The NFL Needs to Mirror College Football’s Overtime Rules

The NFL Needs to Mirror College Football’s Overtime Rules

On Sunday, football fans witnessed one of the most exciting NFL Championship Sundays ever. Both the NFC Championship game and the AFC Championship game went into overtime. There is nothing better than watching two teams fight it out so effectively that the game ends in a tie and is forced into overtime. Overtime is almost like a second game where both teams get an equal shot at becoming the victor. However, that is not exactly true for NFL overtimes.

A Coin Toss Decided the Outcomes of Both Championships

To no one’s surprise, the teams that won the two coin tosses won the games. The implementation of the “sudden death” rule on Sunday left many fans upset that each game was essentially decided by a coin toss. The games were decided by a coin toss as it was an almost certainty that the team that won the toss would take possession, score first, and win. Both teams did exactly that.

Although some may argue that the NFC Championship game was decided by a blown call at the end of the fourth quarter, the game still went into overtime.  The team that won the toss, the Los Angeles Rams, won the game without the New Orleans Saints ever getting an opportunity to score. In the AFC Championship game the team that won the toss, the New England Patriots, won the game without the Kansas City Chiefs ever getting an opportunity to score.  Accordingly, fans were upset that the NFC and AFC Championship games were essentially decided by a coin toss.

The NFL Needs to Change This, Especially for Championship Games

The NFL needs to change this. This is especially true as it pertains to championship games. The team that does not take possession at kickoff (usually the team who loses the toss) is essentially at an unfair disadvantage. Some may argue that there is no disadvantage because the defense should be able to hold off the opposing offense. This is a fair argument. However, it would be better if both teams were guaranteed a chance to perform on both offense and defense. Such a change would ultimately make the game more competitive. It would force both teams to prove they deserve to win offensively and defensively.

The NFL Needs to Adopt Some Variation of College Football’s Overtime Rules

The college football overtime rules are much better than the NFL’s. The NFL can certainly learn from college football in this area. Like the NFL, overtime in college starts with a coin toss.  Where it differs is in the fact that both teams are guaranteed a possession.  This means that both teams will have the opportunity to play both offense and defense. This is better because it forces both teams to earn the win on both ends of the field.  

If the team that gets the ball first scores, they must defend it and hold off the other team’s offense. The college overtime period starts at the 25-yard line.[i] If the game is still tied at the end of the overtime period it keeps going until a team wins.[ii] However, once the game reaches a third overtime period, the teams may no longer kick after a touchdown and are forced to attempt a two-point conversion.[iii] This goes on until a team wins.

Some may argue that this type of overtime makes for a long game.  That is true, a game could be extremely long if both teams keep scoring.  However, that is an extremely rare occurrence. Even with that possibility, the NFL needs to consider some variation of college football’s overtime rules.  Allowing who gets to advance to the Super Bowl to be determined by a coin toss is simply unacceptable.

[i] Chris Chavez, How Does College Football Overtime Work? Rule, NFL Differences Explained, Sports Illustrated (Aug. 14, 2017), https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/college-football-overtime-rules-explained.

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

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