Another year of the NFL playoffs, another year for people to be outraged over the NFL’s overtime rules, myself included.
Just a week and a half ago, sports fans saw what will likely be the game of the playoffs, with the Bills and Chiefs fighting it out for their ticket to the AFC Championship. After the Chiefs moved down the field in just 13 seconds and nailed a field goal at the buzzer, the contest went into overtime. Kansas City won the coin toss, elected to take the ball first and made quick work of one of the NFL’s top defenses, much like they had all game.
The Bills and quarterback Josh Allen, who threw for 329 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions, didn’t even get his chance to win the game. Fans on Twitter were understandably upset.
Fast forward one week later, as the AFC Championship goes into overtime. Kansas City won the coin toss again, but this time, quarterback Patrick Mahomes turned the ball over, allowing Joe Burrow and company to set up an easy field goal to send the Bengals to the Super Bowl.
That time, the overtime rules worked, and both offenses got their best shot at winning. Despite this game seemingly “evening things out” for the Chiefs and NFL Twitter erupting with comments of sending “Joe Shiesty” to the Super Bowl while Jackson Mahomes has to make his TikToks anywhere but SoFi Stadium, these overtime rules still need to be changed – at least for the postseason.
Why the postseason, you ask? Well for starters, the winners of the overtime coin toss, who almost always elect to receive the ball first, are now 10-2 in the playoffs. That’s a winning percentage of 83%. Of those 10 winners, seven of them scored a walk-off touchdown on the first drive. There’s a reason why the Chiefs’ Twitter page was so excited that the team won the coin flip in the AFC Championship –their odds of winning just became exponentially higher.
It’s worth noting that in the regular season, 52.8% of the coin toss winners end up winning their respective games. That isn’t a perfect 50%, but it’s not alarming enough to warrant any change. A reason for this disparity in the playoffs is that those games typically consist of the most elite offenses in the league– ones that can tear up any defense at will.
Speaking of defense, the biggest argument in favor of keeping the overtime rules is that defense is one of the three facets of football. To win, you need to perform on offense, defense and special teams. While yes, that is true, recent history also should be considered. The Chiefs didn’t have the best defensive unit in the nation, coming in at eighth in PFF’s Week 17 rankings. But the Bills ranked as the top dogs in that same article. So how did they get torched for three different scores, adding up to 16 points in just over five minutes of game time?
I don’t really see this as a knock on the Bills defense, but more as a credit to Mahomes. He is clearly a top quarterback in the league, if not the most talented. When you have a Super Bowl contending roster filled with weapons, like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, that also helps. This is an offense that wasn’t going to let up.
How about the Bills offense? Josh Allen is at that same level as Mahomes, and the Bills are the same high-quality team. Receivers Stefon Diggs and record-setter Gabriel Davis gave him plenty to work with all game, and there’s no evidence to say that they wouldn’t have excelled in the overtime period. Sure, defense is part of the game, but at this stage, it was clear the offenses would win out.
Another interesting point that had been raised was why the field goal was the dividing line. If a team loses the coin toss, they can limit the other team to a field goal, which qualifies as a “stop” since the offense didn’t end the game. This isn’t the best case scenario, but is still good enough to give the ball to their quarterback. However, if that team also scores a field goal, all of a sudden it’s next score wins. That quality stop that was good enough before suddenly costs your team the big game.
With that being said, why would there ever be a sudden death, next score wins in football? The team with the ball always has the advantage in that scenario, which is why the NFL changed the rule back in 2010 to avoid overtime starting in a true sudden death.
Why is a back-and-forth battle with both offenses involved not allowed in overtime? College football has been doing it for years. Adding more highlights and clutch plays to NFL football would be even more beneficial to the most popular sport in the U.S. If there was an injury concern for the players, why would the league have just expanded its playoff format to seven teams per conference and its regular season to 18 weeks?
I understand that it is quite easy to be hypocritical about the current rule as well. Everyone wants the rule to be changed until it’s their team that’s on the right side of the coin flip. As an unbiased Jets fan who hasn’t seen their team in the playoffs since before they implemented the new overtime rule in 2012, I think it’s time to take some action and give the coin toss losers a more even chance at winning these big postseason games.