Expected Points (EP) and Expected Points Added (EPA) have become popular concepts in football statistics. The most critical piece of information this stat shows is how influential players are to the team via each play they make. In other words, it gives a point value to each play.

Once play-calling decisions and player performance can be successfully examined by how much they increase a team's scoring opportunities, they can be linked to how many points they create. The same can be said for defense since their purpose is to prevent EPA, hence the higher a team's offensive EPA, the better the defense performs.

Today’s article will cover what these numbers signify, how they are computed, and some of the various ways they are used to measure NFL player and team performance.

What is EPA in the NFL? 

Before you get to know what Expected Points Added (EPA) is, make sure you understand the term Expected Points (EP) in advance. So, what are they?

EPA in the NFL
Source: Freepik

Expected Points (EP) Definition

The concept of Expected Points is founded on the idea that not all yards gained in football are of equal worth. A 5-yard gain on third-and-3, for example, enhances a team's chances of scoring far more than the same 5-yard gain on third-and-10. While both scenarios would result in a five-yard gain in a standard box score, the first would result in a first down and allow the team to continue the attack, while the second would almost certainly force the team to punt on fourth down. Expected Points seeks to quantify this value difference by linking each play to how much it boosts (or reduces) a team's chances of scoring.

A group of math specialists estimated how many points an NFL team gains on average on a drive based on down, distance, and field position using historical NFL data. These factors are significant components for them to calculate the EP parameter.

Statistically, expected points rise as a team approaches its opponent's end zone and falls on subsequent downs. On the opposite, Expected Points can also be negative, indicating that the opposing team is more likely than the present squad to score on the next drive. This happens most often when a team is backed up against its own goal line or while punting on fourth down.

Expected Points Added (EPA)

Now you have understood the first concept. So, how are Expected Points Added (EPA) different from Expected Points (EP)? The answer is simple, Expected Points Added (EPA) is a more sophisticated parameter that calculates how a team's Expected Points are altered during a certain play.

For example, if a team begins a drive on the 50-yard line, the predicted points to begin the drive are around 2.5. If the team closes the drive with a field goal, gaining 3 points, the EPA for that drive is calculated by subtracting the predicted points from the number of points earned, 3 - 2.5 or 0.5 EPA.

EPA, in addition, can be used to estimate players’ contribution to the team when being considered on an individual basis. In this case, the same logic above can be applied. Assume the Chiefs face a first-and-10 from their own 25-yard line, with an estimated point total of 1.06. If Patrick Mahomes, their opponent, completes a 15-yard pass on first-and-10 on the Kansas City 40-yard line, where the anticipated points are now 1.88, the EPA of that play is 1.88 - 1.06 or 0.82. That completion, in other words, improved the Chiefs' projected points on that drive by just over three-fourths of a point.

If instead of completing, Mahomes was sacked for a 10-yard loss, putting them on second-and-20 from their own 15, the new anticipated points would be about -0.54, and the EPA for that play would be -0.54 - 1.06 or -1.6. This indicates that the sack reduced the number of points the Chiefs were expecting to score on that drive by 1.6.

Detailed Examples EPA in the NFL

When examining EPA, you must divide assessments into individual and team categories. Individually, here is a look at how elite quarterbacks ranked in terms of EPA in 2020, as well as how their individual metrics contrasted.

how elite quarterbacks ranked in terms of epa in 2020While passing yards and touchdowns are obviously important factors in a team's success, EPA enables football statisticians to go beyond the basic metrics to understand how a player contributes to his team.

On a team level, EPA is typically observed via the play-by-play perspective. With a nod toward success rate, plays are judged not just by the outcome of the play, but also by the context of the play.

For example, if the offense picks up 8 yards on third-and-9, the EPA of the play will be lower than the EPA of picking up 8 yards on third-and-6.

The following is a list of EPA for various play circumstances. You may use the table to obtain a general idea of how professionals utilize this parameter.

list of epa for various play circumstances

What Can EPA Help Players in Betting?

The EPA is considered a purely professional indicator and you may find it used more by professionals in the field of sports analysis, than by bettors in the gambling world. However, if you are really knowledgeable about both aspects, there are smart ways in which you can apply this parameter to make a profit from sports betting.

For example, if a team's dropback EPA outperforms, you may want to fade a quarterback in player props. You may even attempt to exploit the notion of EPA to your advantage in live betting if you want to go very aggressive. If you feel that a play was ineffective on the surface but had a higher influence than the odds indicate, you should seize the chance.

In addition, you may adopt a more straightforward approach and just examine how a team performs versus EPA to see whether it can offer you an advantage in a certain game. See, the options are limitless.

Conclusion

EP and EPA are important stats that you will often hear in NFL games. They can measure how much influence one player has on the performance of a team, or of an entire squad in a certain play. While these indicators are more commonly used by professionals, if you are a highly specialized bettor, you can fully utilize its ability to gain an advantage over sportsbooks.

Published: 12 July 2022 11:41