How to fix the NFL's flawed overtime rules

Dan Wetzel

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The NFL’s overtime system is broken.

The current overtime system dates back to 2010 — a pseudo-sudden death (or “victory,” if you are an optimist) format. The team that receives the opening kickoff in the extra session can end the game with a touchdown. If they only kick a field goal, or don’t score at all, the other team gets a chance, and then the next score wins.

Just eight of the 85 playoff games (9.4 percent) played since 2010 have gone to overtime. However, in six of those eight games (75 percent) the team that won the coin flip went down and scored a TD to end the game immediately, which is exactly what the Vikings did to Drew Brees and the Saints on Sunday

Coin flips shouldn’t carry such significance. The regular season is one thing. The playoffs (or even Super Bowl LI, New England over Atlanta) are another, which is why there is a need for a simple solution:

Each team must get possession, or at least have the ball kicked to them, before the game can end. If the first team to receive scores a touchdown (or field goal) they then have to kick off to the other team. (They could try a daring onside kick if they want, they just need to kick it.) 

If they don’t score, then turn the ball over via downs, punt or turnover, next score wins. Any defensive score wins it, too. 

That’s pretty much it.

Oh, and eliminate the coin flip altogether. Give the home team — or team with better record if it's a Super Bowl — the choice to kick or receive. This increases the importance of the regular season. Kicking would be an advantage because you’d know if you need a touchdown or just a field goal when you get the ball. It would also potentially ensure better field position if you get a stop or turnover. 

Player safety is important, but this would have required just six extra possessions over the last decade. It wouldn’t cause any of those marathon college overtime games. 

It certainly seems like a fair trade to end coin flips causing a Patrick Mahomes or Drew Brees to be eliminated without even seeing the field in overtime.

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