NFL Overtime Rules: What Changes are Needed?

nfl overtime rules
Josh Allen walks off the field following Buffalo’s Divisional Round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Credit: Sports Illustrated

In what is now widely considered one of the greatest games ever to grace the NFL playoffs, the Buffalo Bills offense sat on the sidelines and never touched the ball as Kansas City advanced to the AFC Championship game for a fourth-straight year. There are a couple schools of thought to how this game ended – let’s take a look and propose a fix to the NFL overtime rules (if needed).

Does Overtime Need to be Fixed?

I’m sure that I will get some opposing opinions, but overtime needs to be fixed. I’m not saying this just because of what happened this past Sunday, the overtime system has needed fixing for a while. I have an issue with a system that affords the potential to have the game end without a team having an opportunity to have a possession.

Baseball doesn’t stop after the visiting team scores in the top of the tenth inning (of course baseball extra innings has its own set of issues). Basketball doesn’t stop after the first basket. Hockey does have sudden death – but it’s hockey and scoring is difficult. Soccer adds an extra period and then advances to penalty kicks. So we have a wide variety to choose from, so…

Will “Spot and Choose” Fix NFL Overtime Rules?

I am not a fan of the “Spot and Choose” method of overtime that has been proposed. Moreover, I do not like the idea that it may be proposed again. One team decides where the ball will be spotted to start overtime, the other team decides offense of defense. The two options are that there is then a 10-minute, sudden-death period or another period of seven minutes and thirty seconds to see who is ahead.

I think the main reason that this method is gaining some traction is the fact that there is a time limit. Keep the timed period play of the proposal, I like that. Play out the entire period, and the team that is winning at the end is the winner *GASP* I know, novel idea.

What is the NFL Overtime Rules Fix?

First things first, no sudden death. That is my biggest issue with the current system, so why keep it? I like playing another timed period; something around 10 minutes is a good proposal. Play that period out and it finishes just like any other game.

If you want to take the special teams out of the equation for player safety (the NFL buzzword nowadays), then start with the ball on your own 25 – just like a touchback. The only thing we lose there is seeing the returners hold their arms out to the sides. If you want a coin toss to decide who gets the ball first, that’s fine. Spot the ball, and let’s go.

What if there is a tie at the end of the extra period? This is where we turn to soccer and hockey – a shootout. Incorporate the college overtime rules, but add some NFL flair to it. Start at your opponent’s 30 and try to score a touchdown. Regular NFL rules apply, four downs to get 10 yards – meaning two first downs then a goal-to-go situation.

Here’s the kicker (pardon the advance pun): no field goals in the shootout. The first team to score and keep the opponent from scoring wins. Is it unfair to take the kicker out of the equation? Perhaps. However, this proposal causes the coaches to go for the touchdown rather than play it safe. This system encourages aggressive coaching and simply leads to more exciting football.

The Final Proposal

The fix is easy. No sudden death, like the current NFL overtime. Start with the ball on your own 25 rather than kicking off, then play regular old football until the clock reaches zero. A continued tie means start with the ball at your opponent’s 30 and score a touchdown, nothing less. Score and then you play defense and stop the other team.

Is this a perfect proposal? No. But I feel it is far better than the system that the NFL currently uses, at least both teams will have a possession this way.

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