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NFL Overtime Rules Change: New OT Comes Too Late For Most

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 8 mins

NFL Overtime Rules Change: New OT Comes Too Late For Most

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The new NFL playoff overtime rules come too late for those teams who lost the coin toss and never got a shot to possess the ball. Here's a look at the history under the old rules and how the changes will affect NFL betting.

The rules change this upcoming postseason guarantees each team will get at least one possession in overtime. The change is just for the playoffs. It is permanent. Until the league decides to amend it.

This rule was passed to negate the omnipotent power of the coin toss. Since the NFL adopted the previous set of overtime rules in 2010, teams that won the coin toss went 10-2 in 12 playoff games. Seven of those game were won with a first-possession TD.


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The shift comes a bit too late for many teams, most recently the Buffalo Bills. They fell 42-36 in overtime in a thriller to the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Divisional Round in January.

That game saw three lead changes and 25 points scored in the final two minutes of regulation. The contest abruptly ended when the Chiefs won the OT coin toss and rolled downfield for the game-winning TD. Millions watched and the outcome triggered a nationwide call for a change in the rule. The ever PR-conscious NFL knew it could not let another playoff game end in overtime without each team getting one chance to score.

Whatever happened to “just make a stop”?

Well, the Bengals did just that when the Chiefs won the coin toss a week later ahead of overtime in the AFC championship game. Patrick Mahomes II was picked off on Kansas City's third play of OT. Cincinnati promptly kicked a game-winning field goal and earned a ticket to the Super Bowl.

Impact on NFL Betting Odds

The new rules were formally proposed at the NFL meeting this year by the Colts and Eagles. It’s not like either one of those teams will have to worry about any close playoff calls any time soon. The change passed with 29 votes. Only 24 were needed.

The rule will affect NFL odds at sportsbooks and betting sites. Every change does. Most playoff lines hover between 3 and 6 points, given that the matchups are close by that stage. The twist with these new rules is that the team that scores in OT will attempt an extra point in most situations, where in the past a touchdown ended things. That extra point will no doubt be critical on key spreads.


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This change could wreak havoc with game totals. Given the push for scoring in the NFL, totals of over 50 points are now common. The average point total of all 13 NFL postseason games this past January and February was 49.8 points.

Under the new rules, up to 24 points can now be scored in overtime. That would equate to both teams scoring TDs with 2-point conversions, and then one of the teams ending the game with another touchdown. Under the previous format, the most points possible in overtime was 12, each team swapping field goals, before the game was decided by a game-ending TD with no extra-point or conversion try.

Dirty Dozen: NFL OT Playoff Games

NFL Overtime Rules Change: New OT Comes Too Late For Most 1

Here is a look at the 12 NFL postseason games played under the post-2010 rules that guaranteed each team a possession, unless the first team to get the ball scored a touchdown. They are listed in chronological order.

2011 Wild Card: Broncos vs. Steelers

Coin Toss Winner: Broncos

Game Result: Broncos win 29-23

RECAP: Tim Tebow had some help from above and found the late Demariyus Thomas on the first play from scrimmage in OT for an 80-yard TD strike. The result would not have been any different under the original NFL sudden-death rules.


2011 NFC Championship: Giants vs. 49ers

Coin Toss Winner: Giants

Game Result: Giants win 20-17

RECAP: The 49ers got it half right. They stopped the Giants from scoring on the first possession, but could not do anything on offense. Lawrence Tynes ended it with a field goal on the Giants’ second possession. They would beat the Patriots in Super Bowl 46 two weeks later.

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2012 AFC Divisional Game: Broncos vs. Ravens

Coin Toss Winner: Ravens

Game Result: Ravens win 38-35

RECAP: The Ravens won it in double overtime on a 47-yard Justin Tucker field goal. The four possessions in the first OT ended with 3 punts and a Peyton Manning interception.


2014 NFC Championship: Seahawks vs. Packers

Coin Toss Winner: Seahawks

Game Result: Seahawks win 28-22

RECAP: Russell Wilson ended this on the first possession of OT by dropping consecutive 35-yard dimes on Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. The TD strike to Kearse, who was mauled on his way into the end zone, sent the Seahawks on to Super Bowl 49.

