Should The NFL Change an Overtime Rule?

Two of the biggest defensive monsters in the NFL, J.J. Watt and Luke Kuechly. Both men have experience with games going into overtime. (Photo courtesy of Matt Wiener)

Within a standard regular-season National Football League (NFL) game, if the two teams competing are tied when the initial four quarters is over, the game goes into overtime. The rules of a regular season NFL overtime period are as follows:

  • Each team is equipped with 2 timeouts each.
  • The clock is set to 10 minutes. If time runs out and the game is still the same score, the game ends in a tie.
  • Coaches may not throw their red challenge flag, which initiates a chance for the referees to review the previous play in their favor.
  • A coin toss will take place to determine what the teams would like to do with the ball, whether they would like to kick the ball, or receive it, the most popular option for overtime.

The game then becomes sudden death. If the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown, they win the game, while the opponents have no opportunity to do the same. If the team scores a field goal, commits a turnover, or punts the balls away to the other team, that team has a chance to win the game with a touchdown or tie it with a field goal.

If during the overtime period both teams make a field goal, or both teams commit a turnover, the next team to score wins the game.

However, if time runs out before a winner is determined, the game ends in a tie. When it is a playoff game, and one overtime runs out, the game will continue in overtime until a winner is determined.

These rules have been changed and maneuvered around for years. The reason for this is to make overtime as quick and efficient as possible.Though these games are exciting, sometimes even straight up shocking, the end result always creates a lot of controversy.

My belief is, just by watching these games, it seems that the team who wins the coin toss for overtime already has the game in the palm of their hand. One drive across the field with the result being a touchdown results in a win, yet it gives the opposing team no chance to replicate the same thing.

Countless overtime games in the NFL end with a touchdown on the first drive. Though it is great for the team that scores, the opposing team is left in shock and disbelief, because they know they won’t get a shot.

This to me, creates a sour feeling while watching this unfold, even if the team that lost is not a team I root for.  

I understand that sudden death rules are meant for a quick result, but the amount of pressure it puts on both teams creates the most anti-climactic of finishes fans will ever see. If both teams got a chance to score, whether the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown or not, it would make sure the game’s result was earned.

The NFL forbids multiple overtime periods in their regular season, only in the playoffs is when they allow it. The alternative options for a regular season game puts on pressure for the two teams to score, which can create intriguing moments, but still does not give a fair chance to the participants.

Overtime is a good way to settle things, but the NFL could use some changing around of their rules to create a fun program to watch. I believe if both teams got a fair shot to score, then the team that wins the coin toss would not have lopsided odds to win from the beginning.

It’s a long-shot that the NFL would change this rule, but with enough support from fans and teams alike, it is possible. With the rule change, the NFL has a chance of bringing in more business.


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