New NFL Overtime Rules Are Complicated But Worth the Trouble

New NFL Overtime Rules Are Complicated But Worth the Trouble If recent history is any indication, it seems almost certain that one of the 11 NFL playoff games in the next month will head to overtime, and the league’s new rules will be on the fore.

There have only been 27 overtime playoff games in NFL history, but there have been 13 overtime games in the last 10 postseasons. And 2006 was the only season in the last decade in which there hasn’t been an overtime playoff game.

The new overtime rules aren’t all that complicated, but they’re tedious. The NFL Official Casebook has 22 rulings that detail how a game can end under the modified format, and that’s far too many scenarios to wrap your brain around. (If you’d like, you can read all 22 scenarios by clicking here.)

However, let’s do our best to simplify the structure. We’ll refer to the team that receives the opening kickoff as Team A, and the other team will be Team B:

  • If Team A scores a touchdown with its initial possession, Team A wins.
  • If Team A kicks a field goal with its initial possession, Team B will get one possession to answer that score. If Team B scores a touchdown on the answering possession, Team B wins. If Team B fails to score on its answering possession, Team A wins. If Team B kicks a field goal on its answering possession, Team B will kick off and the next team to score wins the game.
  • If Team A does not score on the initial possession of overtime, the first team to score wins the game.

There are plenty of other scenarios, including safeties, onside kicks, blocked punts and all that fun stuff, but if you understand what a possession constitutes, you probably understand all of those scenarios, too.

The idea behind the modified overtime is to prevent a team from winning the coin toss, taking the initial possession of overtime and kicking a game-winning field goal to move on to the next round or win the Super Bowl. And since the NFL’s overtime system has been the subject of so much banter in recent years, it’s promising that the league made some steps toward correcting it.

Yet, it’s still not perfect, and it’s hard to imagine an overtime format that could fully satisfy a contingent of teams and fans alike. Head coaches, particularly Bill Belichick, have discussed the possibility of simply playing another 10- or 15-minute period, and while that makes a lot of sense, what happens if the teams are still tied after that? Another 10 or 15 minutes? Or a switch to the old sudden-death format?

At the end of the day, the new overtime system is an improvement, and it’s likely it will get tweaked again in the future. At least now, though, that coin they use to determine possession is only worth its weight in silver, and not the fate of a team’s season.

Do you like the NFL’s new overtime rules? Leave your thoughts below.

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