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Explaining the New NFL Overtime Rules

Explaining the New NFL Overtime Rules for the 2017 Season

By Loot, NFL Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

We've seen the overtime period change some in recent years. Another change was made prior to the 2017 NFL season, a move aimed toward improving player safety. Last season, there were some prolonged overtime periods, with some ties in the mix. Some of those teams were really worn down and needed weeks to recover from the hardship of extended play. Throw in Thursday games and it can be a real problem for some teams who left all their play on the field. Combine that with the heightened awareness of player safety, the change was made.

New Overtime Rules: The overtime period will be shortened to ten minutes, replacing the fifteen-minute overtime we had all become accustomed to. All of the other rules in overtime remain the same, namely how both teams will get to possess the ball unless the opening drive is a TD. In essence, everything remains the same with five minutes getting chopped off the overtime period.

A coin toss will be made, with three minutes elapsing between the end of 4th quarter and the overtime period. Again, each team will possess the ball, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff of the OT period scores a touchdown. If the team that takes the opening kickoff fails to score, the overtime period goes into a sudden-death format. Each team will have two timeouts. All reviews will be initiated by an official and if no team scores in the ten-minute overtime, the game will be a tie. In the postseason, where a winner must be determined, as many overtime periods as necessary will be played to determine a winner. Those periods will also now be ten minutes long.

Benefits of the New 10-Minute Overtime Period:

At the end of the day, not a lot of games have gone past the 10-minute mark in overtime. On average, one of every 50 games even reaches that point. So at root, it won't be affecting a lot of games. It could also lead to more urgency from teams in the overtime period, with less time to waste. All things considered, the argument can definitely be made that ten minutes of extra time is enough to settle a game.

When you hear from players and coaches, most of them characterize late-overtime performances as being very shoddy. Players are worn down and susceptible to injury. With so little separating the good teams from the rest of the pack, a team can have a 5-quarter game and see it affect a window of several weeks, which could affect their entire season. Making overtime shorter addresses that, not in a major way perhaps, but it's done with the spirit of player safety in mind.

There are some who say this will lead to more ties, which isn't a great thing perhaps. But within the new context of the shortened overtime period, teams will act accordingly. That will lead to more urgency in the opening stages of overtime, as teams are afforded less time to make something happen. We could see more onside kicks and overall aggression that we didn't always see with the longer OT period.

Drawbacks of the New 10-Minute Overtime Period:

It's hard to say if there will be more ties, though it makes sense that there will be. There have been a lot of games in recent years that were settled in the last five minutes of overtime, but who's to say that those teams wouldn't have played differently if playing with the knowledge of a shortened overtime? But it's a definite possibility that more ties will ensue and that has its obvious drawbacks. There's just something unattractive about a tie in pro football and there have been entire seasons where no ties were recorded. To see a slew of ties on teams' won-loss records could get messy.

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With less time to execute a win, one would think a shortened OT period would lead to more urgency by teams and players. And while that might ensue, it could also deaden the action. A team can take the opening kickoff and embark on a drive where the goal is to keep the chains moving, but to also keep that clock moving. Teams that run the ball well could have an advantage, as they peel off big chunks of clock on a drive, setting up a short FG and leaving the opponent with little or no time. You could conceivably end up with a situation where a team scores a FG and the other team doesn't even get to possess the ball.

Final Takeaway:

No one can really be quite sure how things like this will unfold until we see it in action. At the end of the day, the impact this rule-change will have league-wide will likely be minimal. It could result in perhaps one extra tie per season, a negligible impact when looking at the big picture. There could be some quirky circumstance where a result stemming from an abbreviated OT had a major impact, but who's to say that wouldn't happen if overtime was still 15 minutes? All we can do now is wait and see. It should be interesting at the end of the season to reflect on how much this rule change actually mattered.

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