no third solution

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Going for Two

December 23rd, 2008

I’ve often thought about the football situation FSK describes in NFL Fnords. A football team scores a touchdown with no time remaining, an extra point will tie the game and send it to overtime, but a successful two-point conversion will win it. I always say “Go for the two point conversion!”

There is rarely a better opportunity to win a football game than from the 2-yard line. Going for two points gives you an immediate opportunity to win the game, your chances are in the neighborhood of 40%.

If you go for the tie, you’ve only got about a 95% chance of making the kick, and a 50% chance of receiving the kickoff. You only have a 45% chance that you’ll even have the first opportunity to score in overtime, there is a 5% chance that you’ll lose the game because you missed the kick, and a 50% chance that the other team will get the ball first in OT. (Note: winning in OT does not appear to be strongly correlated with the result of the OT coin flip, I think it’s about 50/50)

That notwithstanding, your odds of winning in OT are dependent upon either:

  1. putting together a drive long enough to kick a field goal, where your kicker has an 80% chance of success.
  2. putting together a drive long enough to score a touchdown.
  3. preventing the other team from doing either (1) or (2) and then doing (1) or (2).

Both of the first two scenarios depend on a series of successful plays, no turnovers, no penalties, etc. The game-winning OT touchdown drive, assuming that your RB doesn’t break one for 20+ yards, will probably come down to a play from scrimmage at the 2-yard line, in which case you’re right back where you started. This scenario is objectively less likely a priori to win the game than just going for the two-point conversion in the first place. The field-goal scenario may be your best chance, but remember that you’ve got only a 50% chance to receive the kick in OT. If you lose the coin-toss, you’ve got to stop the other team from doing either (1) or (2) and then successfully score a touchdown or a field goal of your own.



  • Brad says on: December 24, 2008 at 10:13 am


    I agree. Going for 2 is the way to go. The OT situation in the NFL is a bigger problem. It promotes going back to who has the best soccer player on their team. I think its funny because all football players call soccer players “pansies” or “sissies.” Now they are praying they have the baddest ass pansy because they were not man enough to ram it down the opponents throat during regulation. The NFL needs to go to college rules for OT. At least its entertaining.

    I see you put Google Ads on your site. You have to put a privacy policy on your site or G will close your account. Here is one I use for free.

    • David Z says on: December 24, 2008 at 10:39 am


      Thanks – I’ve got bigger problems with Adsense right now, since my site was hacked a few weeks ago. That’s why all the ads are directing you to “canadian pharmacies” or something. All my best men are working on resolving it, though.

  • 1955 Design says on: December 24, 2008 at 11:18 am


    Your best men are obsessing over it, but I am not certain they are making much progress.

    And remember, today is a holiday and the best men charge extra for their services today.

  • Brad says on: December 24, 2008 at 2:35 pm


    Damn hackers.

  • Tony says on: December 25, 2008 at 11:16 am


    I agree, but NFL coaches seem to operate on the old investment theory that you can never go wrong investing in IBM. If you win, you did your job. If you lose, you did it responsibly. Blech.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics