Possible Changes to NFL Overtime


After the AFC Championship Game between the Chiefs and Patriots, many people came away frustrated with the current NFL overtime rules.

According to the current rules, a coin toss will decide who receives the first possession in overtime. If the team that gets possession first scores a touchdown, then the game is over and that team wins. If they kick a field goal or turn the ball over, then the other team has a shot to win if they score by any means. At that point, either team can win with the next score.

In overtime of the 2019 AFC Championship Game, Tom Brady and the Patriots won the toss, received the ball, and took it down the field to score a touchdown and win the game. Many people were disappointed at the outcome and wanted to see the Kansas City offense have a shot in OT, but under the current rules, that wasn’t possible with the Patriots touchdown.

Many people are now debating whether overtime rules should be amended to give both teams at least one guaranteed possession. Instead of arguing for change or no change, here are some possible alternatives that could be considered for a new NFL overtime.


Adopt a system similar to the NCAA Overtime

Overtime at the college level is drastically different from the NFL’s version. In the NCAA, each team gets one possession in an untimed overtime period. A coin-flip decides who gets the ball first, and each team begins the overtime period on the other team’s 25 yard line, already in field-goal range.

A winner is decided after each team has their one possession and one team has more points. If it is still tied, then an extra overtime period is started with the same standard of one possession for each team. The rules stay the same until after the third overtime, where each team is forced to go for a 2-point conversion instead of an extra-point. But no matter if it is the 1st or 8th OT, each team gets a possession.

This system could be identically translated to the NFL, but each possession would begin in easy field goal range and it would just turn into a kicking competition. A better system may be for the ball to be placed back outside field goal range, possibly the opponent 40, the 50, or even on the offense’s own 25 yard-line.


Make overtime an extra quarter

The MLB uses extra innings to break ties. The NBA and NCAABB have an extra period break a tie. NFL overtime is the only one to include a modified sudden-death system to decide a winner.

These other sports leagues simply add an extra phase of the game to break the tie, all with the rules unchanged. The NFL could add an extra 15-minute quarter and get rid of the sudden-death aspect, but an argument could be made that it would make games far too long. It could be an abbreviated quarter at 10 minutes to compromise that point, but there are many other things that contribute to how long games take.

Well, what if the extra quarter ends in a tie? Do they play an extra quarter? Just like how the NBA plays abbreviated periods, the NFL could do the same. Yes, they are two different sports and football is a much longer and more physically demanding game. But reverting back to sudden-death would create the same problem as before. And College OT already can have multiple extra periods. The LSU-A&M game lasted for 7 OT periods, resulting in a 74-72 final after 5 hours of play.

An extra quarter, abbreviated or not and with no sudden-death rules, can present a fair tie-breaking system for the NFL, but it can make the duration of the game worrisome.


Field-goal shootout

Okay, this one may be a bit silly, but soccer does have penalty kicks.

For any sort of tiebreaker, each team’s kicker will take a side of the field, and will both begin at the 15 yard-line. Each kicker will take turns with each kick, and after each successful kick the ball will be moved back five yards. The ball cannot move back until a kick is successful.  After the first miss by a kicker, the other kicker has to make his next kick to secure the win.

While this would definitely be something very entertaining of nerve racking to watch for fans, it would make the game come down to a kicking competition instead of a team competition, which is the main point people are making to call for an improved overtime.



It will probably be years till the overtime rule is changed, if it will be at all. The NFL has not said anything on considering a change, but many fans are arguing for one to come soon. A change can’t be completely counted out down the road, but what should that change be? One of the ones above? Or something else? Make sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Written by Dylan Vogel, ESPN Chattanooga Contributor