It’s Finally Time for the NFL to Change Its Overtime Rules

The NFL is one of the most popular sports leagues in the world and it’s always evolving. One way in which it’s evolved fairly recently is its overtime rules. One area in which the league hasn’t evolved, however, is that it still allows tie games. 

What are the NFL’s current overtime rules, is there a better system out there, and how should the NFL change their current system? 

The NFL’s current overtime rules

The old rules for overtime in the NFL were simple: the first team to score wins. The league altered that several years ago in the interest of fairness. Now the rules have been adjusted to give both teams an opportunity to hold the ball.

Once both teams have had one possession, the game becomes sudden death. The only caveat is that if the first team to get the ball scores a touchdown, they automatically win. 

As noted above, the game is sudden death once both teams have had the ball. However, if neither team can score before the end of a 10:00 period, the game is declared a tie. 

Each team receives two timeouts for this overtime period. Like the final two minutes of every half, all replay reviews come from the booth as opposed to coaches’ challenges. 

While this system is an improvement on the NFL’s old way of doing things, many people believe another more superior version exists in the college ranks

NCAA football’s current overtime rules

NCAA football has a different take on overtime. Each team is guaranteed a possession starting from the opposing team’s 25. Both teams having a possession counts as one overtime period. Teams alternate who gets the ball first in each period. 

The biggest difference between the NFL and college overtimes, other than the starting field position, is that there are no ties in the college game. Teams keep going until a winner has been decided. To make it more difficult to score and therefore move the game to closure quicker, each team must attempt a two-point conversion on all touchdowns following the second overtime. 

Why the NFL needs to change its overtime rules

There are two primary reasons why the NFL should consider changing its overtime rules: 

  • Ties are outdated. The fact that some games end in a tie is odd and unnecessary. The tie is a relic from a bygone era in sports, and the NFL would do well to eliminate them from its game. Ties make playoff implications more convoluted. They also leave both team’s fans feeling unsatisfied after a hard-fought game. With just a few tweaks, the NFL’s overtime system could lose these altogether. 
  • College football’s overtime rules make for a more exciting finish. College football‘s overtime system features more scoring, as the teams start closer to their end zones. They also are slightly more fair, as teams can still survive an early touchdown to come back and win. 

How can the NFL fix its current overtime setup? With a few simple changes: 

  • Eliminate ties. These shouldn’t even be a possibility. To ensure you don’t put any undue stress on the players for playing in longer games, let teams start at the 25-yard line like in college. To increase the likelihood of a score, let the teams move up five yards on every possession.  
  • Eliminate kickoffs. Kickoffs cause injuries and force teams to start at the far end of the field, making it harder to score. Kick returns can be exciting, but they’re not needed for overtime. 
  • Eliminate field goals and extra points altogether after the first possession. By forcing teams to “go for it,” you’ll ensure the games aren’t prolonged by chip-in field goals. It makes the players stay on the field longer, but hopefully, it will lead to one side getting an advantage sooner and ending games faster. 

The three changes outlined above could make for a more exciting product that takes less time to play out. It’s a win-win all around.