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NFL approves postseason overtime rule changes

NFL: JAN 23 AFC Divisional Round - Bills at Chiefs Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After the epic between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills in the 2022 AFC Divisional Round, much discussion was centered around the overtime rules and how the Bills offense never got a chance to match Kansas City’s touchdown. Well starting this season, both offenses are now guaranteed the ball (unless there’s a defensive score, obviously).

Since the previous rule change in 2010 which eliminated the traditional sudden death rules, teams that won the coin toss were an overwhelming 10-2 in postseason overtime games. The 2011 Denver Broncos, 2014 Seattle Seahawks, and 2016 New England Patriots are among those that won on their first possession.

The Chiefs were on either side of the “only one offense got to touch the ball” situation, having memorably lost to the New England Patriots in the 2019 AFC Championship Game. Of course, this past season they played overtime against the Cincinnati Bengals, won the coin toss, Patrick Mahomes threw an interception and they eventually lost.

As already mentioned, the regular season OT rules of 10 minutes and first possession TD automatically wins remains in place.

One thing the new overtime rules do in theory is no longer make it a no-brainer to receive the ball first for the team that wins the coin toss. The second team now knows that they don’t automatically lose if they give up a TD on their first possession. If Team A scores a touchdown and chooses to kick the extra point, surely there is every reason for Team B to go for two and the win if they get a touchdown as opposed to extending the game. All fascinating strategies to think about.

Ultimately less than 10% of all NFL playoff games since the merger have gone to overtime, and not all of them so this is not going to be a change we’re going to see on a frequent basis, but when it does happen... the debates about overtime fairness will never stop.