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Using data to decide 4th down, point-after-touchdown

Expected Points Added on 4th Down

In an attempt to better inform the XFL team and league personnel and partners on fourth-down decision-making, Optimum Scouting built a decision-making model based on NFL expected points added (EPA) over the last decade.

This model takes into account the value of (a) converted fourth down, (b) alternative values of punts or field goals, and (c) risk of attempting fourth downs based on NFL averages.

Below is a chart that lists the optimum fourth-down option (between “Go For It”, “Punt” and “FG”) relative to distance and field position, based on our projections:

4th Down Decision Analysis

Key Takeaways:

  1. On 4th and 3 or shorter, teams should be fielding offenses and attempting to gain another set of downs across the board.
  2. From your Own 32 to the Opponent 38, outside of field-goal range while also driving closer to the enemy end zone, offenses should be gradually getting more aggressive on fourth down.
  3. From the Opponent 37 to the Opponent 14, as field-goal percentage increases, offenses should be getting gradually less aggressive on fourth down.
  4. Inside the Opponent 14, when the odds of scoring a touchdown with just one more set of downs dramatically improves, the analytics suggest teams go for it on 4th and 4.
  5. These numbers will change within the context of the game, but the general rule of thumb is that teams should be getting more aggressive late in the game as they chase points, or should be getting less aggressive late in the game as they hold a lead.

*This data comes from NFL data and assumes XFL conversion, field goal and punt yard averages will stay consistent with NFL.*

Extra-Point Conversion Decision Analysis

In an attempt to better inform the XFL team and league personnel and partners on decision-making in regards to the XFL’s conversion options, Optimum Scouting built a decision-making model based on NFL win probability over the last decade.

This model takes into account (a) point margin, (b) time left in the game, and (c) value of the XFL’s three conversion options relative to their conversion rate based on NFL averages.

Below are two charts:

  1. The first breaks down the optimum conversion option over the entirety of the game.
  2. The second breaks down the optimum conversion option minute-by-minute over the last 10 minutes of the game.

Decision Analysis of Extra-Point Conversions, for a 60-Minute Game (left) and the final 10 minutes (right)

Key Takeaways:

  1. While the two-point conversion is the best option from an expected points perspective, gameflow gradually makes attempting a two-point conversion a less appealing option as the game advances. The exception is when a team is down by one point, when attempting a two-point conversion is the optimum choice throughout the entire game.
  2. The shorthand for identifying an optimum three-point conversion is when down by six or more points in any situation or when down by two or more points in the final eight minutes.
  3. The shorthand for identifying an optimum one-point conversion is when up by four or more points in any situation or when up by one or more points in the final eight minutes.