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2023 NFL Playoffs: New Postseason Overtime Rules Mean It's Better to Give Than Take

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The NFL is about to embark on its first postseason under the new overtime rules, and coaches who win the coin toss will now likely weigh whether to take the unusual step of kicking off the opposition in overtime.

The league changed its overtime rules last offseason in large part due to the end of Bills-Chiefs divisional round play. The Chiefs won 42-36 after taking the coin toss in overtime and scoring first, meaning Josh Allen and the Bills offense never touched the ball in overtime.

For the playoffs only, both teams must have the opportunity to own the ball. Gone are the days of winning the toss, scoring a touchdown, and ending the game.

And that should change a coach’s approach to strategy. Having guaranteed offensive possession in overtime should prompt coaches to have their captain defer if he wins the overtime coin toss.

Kicking off to the opposition would allow the toss-winning team the opportunity to know exactly what it needs to win or extend the game. It would also give the team an opportunity to end the game with a defensive score. And it would most likely give the team better starting field position through a defensive stop and subsequent punt during kickoff.

Winning the toss and choosing to kick is what is almost always done in college football. But even then, you’re guaranteed to start your offensive possession at the 25-yard line. Winning and kicking in NFL overtime would (most likely) give the bid-winning team the advantage of improving starting field position over the opposition.

Since 2010, there have been 12 overtime playoff games. The teams that won the coin toss are 10-2 in those games, although only seven of the 12 that won the coin toss won on their first possession without the other team having the ball.

The league used those numbers – 10-2 and seven out of 12 – to justify the overtime rule changes. In reality, it was the breathtaking Bills-Chiefs game that forced the change.

The Chiefs won the overtime coin toss in the AFC title game against the Bengals and still lost the game. In the controversial NFC Championship Game between the Saints and Rams following the 2018 regular season, the Saints won the overtime coin toss and still lost the game.

Of the 12 overtime games since 2010, no team has won the overtime coin toss and decided to kick to the opposition. And according to TruMedia, since 2017 only one team has chosen this route in the regular season.

In 2019, Mike Tomlin opted for this in the Steelers’ Week 5 matchup against the Ravens. Mason Rudolph, who took over the starting job early in the season due to an injury to Ben Roethlisberger, suffered a concussion midway through the third quarter and was replaced by Devlin Hodges. The Steelers added just six more points for the remainder of regulation.

With high winds in Pittsburgh and a tough offense, Tomlin decided to punt for the Ravens and have them play into the wind after winning the OT coin toss. This meant that a defensive stop would likely give the Steelers the ball back with better field position and wind at their backs. Ultimately, the Steelers fumbled near midfield after getting the shortstop and the Ravens made the game-winning 46-yard field goal to win.

The new playoff overtime rules include 15-minute periods instead of the 10-minute overtime period in the regular season. If the team that caught the ball first does not score a touchdown, or if the score is tied after each team has possession of the ball, the next score wins. (If the team that owns the ball first commits a safety on opening possession, the starting team would win.)

Each team will have three timeouts per “half”. While technically there are no halves as in regulation, two extension periods would be considered a half for all purposes. This also means that a two-minute warning would occur at the end of the second overtime period, although it is highly unlikely that a winner would not be decided by then. There would also be no coach challenges allowed in overtime.

There have been four overtime games since the 2019 season, so the league averages more than one per season. Considering the league just witnessed the most games decided by six or fewer points, as well as the most fourth-quarter games within a score, it’s more than possible that these overtime rules will come into effect this postseason. .

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