Should The NFL Change Its Overtime Rules | Column
The Kansas City Chiefs edged out the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in an overtime matchup for the ages.
Quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen shone brightly combining for 707 yards, seven touchdowns and 78 points in the AFC Divisional Round.
However, despite the spectacle that was the showdown, many fans were outraged at the fact that Mahomes got a chance to march the Chiefs down the field for a touchdown, yet Allen wouldn’t be allowed to answer.
The overtime rules in the NFL are simple: If the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown, the game is over. This means that if you lose the coin toss, you may never get a chance to score in overtime.
Some fans are upset crying “Allen never got the chance” and “The Bills got robbed!”
However, the overtime rules are completely fair, and, in fact, they are much less lopsided than people want to believe.
I did a deep dive into the statistics and numbers using this season as a microcosm for this “problem.”
During this season, there have been 22 overtime games (including both the regular season and playoffs).
This season, only five times (22.7 percent of the time) has the team that started with the ball won the game with a touchdown on the first drive. That means over 77 percent of the time the team that doesn’t start with the ball can either tie or win the game.
The majority of the time, winning the coin toss doesn’t automatically mean victory. Usually, both teams will at least get to touch the ball in overtime.
More importantly, there isn’t a major difference in win percentage between the team that starts with the ball and the team that doesn’t.
In the 22 overtime games this year, the team that started on offense won 59 percent of the time. The difference between winning and losing was just nine percent above the equal 50-50 split.
NFL teams have 60 minutes to win each contest. Anything extra is a luxury. If you didn’t do enough to win the game in regulation, you are fortunate to get the chance to compete in extra time.
Granted, the Chiefs also didn’t do enough to win in regulation, but they followed a relatively fair system to victory by marching 75 yards down the field in eight plays. The Bills had eight different chances to force a turnover and play good enough defense to get the ball back.
Back in week 14, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took down the same Buffalo Bills in overtime. Tampa Bay forced the Bills to punt after three downs, and Tom Brady threw for a touchdown on the Buccaneers’ offensive drive.
Also, having multiple overtimes or back-and-forth tries doesn’t mean the best team wins or even that great football will be played.
When Texas A&M played LSU and won in seven overtimes 74-72, fans rejoiced at the greatness that was a terrific duel between talented teams. This game was great.
When Penn State played Illinois and lost 20-18 in seven overtimes, I’d argue the better team lost and the action on the field was horrible to watch.
The Chiefs vs. Bills game was a barn burner between two elite squads, but just because it ended earlier than many wanted it to, doesn’t mean it is unfair.
Stats on overtime:
22 Overtime games so far this season (regular season and playoffs)
Only 5/22 (22.7 percent) of games ended with the team that started with the ball scoring a touchdown
77.3 percent of the time, the team that didn’t start with the ball had a chance to win
The team that starts with the ball in overtime has won 13/22 (59 percent) of the time
The team that starts on defense won 41 percent of the time
In eight games this season, the team that started with the ball didn’t score a touchdown, yet still won:
Four times both teams didn’t score on their first possession
Two times the team that got the ball second turned it over
Two times both teams kicked field goals, and the game progressed on
Eric Fenstermaker is a fourth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalist
Eric Fenstermaker is a senior from Northampton, Pennsylvania, majoring in broadcast journalism. He is also minoring in business and sports studies and pursuing a certificate in sports journalism.
Eric is involved in After the Whistle and Penn State Sports Night (PSSN). For COMM Radio, Eric contributes to a variety of different podcasts and co-hosts the Hail Mary radio show, which is dedicated to analyzing NFL games.