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2015 NFC Divisional Round: Cardinals vs. Packers

Coin Toss Winner: Cardinals

Game Result: Cardinals win 26-20

RECAP: The fans in Green Bay saw their postseason hopes die for the second straight season on the whim of a coin toss. Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald connected for a 75-yard hookup on Arizona’s first possession. They would connect again for the game-winning TD.


Super Bowl 51: Patriots vs. Falcons

Coin Toss Winner: Patriots

Game Result: Patriots win 34-28

RECAP: This was over before the coin toss. The Falcons led 3-28 with 2:18 to play in the third quarter. We know what happened next. You can buy the t-shirt. The Patriots eventually tied it up with a TD and 2-point conversion with 57 seconds to play. After Patriots captain Matthew Slater called heads (tails ALWAYS fails), Tom Brady got the ball in OT, and tore up a mentally and physically exhausted Falcons defense. Nine plays later, James White romped into the end zone. History.


2018 NFC Championship: Rams vs. Saints

Coin Toss Winner? Saints

Game Result: Rams win 26-23

RECAP: The greatest non-call in NFL history occurred in this game when Nickell Robey-Coleman drilled Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis with his helmet a full second before the ball got to either player. The lack of a call on the play forced the NFL to allow reviews on pass interference. Still, the Saints won the OT coin toss but failed to capitalize. Drew Brees was picked off in OT and the Rams booted a game-winning FG. They would lose Super Bowl 53 to the Patriots 13-3.

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2018 AFC Championship: Chiefs vs. Patriots

Coin Toss Winner? Patriots

Game Result: Patriots win 37-31

RECAP: This game was a harbinger to the Chiefs-Bills matchup this past January. Both in terms of the matchup, game, outcome, and post-game uproar. Two of the game’s best QBs – Patrick Mahomes II and Brady – slugged it out over 60 minutes at a raucous Arrowhead Stadium amid a 7-degree wind chill. This instant classic kicked off just minutes after the Rams-Saints affair. The nation was enthralled from the go.

The Chiefs scored 24 points in the fourth quarter and tied it at 31-31 on a FG with six seconds to play. New England won the toss and drove 75 yards on 13 plays, with Rex Burkhead covering the final 15 yards on three separate running plays. This game planted the seed for the rules change that came about this year, given that it was Bill Belchick and Brady who won while most of America was rooting for the Chiefs.


2019 AFC Wild Card: Bills vs. Texans

Coin Toss Winner: Texans

Game Result: Texans win 22-19

RECAP: It’s hard to believe the Texans were a playoff team just two seasons ago. While the Texans won the coin toss, they would need two possessions in OT to beat the Bills on a 28-yard field goal.


2019 NFC Wild Card: Vikings vs. Saints

Coin Toss Winner: Vikings

Game Result: Vikings win 26-20

RECAP: The Saints came up empty in OT once again. This time, the Vikings won the coin toss and marched down the field on the first try. A controversial Kirk Cousins-to-Kyle Rudolph TD pass ended it.

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2021 AFC Divisional Round: Chiefs vs. Bills

Coin Toss Winner: Chiefs

Game Result: Chiefs win AFC divisional game, 42-36

RECAP: As mentioned above, this game was the trigger that forced the latest OT rules change passed by the NFL this week. Chiefs fans found vindication given what happened to their team against the Patriots three years earlier. Many fans – and eventually 29 NFL owners – felt it was fundamentally unfair for the Bills not to get the ball in OT given how the game had gone in regulation.


2021 AFC Championship: Chiefs vs. Bengals

Coin Toss Winner? Chiefs

Game Result: Bengals win 27-24

RECAP: For just the second time under the NFL’s post-2010 overtime playoff rule, the team that won the coin toss would lose the game. Cincinnati’s defense made the biggest stop of the season in picking off Mahomes in OT. Joe Burrow and rookie kicker Evan McPherson did the rest.

About the Author

Bill Speros for Bookies.com
Bill Speros
Bill Speros is an award-winning journalist and editor whose career includes stops at USA Today Sports Network / Golfweek, Cox Media, ESPN, Orlando Sentinel and Denver Post.