How to Win in Football

Two is Better than One and Six is Better than Three
By: Paul Bessire, WhatIfSports.com
January 15th, 2009

2. Two is better than one and six is better than three: Attempt a two point conversion after every touchdown except in necessary circumstances where one point is all that is needed or if the offensive team is incapable of gaining two yards from the two yard line more than 50% of the time (assuming kickers make every extra point). It is more difficult to gain two yards from the two yard line than most places on the field because the defense can crowd the line of scrimmage and more easily eliminate passing lines, but most NFL teams should be able to achieve this feat more often than not.

Again, with the caveat that these numbers will be discoutned slightly for the knowledge of the defense that only two yards is needed... We just covered the length of the average play, which suggests that a run or pass could be called with the expectation of gaining two yards. Furthermore, the median yards gained on pass and run plays exceeds two yards, which means that more than 50% of those plays would suffice. And, the mode/most common yardage gained on a rush is two yards, so it should be fairly simple.

Everyone talks about a "chart" that is used to determine when to go for two. It should be the other way around. Teams should always go for two, unless a chart indicates that a guaranteed point is more important. Scoring more points leads to winning more games.

Similarly, a strong case could be made for never kicking field goals within "range" except at the end of the half where time is an issue or when absolutely necessary. At least, ending a possession in a field goal should not be the goal in most circumstances. Go for six when you can. Scoring more will yield more wins.

And for those who are thinking that I just eliminated the roster spots for kickers and punters with #4 and #2 on this list, it's actually the opposite. If kickers and punters are only used "when absolutely necessary," their value increases due to the importance of those instances. Plus, if every kick is being returned, teams will want kickers who can kick the kickoff through the endzone.

Go to #1 Be Aggressive or go back to the Introduction for more.

Paul Bessire is the Senior Quantitative Analyst and Content Manager for WhatIfSports.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul can be reached at btb@whatifsports.com. Thanks!

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