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Opinion: Should the NFL Change Overtime Rules?

The Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs’ play-off game caught the attention of many, and has sparked a conversation about the NFL overtime rules.

Illustration Courtesy of Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs’ play-off game caught the attention of many, and has sparked a conversation about the NFL overtime rules. This highly anticipated playoff game featured three lead changes, one tie, and 25 points– of which were scored in the last two minutes of regulation, before the game headed into overtime.

The two teams went head to head to see who is going to the AFC championship. After four quarters of intense football, the game went into overtime. Kansas City won the coin toss and received the ball. Once the coin flipped, the Bills never had a chance to take the field. The quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, Patrick Mahones, connected with Travis Kelce, tight end, for the game-winning 8-yard touchdown pass. 

Now, should the Bills have gotten a chance to respond?

According to the NFL rulebook, “Both teams must have the opportunity to possess the ball once during the extra period unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession, in which case it is the winner…” This means whoever wins the coin toss gets a chance to score, and if that score is a touchdown then the game is over. In this case, Mahomes and his Chiefs won the coin toss– and the game.

Let me remind you, the Bills are the number one defense for the 2021-2022 season and they couldn’t stop the Kansas City Chiefs. I do not believe that the NFL should change the overtime rules.

Players and coaches have both spoken of the “Worst overtime of any sport in the world,” former quarterback Danny Kanell said. The argument against the overtime rules is that players should receive a fair chance at being able to receive the ball. The players would like the rules to be changed so that no matter what the coin says, both teams receive the ball to get a “fair” chance at scoring.

In reality, the team who loses the coin toss should just play defense for three downs to prevent the team from scoring a touchdown and winning the game, right? You have the best defense in the NFL and couldn’t stop a team for three downs? That is not the rules fault, that is simply not playing defense.

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Proposing for a change to make it a “fair” chance for both teams to score is not only taking the competitiveness out of the game but also not everything in sports or life is fair. Football isn’t about fairness, it is about competition. For a team to win, they have to compete, and competing doesn’t require being “fair.” The topic of fairness often comes up when a team loses in overtime.

 Let’s look at this scenario. If the overtime rules are changed and we are playing “fair” then let’s be fair. Team A wins the coin toss and receives the ball first. Team A scores then Team B scores after and the cycle continues. What happens then? Everyone wants to be fair but overtime can’t result in a tie. That doesn’t do anything for either team. The fact is that the team who loses the coin toss should have their best defensive drive for three downs, that’s all. Especially if you have been ranked the number one defense.

Ironically, in 2019, the Chiefs suggested a rule change. The Chiefs proposed for both teams to receive the ball no matter what the coin says. Even if the team that won the coin toss scores a touchdown, the other team will still have a chance. Their full proposal also included eliminating overtime for preseason. Additionally, the Chiefs wanted to eliminate overtime coin tosses, so that the winner of the initial coin toss to begin the game may choose whether to kick or receive or which goal to defend. The Chiefs did not get their proposal, and are probably happy that it didn’t get approved, or the outcome possibly could have been different for their recent win against the Bills.

These overtime rules undoubtedly spark conversation, and are often questioned. Is it time that the overtime rules change to make the game of football “fair”? Or, is it simply the act of playing well thought out defense for three drives?

The answer is…it’s as simple as playing defense. You play defense and you win the ball back. That is competing and that is playing a good game of football in the NFL.

Copy edited by Jasper Smith.

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