The NFL recently changed it’s rules regarding their overtime scoring and possession system. Before, any team that received the ball and scored–regardless of whether it was a field goal or touchdown–would win the game in a sudden-death format.
They have since modified these rules, making it so each team will have at least one possession unless the receiving team can score a touchdown on their first drive. This amendment to the rule has certainly added more excitement to the game, but there are questions whether it is actually a fair extra period if both teams don’t touch the ball.
Although this modification definitely works better, there are still alternative rules that could (and frankly should) be put in place.
Start overtime as if the game never ended
If overtime is supposed to be an extra period, then why not treat it like a fifth quarter? This would mean that the team that had the ball would retain possession and start the “fifth quarter” right where they ended the fourth quarter.
If a team kicks and misses a field goal from their opponents’ 30 yard line as time runs out, then the opposing team should take over from the same spot in overtime. This would also pretty much abolish a team kneeling down to end games and take them into extra time. In terms of the sudden death rules, they would remain in place.
So, instead of treating the end of the fourth quarter like halftime and starting overtime with a kickoff, teams would just pick up where they left off and do their best to score a touchdown.
Model overtime after the NCAA's structure
There would definitely be some benefits if the NFL adopted overtime rules similar to college.
It would remain a 15-minute period where each team has two timeouts. The team that kicked off would have a chance to match whatever the receiving team does in terms of scoring. If they match the opposing teams’ field goal or touchdown, then overtime will shift to a sudden-death format from there. This way, both teams get a fair chance to take control and put some points on the board.
Shorten the extra period and let the teams play until the end
Similar to overtime in basketball, the NFL could shorten the 15-minute period to a five- or eight-minute period in which the teams play until the very end. This way, both teams would get at least a couple of chances to pull ahead of the other and win the game in a more convincing way.
Or, in a more modified way, each team could have a two-minute offensive possession in which they have to score either a field goal or touchdown and the other team gets a chance to match or exceed their opponents’ effort.
It is clear that there are obvious improvements that the NFL can make that would better their current overtime rules and regulations, but whether or not they will actually put them into place will be something we could potentially see following the 2013 season.