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Should the NFL Adopt Playoff Overtime Rules for the Regular Season?

Posted by Andrew McKillop on August 23, 2011

Post Highlights

  • In the past ten years the team that has touched the ball first in overtime has a 100-74-2 record (.574 W Pct).
  • A little under 28% of all overtime games played in the past ten years have been decided by an opening drive field goal.
  • In the past ten years the team that has lost the turnover battle in overtime has a 5-37-1 record (.128 W Pct).

 

Yesterday I published A Complete Record of NFL Overtime.  The post covered the entire history of NFL overtime, but was essentially a tally.  This post will be a shorter but more analytical in its approach.  It’s also a rare opinion piece by SportsDelve.com.

Every season we hear the debate on why or why not NFL overtime rules need to be changed.  The main focus of this debate surrounds around the fact that a team can win the overtime coin toss, drive the field, and win the game without their opponent ever touching the ball.  Does that really happen enough though to call for a rule change in the regular season?

In the past ten years the team that has touched the ball first in overtime has a 100-74-2 record (.574 W Pct).   Of those 100 victories, 59 of them occurred on the opening drive of overtime.  Meaning in the past ten years, a little under 34% of the overtime games played were decided before the other team even touched the ball.

Of those 59 overtime games won on the first drive, 49 (83%) were won by a field goal.  Thus a little under 28% of all overtime games played in the past ten years have been decided by an opening drive field goal.

Last year the NFL changed the overtime rules for the playoffs, which now affords a team the opportunity to counter a field goal on the opening drive of overtime in playoffs.  Check out a more detailed explanation of the playoff overtime rules here.

Based on the last ten years of data, if the NFL enacted its playoff overtime rules into the regular season, only 6% of the overtime games played would be end on the opening drive of the overtime period.  Checkout the table below.

There have been a 176 OT Games Since 2001 Games % of Games
   OT Won by the First Team to Touch the Ball 100 56.8%
      Won on the Opening Drive of OT 59 33.5%
         Decided by an OT Opening Drive Field Goal 49 27.8%
         Decided by an OT Opening Drive Touchdown 10 5.7%



A Sidebar on Overtime Turnovers

One factor often overlooked that plays a huge role in deciding overtime games, is the overtime turnover battle.  In the past ten years the team that has lost the turnover battle in overtime has a 5-37-1 record (.128 W Pct). Those five teams that lost the overtime turnover battle but still won the game, all started the overtime period with the ball.

The last team to win an overtime despite losing the overtime turnover battle were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2005, when they defeated the Atlanta Falcons 27-24, despite fumbling the opening kickoff of overtime.  Since then the team to lose the overtime turnover battle is 0-17.


Reference: Pro-Football-Reference Play Index – I mention this a lot, but I highly recommend this tool.  It’s just about the easiest and quickest way to analyze every NFL game played since 1940.

 

One Response to “Should the NFL Adopt Playoff Overtime Rules for the Regular Season?”

  1. […] All About Overtime: SportsDelve’s Andrew McKillop compiles a complete record of NFL overtime for each team, and asks whether the NFL should use the playoff OT rule in the regular-season. […]

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