The Red Zone Exists! Just Not Where You Might Think


This article is co-authored with Tyler Hickey, a senior math major at Davidson College.

In Monday night’s championship game, a team will reach the other team’s 20-yard line. At that moment, they are in the red zone and with it come the stats. The announcers will talk about the offense’s red zone scoring percentage, which is the percentage in which a team converts their presence in their opponent’s red zone into some form of points.

What if your team has the ball on the other team’s 21- or 22-yard line? Should you be excited? If so, then why not the 23- or 24 yard line? Asked another way, where on the field is a position where an offensive score is imminent, where is this red zone, really?

Scoring and Equivalent Points

To begin, let’s determine the value of an offense’s position. We will do this through Equivalent Points (or EqPts), which is a statistic used most popularly by the sports analyst and writer Bill Connelly. At the most basic level, Equivalent Points are the average number of points that a team scores from any position on the field. For this analysis we will use the most complete version of EqPts called

As expected, as one gets closer to their opponent’s goal line, the higher the EqPts at that position. Interestingly enough, the shape of the curve demonstrates the commonly held notion that “yards are harder to get in the red zone, and therefore more valuable” (obviously in terms of previous definitions of the red zone). Before we go too much into the significance of EqPts in terms of redefining the red zone, let’s look at some other historical data that will aid us in our new definition.

Drive Results by Yard line

We can see the ways in —> Read More