Football Ops

Football Ops

Protecting the integrity of the greatest game.

NFL Ops: Honoring the Game

It's our responsibility to strengthen the sport.

League Governance

Ensuring a consistent and fair game that is decided on the field, by the players.

NFL Rules Enforcement

Ensuring that players conduct themselves in a way that honors the sport and respects the game.

NFL Way to Play

Knees Bent. Pads Down. Head Up and Out.

The NFL and HBCUs

The NFL is proud of the HBCU professional football legacy.

Economic & Social Impact

Honoring the league’s commitment to serve the communities where the game is played.

The NFL Ops Team

Meet the people behind NFL Operations.

The Game

The Game

Learn about the people, the jobs and the technology that deliver the best game possible to NFL fans across the U.S. and around the world. 

Game Day: Behind the Scenes

Countdown to kickoff: how NFL games happen.

Technology

In the NFL, balancing technology with tradition.

Impact of Television

How television has changed the game.

Big Data Bowl

The annual analytics contest explores statistical innovations in football — how the game is played and coached.

History of Instant Replay

Upon further review…

Creating the NFL Schedule

It takes hundreds of computers and five NFL executives to create the NFL’s 256-game masterpiece.

Youth Football

Promoting the values of football.

The Players

The Players

Learn how NFL players have changed over time, how they’re developed and drafted and how the league works with them after their playing days are over.  

Evolution of the NFL Player

Creating an NFL player: from “everyman” to “superman.”

Development Pipeline

Supporting the next generation of players and fans.

Getting Into the Game

Preparing players of all ages for success at football’s highest level.

The NFL Draft

Introducing the next wave of NFL superstars. 

NFL Player Engagement

A look at the programs and services NFL Player Engagement provides to assist every player before, during and after his football career.

College All Star Games

Strengthening football and the community.

NFL Legends Community

Strengthening the NFL brotherhood.

The Officials

The Officials

Discover the evolution of professional officiating, the weekly evaluation process and how the NFL identifies and develops the next generation of officials.

In Focus: History of the Official

“One thing hasn’t changed: the pressure. It will always be there.”

Inside NFL GameDay Central

The latest information from the NFL's officiating center.

These Officials Are Really Good

Every week, officials take the field ready to put months of preparation, training and hard work on display, knowing that the whole world — and the Officiating Department — is watching.

Officiating Development

Officiating an NFL game takes years of training and experience. 

The Rules

The Rules

NFL Football Operations protects the integrity of the game by ensuring that the rules and the officiating are consistent and fair to all competitors.

In Focus: Evolution of the NFL Rules

The custodians of football not only have protected its integrity, but have also revised its playing rules to protect the players, and to make the games fairer and more entertaining.

NFL Video Rulebook

The NFL Video Rulebook explains NFL rules with video examples.

2019 NFL Rulebook

Explore the official rules of the game. 6.2.5

2019 Rules Changes and Points of Emphasis

NFL Overtime Rules

NFL Tiebreaking Procedures

The NFL's procedures for breaking ties for postseason playoffs.

Signals Intelligence

The NFL's familiar hand signals help fans better understand the game.   

NFL Rules Digest

A quick reference guide to the NFL rulebook.

Football 101

Football 101

Terms Glossary

Sharpen your NFL football knowledge with this glossary of the game's fundamental terms. 

Formations 101

See where the players line up in pro football's most common offensive and defensive formations.

Quick Guide to NFL TV Graphics

Understand what the graphics on NFL television broadcasts mean and how they can help you get the most out of watching NFL games.

NFL Instant Replay Process

The NFL’s instant replay review process focuses on expediting instant replay reviews and ensuring consistency. Learn how it works.

Stats Central

Stats Central

Go inside the game with the NFL's official game stats. Sort the stats by season or by week.

The Extra Point

Welcome to the Extra Point, where members of the NFL's football data and analytics team will share updates on league-wide trends in football data, interesting visualizations that showcase innovative ways to use the league's data, and provide an inside look at how the NFL uses data-driven insight to improve and monitor player and team performance.

Chart The Data

Chart and compare the NFL Football Operations stats you're looking for with the NFL's data tool. 

Weekly Dashboard

Get a snapshot of the current NFL game stats, updated weekly during the regular season.

The Extra Point

Why Fourth-and-15 from the 25? Insight into the NFL’s experiment with an onside-kick alternative

In the 2020 Pro Bowl, a team scoring a touchdown or field goal will be able to attempt a fourth-and-15 offensive play from its own 25-yard line to try to keep possession of the football. If the offense converts, it keeps the ball; if it falls short, the defending team takes over at the dead ball spot.

Why this experiment? In today’s post, we’ll explain how the league used analytics to inform this potential onside kick alternative. 

The Football Operations data and analytics team’s first research into an onside kick alternative began before the NFL’s offseason meetings in March of 2019, when the Denver Broncos proposed a rule change that would give scoring teams the option of using one fourth-and-15 play each game. Under Denver’s proposal, the scrimmage play would occur from a team’s own 35-yard line. Denver was motivated by the decline in onside kick recovery rates. Kicking teams historically recovered onside kicks between 15% and 20% of the time in a given season. In 2018, in part to changes on the kickoff play, that number dropped below 10%.

The league’s challenge: How to give teams an opportunity to maintain possession by using game play instead of the onside kick.

The first aspect of game play we looked at was how often teams convert on third and fourth down given various yards to gain. But plays aren’t simply “convert” or “not convert” — on several plays, penalties either give the offense the first down, or require the offense to start over from a different position.

Here’s a chart that shows the complete set of scrimmage play outcomes, using plays from 2002 through 2018. Only plays run with a score differential of eight points or fewer are included, and those run within the last two minutes of each half are dropped. 

The light red band reflects the percentage of plays where the offense picks up a first down on the play, while the dark red corresponds to first downs picked up by penalties (defensive holding and defensive pass interference, for example, lead to automatic first downs). The dark blue areas correspond to what we termed as “do-overs,” in which the offense keeps possession but needs to attempt a play from a new line of scrimmage. Finally, the areas in light blue are defensive stops.

In reality, the closest match for an onside kick is to follow a team attempting a fourth-down play until either it has picked up a first down or a defensive stop is made, while also accounting for the do-overs. In other words, if 100 teams attempt a fourth-and-15 but pick up an offensive holding penalty, at least one of those teams is going to convert the ensuing fourth-and-25. 

Accounting for do-overs, we settled on the following chart to compare Denver’s proposal of a fourth-and-15 with the historical onside kick recovery rate of 13.2%. 

Denver’s proposal is slightly more forgiving than the onside kick (note: we used only expected onside kicks in this calculation), although the differences are within a few percentage points. A perfect comparison for the historical onside play would be a fourth-and-17 scrimmage play.

Lastly, we searched for the best yard line to use for the scrimmage play. Although Denver suggested the 35-yard line — the same as where teams kick off — teams that pick up first downs on scrimmage plays typically gain more yards than just the line to gain. Teams converting on fourth-and-14 to fourth-and-16 typically end up eight yards past the line to gain when they convert. Our suggestion then — and the yard line that we’re testing at Pro Bowl — will push offensive teams back 10 yards to their own 25-yard line.

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