 or so defensive returns for 2 through the season.  It will be mostly irrelevant for fantasy purposes, but should make games more interesting from a fan’s perspective.  Because the instances when these defensive 2 point scores occur will be so few and far between, AF has set their value to be equal to whatever value a safety has in that particular scoring set, and I’m sure there’ll be a fantasy game, somewhere through the season that’s affected by the defensive side of this rule as well, but it won’t be anything significant enough to alter fantasy strategy.

The last thing you need to know about the new PAT rule is that it’s not neccessarily here to stay.  The rule has only been approved for 2015, so we may see even more changes before the 2016 season.

 

 

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