The NFL’s overtime rules have long been controversial. Nobody likes a tie & thanks to these rules, the game is often decided by a 50/50 coin toss.

The Divisional Round

NFL fans finally got a full round of competitive football after last week’s Wild Card round which gave us only 2 good games out of 6. I wrote about the NFL’s new playoff problem after they added an extra two teams to the tournament. You can read it below.

This week, all 4 games were decided by 6 points or less. The first 3 ended with the underdogs winning with last-second game-winning field goals. The 4th ended with 25 total points & 4 lead changes/ties in the final two minutes of regulation, eventually reaching overtime.

Chiefs/Bills Overtime

Josh Allen threw 14 incompletions & 9 Touchdowns in the postseason, meaning on average there was only 1.5 incompletions between each playoff touchdown Allen threw in two games. After a perfect postseason by Josh Allen, he didn’t even get a chance to touch the ball in overtime. This is what’s wrong with the NFL’s overtime rules.

Nobody likes the rules unless they’re directly benefitting their favorite team or a sports bet they made

… & people especially dislike the rules when they directly destroy a sports bet they made, which might just be my motivation for writing this.

NFL overtime rules
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If Josh Allen got the rock, I don’t see the Bills losing, & I’d have more Bitcoin in my Coinbits account.

NFL Overtime Rules

In 1974, the NFL officially implemented sudden death overtime rules, meaning whoever scores first in overtime wins the game. For 35 years, the team who got the ball first only had to gain maybe 50 yards of offense before setting up for a game winning overtime field goal. Teams weren’t even trying to score touchdowns once they got into field goal range. While I obviously don’t blame them for this, the rules were essentially leaving games up to the coin toss.

In 2010, the NFL changed the rules for playoff games, but these new playoff rules were implemented to the pre-season & regular season as well by 2012. The only difference, if you get the ball first, you have to score a touchdown to end the game. A first possession field goal would allow the other team a redemption possession. If the redemption possession ends in a touchdown, the scoring team wins. If it ends in a field goal, the game continues with sudden death. Next score wins the game.

In 2017, the league shortened the NFL overtime period from 15 minutes (the standard NFL quarter length) to 10 minutes. The league cites player health & safety as their reason for this, but then added an extra regular season game, but that’s for another article.

NFL Overtime Rules Results

The Chiefs/Bills game wasn’t the first important game to end this way due to the rules & it definitely won’t be the last. In fact, the Chiefs were recent victims of the rule as well. In the 2018 AFC Championship game, they lost to Brady & the Patriots because they allowed a touchdown on the first possession of overtime. During the 2019 NFL Playoffs, Drew Brees & the Saints had to watch the Vikings score a touchdown after winning the overtime coin toss, never getting a chance in overtime. Remember Tom Brady & the Patriots’ huge comeback win in the Super Bowl against the Falcons? The Falcons never got the rock in overtime after the Pats won the toss & scored a touchdown. Obviously these defenses have a chance to get the ball back to their offenses, but not giving them a redemption possession makes the game a lot less fun & less competitive.

Since the current OT rules, there have been 11 playoff games to reach overtime. In those 11 games, teams that win the coin toss are 10-1 for about a 91% winning percentage. 7 of the 10 winners scored their touchdown on the first overtime possession, meaning 7 of the losers never got a chance to have the ball in overtime. If you ask me, this is a problem.

NFL overtime rules

From 1974 to 2011, when the original overtime rules were introduced until they were changed, there were 17 ties. 37 seasons, 17 ties. A little under one tie every other season. From 2012 to 2016, using the first rule change, there were 5 ties. 4 seasons, 5 ties. On average, 1.25 ties per season. Since the NFL switched to a 10 minute overtime period as opposed to 15 minutes, there have been another 5 ties in 4 seasons, for the same rate.

The NFL overtime rule changes have caused way more ties, the last thing the fans want to see.

What’s The NFL Overtime Solution?

Personally, this is what I’d like to see. I’ll use the Chiefs & Bills as an example to represent teams.

  • No coin toss. Take that debate completely out of the game. The easiest solution to that problem is to remove it. The coin toss can now no longer be blamed for a team winning or losing.
  • Allow the home team to choose if they’d like to start on offense or defense. If it’s a neutral site game, the last team to score gets to choose. In this case, the Chiefs would choose.
  • No game clock in overtime. The game is decided strictly by the play on the field.
  • Possessions start at the 50 yard line, similar to college football rules, in which possessions start at the 25.
    • The first team on offense gets their shot at scoring points. They go until they either score or turn the ball over. In the example, the Chiefs would likely choose to defend first, which means the Bills get the ball first.
    • If the Bills score, the Chiefs now have a chance to match the score or take the lead (which would end the game, Chiefs win)
    • If the Bills don’t score, the Chiefs win the game as long as they score on their next possession.
    • In the case of no team scoring in the first round or the game still being tied after the 1st round, the Chiefs would get the ball first at the 50 for the first possession of the 2nd round, in which the same rules apply.
  • Essentially, there’s always a redemption possession. Unless the defense scores a touchdown.
  • Once a team gets their third overtime touchdown, they must go for 2. This is just to make things interesting.
  • Oh & no way I’m allowing ties. Play until there’s a winner. The NFL can use player health & safety as an excuse for allowing ties all they want, I’m not buying it.

Obviously this is a bit unconventional & the simplest way to change the rules is to just keep the game the same but allow both teams a possession, regardless of a first drive touchdown or field goal. I’d take that over what we currently have.

What are your ideas? @ us on Twitter & let us know what the NFL should do about their overtime rules.

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