Last year’s preseason experiment is this year’s regular-season standard, but how much will the NFL’s new procedures for extra points affect the game and coaches’ decisions? That remains to be seen, and the early opinions seem to differ.
NFL owners approved the change in extra points on Tuesday, with the spot of the ball for extra points moving from the 2-yard line to the 15-yard line. It was an experiment the NFL ran during part of the preseason last year, with kickers converting 94 percent of their point-after-touchdown tries when they were snapped from the 15-yard line, meaning about a 33-yard kick. During the regular season, with the snap coming from the 2-yard line, kickers hit more than 99 percent of their attempts.
The new rule came as a surprise to no one in the NFL, but not everyone is in favor of it.
“Any time you make it more difficult for guys, when they changed the rules for the defensive backs and they couldn’t touch anybody outside of a certain amount of yards, I think at that point whenever you make it harder on a guy, I don’t know if they’re going to be with open arms on that,” Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri said.
“But I understand what they’re trying to do. It’s going to be level across the board, every kicker is going to have to deal with it the same. We’ll embrace it and move forward with it.”
The change needed 75 percent approval in a vote of the 32 NFL owners and only two teams voted no, the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders.
Two-point tries will still be snapped from the 2-yard line, which may encourage some teams to go for that option, especially in poor weather conditions in outdoor stadiums.
“When we go down (to the open-air TCF Bank Stadium) on Sundays we want it to be a home-field advantage, where in a dome kind of both teams have a home-field advantage, absent from the crowd,” Minnesota Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer told Sirius XM NFL Radio. “But in terms of the field conditions and kicking conditions, it’s neutral. But when you’re not used to (being outdoors), you’re absolutely right that it’s a distinct advantage for us.”
Las Vegas is also taking notice.
“The new extra point rule from our perspective can only be a good thing since it may increase teams going for two, which adds to the excitement of the game and to scoring, which bettors always love,” said Kevin Bradley, Sportsbook Manager at Bovada.lv. “I can see point totals going up one or two points initially, but until we see how many teams will actually go for two or how many missed extra points there are, it will be hard to adjust point spreads right off the bat. However, long term, this could lead to the traditional three or seven point spreads not being as ‘key’ as they used to.”
According to ESPN, three teams – the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers and Vikings – combined to convert all 13 of their two-point tries last year. The Bears were 5-for-5, passing on four of those attempts and running once. The Steelers were successful on all four of their attempts, each of them throwing the ball. The Vikings were also 4-for-4, but they threw it twice and ran it twice.
Teams will have the option to change their mind if a penalty occurs during the play that would back up the offense. In other words, if an offense is called for holding on an otherwise successful 2-point try, they could then decide to kick the longer extra point attempt with the penalty enforced instead of trying for two points from 12-yard line.
So what will be the net effect of the rules change? Most coaches believe it won’t significantly increase the number of two-point tries, but that remains to be seen once they have better numbers (and possibly worse kicking conditions) late in the season.