NFL Post-Season Overtime Rules Extended to Regular Season

Just What Rules Will Change

Overtime received an added wrinkle when the NFL adopted new rules to discourage teams from kicking field goals on their first possession of extra time. NFL teams voted 28-4 in favor of the proposal. Below I will breakdown what the rule changes are, why they were enacted, and some basic scenarios that show its effects.

The Rule: 

Overtime Coin Toss Between New York Giants and Baltimore RavensCredit: Ted Kerwin on FlickrThe NFL voted to approve new overtime rules starting with the 2012 Regular Season. The rules have been in effect for the last two post seasons and are now being expanded into the regular season. The rule allows the kicking team a possession if the receiving team doesn’t score a touchdown on their opening possession. Once both teams have had the ball, overtime continues in its usual sudden-death format, the first team to score wins. This creates pressure for the receiving team because without scoring a touchdown on their first possession, the other team has a chance to win.

The Problem this Rule Corrects:

The rule change reduces the advantage received by the team that wins the coin toss. In the past teams that have won the coin toss in overtime come away victorious the game 60% of the time. In addition the team that won the coin toss won on the first possession more than 40% of the time.

Teams would play conservatively in the initial possession knowing they only needed a field goal to win and rarely took risks, putting the defense in a difficult position.
Some Examples Below of the Rule Change:

The New York Giants and Chicago Bears end the game tied. Chicago wins the coin toss and elects to receive:

  • Scenario One: Chicago doesn’t score on first Possession
    • From here the first team to score any points (Safety, Field Goal, Touchdown,        Home run….just seeing if you’re paying attention) wins the game
  • Scenario Two: Chicago makes a field goal on their opening possession
    • New York is given a chance to score and makes a field goal
    • First team to score wins (Home runs don’t count)
  • Scenario Three: Chicago makes a field goal on their opening possession
    • NY Giants are given a chance on offense and score a touchdown
    • Game over, “G-men” get the victory. (That’s the New York Football Giants for those unfamiliar with Chris Berman and ESPN)
  • Scenario Four: Chicago scores a touchdown on their opening possession
    • Game over, and “Da’ Bears” win.

More Stuff:

  • A Safety or Touchdown by either team at any point in overtime wins the game.
  • Games can still end in a tie during the regular season in the unusual event that the score is even at the end of the overtime period. 
  • In the post-season games that end with the score level, additional periods are played until a team is victorious.