Is It Time For The NFL To Alter Playoff Overtime Rules?

Last weekend’s incredible Divisional Playoff games saw three games decided by a field goal as time expired and the fourth saw the Kansas City Chiefs tie the game with the last kick in regulation before securing a win on the first possession in overtime, scoring a touchdown.

However, the Buffalo Bills GM Brandon Beane has admitted that he is now in favor of reviewing the overtime rules, with a view to allowing a team that concedes a touchdown on the first possession, at least a chance of having one try with their offense to tie the game on their next possession.

“It’s painful and still going through it,” Beane said on Wednesday regarding the Bills loss to the Chiefs.

“We’re gonna do everything in our power to not let that happen again,” he stated.

Part of that plan may be appealing to the NFL to revise its overtime rules, particularly in the playoffs.

“At the end of the day, we lost the game the other night. But of course we would’ve love to, I think the TV audience would loved to have seen Josh and our offense get it back.”

“I’m not saying I have the exact idea…but let’s do something in the postseason when it’s all on the line.”

So, does Beane have a point about overtime favoring the team that receives the ball first in overtime, especially in the playoffs?

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Playoff Overtime Stats

A look at the stats from ESPN Stats & Information reveals that there have been 11 cases of playoff games being taken into overtime since the new overtime rules in the playoffs were implemented by the NFL.

Out of those games, seven of them have been won by the team that receives the ball first scoring a touchdown on that opening drive. That’s around a 64% success rate for the team that wins that overtime coin toss winning the game without their opponent’s offense touching the ball.

However, if you look at the stats for teams who receive the ball first in playoff overtime and who may not score, or only score a field goal on their first possession, the results are even more shocking with the team that wins the coin toss winning 10 of the 11 games (the only team to lose being the New Orleans Saints against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship game in 2018).

Even betting sites like DraftKings would offer you long odds on the team kicking winning a playoff overtime game with those stats.

Expand those figures out over the season though and the advantage is much less marked.

Since the change in rules, there have been 163 games in the regular and postseason pushed into overtime. Teams that won the coin toss have won 86 of those games, with the other team winning 67 and 10 games have finished as ties.

That is just a 52.8% win rate for the team that wins the coin toss in overtime.

What does this suggest, well to me it seems that while the current NFL rules for overtime in the regular season are perfectly adequate (and don’t need changing in my humble opinion), the marked difference in stats when it comes to playoff games does make this a reasonable case for change.

How Could Playoff Overtime Be Changed?

The key question here is, how could overtime in the playoffs be changed to become fairer to both teams and not hand the winner of the coin toss such a huge advantage?

After all, for ten teams after a 16 or 17 game season, to effectively lose out in the playoffs on the wrong call on the toss of coin is a bitter pill to swallow.

While nobody would advocate a switch to the college system, where several periods of overtime could be played to decide the winner, there does seem to be a simple solution here.

That would be to guarantee both teams at least one possession in overtime. If at the end of both of those possessions, the game is tied, either by both teams not scoring, both teams scoring a safety, both teams scoring a field goal, or a touchdown, then sudden death would then come into play.

Is it ideal? No, but it would mean that Bills fans would at least be able to see Josh Allen come out with his offense to try and level the game back up against the Chiefs. I think over the course of the 17-game season they have earned that right.

Topic Of Conversation

It seems reasonable, especially with a number of teams affected by this rule over the years (including the Kansas City Chiefs themselves when they lost in a similar way in overtime to the New England Patriots in 2018), that this topic will be up for discussion in the forthcoming NFL owners meetings

Whether or not anything is changed remains to be seen, but the toss of a coin is a cruel way for a team to see its season end in the playoffs, and unfortunately that seems to be the case with the system as it now stands.

Time for change? What do you think?

Author: Paula Dunn