On Sunday, the one thing I don’t ever want to happen in American football, happened. The winless Detroit Lions and the Pittsburgh Steelers (without Ben Roethlisberger, albeit) competed in an actual NFL game this past Sunday. As most of us know by now, a sloppy game by both sides, especially in overtime, led to a 16-16 tie, making it four straight seasons that this has happened.
Although this looks great for the Lions because they did not lose, it does not look good for the rest of the league. The NBA has seldom had ties in their 75-year history. The NHL got rid of ties in 2005 with a shootout. The only sport in which a tie is okay is soccer because it is commonplace. Other than that, no other game should end in a tie. The NFL’s overtime rules are complex already, but they need to change.
From a team perspective, what does a tie do to the team’s mindset? Do they enter practice motivated to continue their winning ways or looking for answers to rebound and get back on track? There are several different approaches teams have taken, but all of those are massive speedbumps to the winning mentality each team strives to have.
From the fan’s viewpoint, ties are boring. American football is one of the most interesting sports in the country and for it to end in a tie goes against most things that leagues like the NFL stand for such as having fun and/or showcasing incredible talents.
Sometimes, having a tie looks bad. In the case of the Lions (for now), the tie means we cannot witness a team go 0-17 this season. For people like us, the tie should be counted like a loss because in the end, the gameplay by the team that tied was just bad.
College football has found ways to avoid the tie through a series of short drive or, in this case, a 2-point standoff (see Illinois vs. Penn State 2021). The fact that the NFL has yet to find ways to alleviate the tie is not only embarrassing but leaves the typical fan very confused.
But, with a few quick solutions to the overtime rule, we can have long slugfests and increase the viewership a game may already get. When a game is close, fans will be intrigued to turn their TVs on to that game around the fourth quarter, and if they’re lucky, they will witness greatness.
Firstly, I suggest that there be two overtime “periods.” You keep the regular 10-minute period and abide by the same rules that already exist with this overtime, but you add a second five-minute overtime period on top of that. NFL players, coaches and fans will have to worry about injuries less as they will play less minutes overall. On the fantasy side, having those overtimes can help rack up points for their favorite players and improve someone’s overall fantasy week.
The most common trend in every game that has ended in a tie is that there is a missed field goal at some point. After intense conversations with my colleagues, I suggest that after the two overtime periods, each team competes in a kicking shootout. It’s more unique than the 2-point battles that occur in college football, but at the same time, it decreases the risk of injury to the star players that may be leading the team.
Think about it, as long as you’re not going up against Justin Tucker, you’re going to have a chance to win. Each team would start with 10-yard field goals and the distance would increase by five yards for every round. If the first team misses and the second team makes the field goal in that round, then the second team wins. If the first team makes and the second team misses, then the first team wins.
Imagine how fun it would be to see both kickers attempt field goals from over 50 yards out. Social media would explode from the madness, and many memes would come from it. I wouldn’t recommend this for a Super Bowl or the playoffs yet, but this in the regular season would cause so much havoc.
Of course, if that does not work out, then I would suggest using the 2-point battle method from college football where each team gets four downs to find the endzone, not advance ten yards. There may be a higher risk, but the big plays that can be made (that would count for fantasy, btw) would cause the fans to go crazy. The only downside is that it does not feel original only because college football already uses it, but who knows, it could be a good idea.
The final suggestion that I have regarding the overtime is 7-on-7 for two ten-minute overtime periods. In the NHL, it goes from 5-on-5 to 3-on-3 when transitioning from regulation to overtime. That has created a lot of fun moments, and I think the NFL could do the same. I thought of the number seven because of how many points can be scored on a touchdown drive and how many players represented each team in last year’s high school football games (can we even call them that?).
No, it would not be flag football. Yes, it will be regular football. Each team will start from midfield and will need to advance ten yards on four downs. If that team turns it over on downs, then the other team will start from midfield with a chance to win the game.
Again, there are a lot of possibilities in play here with how the NFL overtime should go. Two things are clear however, they are all infinitely better than the tie and we need to get rid of the tie in the National Football League.