Chuck Zodda examined the impact that longer extra points had on NFL kickers after Week 4, with the data showing an improvement over his pre-season prediction. Here is the data on extra points at the halfway mark, after Week 8 of the NFL season.
By now, all football fans are aware that the NFL pushed the line of scrimmage for extra points from the 2-yard line to the 15-yard line. This was done to spice things up on what had been the most boring play in professional sports, though the intentional walk was a close second. While the 2014 season saw kickers connect on 99.3% of XP attempts, the added distance reduced accuracy to 94.1% over the first four weeks on the 2015 season. That 5.2% difference has produced some complaints and prompted questions about whether kickers are worse than ever.
However, the results are actually above the 92.7% accuracy predicted earlier this season. The primary reason for accuracy being above that prediction is due to the ability for kickers to choose their preferred location along the 15-yard line for the ball to be placed. Allowing kickers to kick from the center of the field, or select a hash they are most comfortable kicking from, has led to better than predicted accuracy
There was also significant talk that suggested as the weather got colder and snowier, kickers would see a reduction in extra point accuracy. However, after examining the data from 2000-2014 on field goals from 32-37 yards, kickers actually showed a 0.4% improvement in Weeks 9-17 compared to Weeks 1-8. While longer kicks were negatively impacted, there was no downward pressure on accuracy on field goals similar to current XPs, and no selection bias due to coaches avoiding shorter kicks in bad weather.
The historical data shows that kickers would improve on extra point accuracy as the season wore on and became more comfortable with the new distance.
In Weeks 5-8, NFL kickers went 258 for 271 on XPs, good for 95.2%, a 1.1% improvement over the first quarter of the season. This has elevated the overall accuracy to 94.6%. While the difference and sample size are not large enough to confirm statistical significance at this point, it does suggest an 80% chance that the recent data shows meaningful change from the first four games.
Another factor to consider that the high level of competition in the NFL will naturally select for kickers who are able to connect at the new distance. Through the first half of the season, there are ten kickers who have missed more than one extra point. Jason Myers “leads” the pack with three misses, while Andrew Franks, Zach Hocker, Caleb Sturgis, Randy Bullock, Chandler Catanzaro, Kyle Brindza, Josh Lambo, Graham Gano, and Blair Walsh have missed two each. Of these ten kickers, Hocker and Bullock have already been released, replaced by Kai Forbath and Nick Novak, who have missed just two XPs between them.This type of attrition is likely to continue if any kickers continue to struggle on extra points.
Based on the trend, it is reasonable to think XP accuracy for the full season will end up at approximately 95%, and that kickers will connect on jus under 96% of XPs in the second half of the season.
Follow Chuck on Twitter @ITP_ChuckZ.