New Year, New Rules

Probably not the best way to learn to kick a field goal
Probably not the best way to learn to kick a field goal

The postseason is upon us and that means that the new NFL rules will go into effect starting now. NFL owners voted 28-4 in favor of changing the rules regarding overtime; at least, for games during the playoffs.

For those of you not familiar with the old rules, a coin is flipped and the winning team gets possession of the ball. The first team to score a point wins the game. Once upon a time, this meant that a team merely had to bring the ball all the way down to the end zone and the score a field goal in order to win the game. The opinions of such victories vary greatly. Some believe that all is fair in love and war; others believe that the team that loses the coin toss should at least be given a chance to score a touchdown or at least tie.

But no matter what fans think, the men in charge have made new provisions for this year’s playoffs. If the team that gets possession of the ball scores a field goal, the other team gets a chance to run it. To run it. Not to tie, but to try and beat the score of the other team.

The reason for this change was because of another rule change by the NFL earlier regarding field goal distances. Before 1994, field goals were supposed to be thirty five yards away from the end zone. Since then, the NFL changed that distance to thirty yards. Studies done by the NFL shows that this increased the chance of winning an overtime playoff game with a field goal by nearly double since 1994.

While many fans believe that the majority of the nail biting occurs during the sudden death rules of the old OT rules, others consider the idea of the game being even more suspenseful during the turnover.

This also means a lot of teams need to reconsider their strategy. Under the new rules, the team that gets possession has one of two options. They can go for the field goal and then put up a stiff defense or they can try to go for the touchdown and secure the game. Before the rule change, there is little doubt that every coach plans their OT plays on getting a field goal. Now, the fans get to enjoy more diverse opinions and strategies set by coaches.

The NFL owners commented on the rule change as a quick fix; hinting that further change might be in order in the future. Perhaps they will adopt the college system where OT is automatically fifteen more minutes of game play until one team emerges on top.

For now, this rule affects only the postseason games where a winner must be determined although there are strong hints of the rule spilling over onto the regular season. Football games rarely end in a tie ever since overtime rules were instated in 1974 but it is still possible to tie after OT under certain circumstances. Whatever the case, the fans still get the chance to witness football history in the making with the 2011 NFL postseason games.