How Longer Extra Points Are Affecting NFL Betting

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 20: Jason Myers #2 of the Jacksonville Jaguars kicks an extra point held by teammate Brad Nortman #3 during an NFL game at Ford Field on November 20, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

If you were watching football at all yesterday, you may have noticed a missed extra point or several.  In fact, a total of twelve extra points were either blocked, doinked, or shanked on Sunday.  Those extra points can add up for sports bettors as we saw the Under go 10-2.  Not every missed extra point directly led to a game going under the total, but we can look at more data to see if there is a correlation.  We’ll use the Bet Labs database to see what effect, if any, the extra point rule change has had on NFL betting.

Let’s start by looking at key numbers.  Because of the unique scoring in the NFL, scores are most often decided by 3 and 7 points.  Other numbers that often come up include 4, 6, and 10.  Below is a table that shows how often each margin of victory has occurred in the last season and a half compared to the rest of our NFL data going back to 2003.  I also added a column to show the difference to see if there is anything noticeable due to the new rule.

Game MarginShort XPLong XPDifference
00.1%0.5%0.3%
13.7%4.7%1.0%
23.7%4.2%0.6%
315.0%14.5%-0.4%
45.4%4.9%-0.5%
52.9%4.0%1.1%
65.5%9.4%3.8%
79.2%11.0%1.8%
83.3%3.5%0.3%
91.4%1.4%0.0%
106.1%4.4%-1.7%
112.6%2.8%0.2%
121.5%1.4%-0.1%
133.2%2.1%-1.1%
144.8%5.4%0.6%

It may not be surprising to see that the biggest change is the increase in the number of games that end with a game margin of six points.  With extra points becoming more difficult, touchdowns that used to almost always be worth seven points are much more commonly worth only six.  In the time since the extra point was moved back, the key number of six has become almost as regular as the key number of seven.  It will be interesting to see if this trend continues going forward.

While game margin is interesting to look at for key numbers, we do need to put those numbers in context.  By looking at the closing line of Pinnacle and comparing to the game margin, we can see how these missed extra points are affecting results against the spread.

ATS MarginShort XPLong XPDifference
02.8%3.5%0.7%
0.52.8%3.7%0.9%
13.4%3.3%-0.1%
1.52.2%3.3%1.1%
23.7%4.2%0.5%
2.52.2%2.8%0.6%
33.2%3.3%0.1%

An ATS margin of zero indicates the game ended as a push.  Those games have increased by 0.7% since the new rule was installed in 2015.  Games decided by half a point have also increased over that same span.  While 0.7% and 0.9% may not seem like a huge difference, 1.6% can easily be the difference in a winning season and a losing one.  Overall, games that could easily go one way or another on the betting line are increasing and therefore the importance of shopping around for the best line is also increasing.

As I mentioned before, the missed extra points can also have an effect on the betting total.  Since the rule was changed, betting the under has hit 50.9% of the time.  In the seasons prior to that, betting the under had hit at 49.7%.  Neither number is profitable on it’s own, but a 1.2% increase over the course of 427 NFL games is eye opening.  Doing the same analysis as above, I then looked to see how the totals have been affected by comparing the total points scored to the closing line.

Total MarginShort XPLong XPDifference
01.9%1.2%-0.7%
0.52.6%2.8%0.2%
13.6%3.5%-0.1%
1.52.8%1.6%-1.2%
22.5%4.2%1.7%
2.52.7%3.0%0.3%
33.4%4.9%1.5%

The number of pushes has decreased and there has been increases in totals decided by 2 and 3 points, but I’m not sure there is a telling story like there was when analyzing spreads.  I think the biggest takeaway from the totals analysis is the 1.2% increase in unders since the rule change.  It’s not rocket science that missed kicks would lead to fewer points which leads to more unders.  But it’s important to remember that more 7-point touchdowns are turning into 6-point touchdowns, making 6 more of a key number than it had been in previous seasons.  If head coaches would wise up and go for the 2-point conversion more often, we may soon see 8 become a key number as well.

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