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NFL Playoff Overtime Rules Explained

As you may (or may not) recall, the NFL Competition committee voted last off-season to alter the overtime rules for the playoffs. The basic premise behind the rule change is to prevent the team that wins the coin toss from winning with a field goal without the opposing team having an opportunity to touch the football. With the NFL Playoffs set to kick off this weekend, we decided to take a closer look at those new OT rules.

Here’s how the new Post-Season OT rules break down:

  • Overtime is still 15 minute periods and begins with a coin flip with the winner of the flip choosing whether to kick or receive.
  • If the team who receives the ball first in overtime scores a touchdown, they are the winner.
  • If the team receiving the ball kicks a field goal on that first possession, the other team will get a possession. If that team scores a touchdown, they are the winner.
  • If the score is still tied after those initial possessions, the game then follows the same sudden death format that the NFL uses in the regular season.

So, both teams will get at least one possession unless the first team to possess the ball scores a TD. Obviously, there can be no tie, so if the initial 15 minute quarter expires without a winner, subsequent 15 minute quarters will be played until someone scores.

UPDATE: Pro Football Talk points out that both an onside kick and a muffed punt would count as an overtime possession. Thus, technically, a team could recover an onside kick, go down and kick a field goal, and win without the receiving team ever truly “possessing” the ball.

UPDATE #2: A safety on the initial overtime possession would also end the game.

Mike Pereira, former head of NFL officials, discusses the new rules with former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick in the video below.

Coach Speak: New OT Rules

For more details and breakdown of the new NFL OT rules, check out this video from NFL.com.

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