Could regular-season overtime eventually revert to sudden death, or go away completely?

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In March 2010, when the owners converted overtime from sudden death to the clunky half-measure that survived until Tuesday, the rule applied to the postseason only. In May 2010, at the behest of coaches who loathe the idea of having two sets of rules, the owners extended the rule change to the regular season.

Based on that precedent, it’s possible that the next step for the new overtime procedure will be to see it apply to the regular season, too. Don’t count on that.

The NFL, as evidenced by the shrinkage of overtime from 15 minutes to 10 in 2017, wants to get these games finished. The change was made because the league doesn’t want a team to play an overtime game on Sunday and then play another game on Thursday. (Indeed, it was a nearly 75-minute game for the Buccaneers in 2016 against the Raiders that preceded a Thursday night game against the Falcons that likely prompted the five-minute reduction in overtime.)

So, no, the league won’t potentially make regular-season games longer by extending overtime beyond the scoring of a first-drive touchdown. If anything, the league will switch regular-season overtime back to sudden death, in order to make the games even shorter.

Here’s why. At some point, the league potentially if not likely will explore playing games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, in order to pull more games away from the cluster of contests played at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sundays. The impetus to engineer more stand-alone games will come from gambling. Once the technology is available to transmit real-time images from stadiums to flatscreens from coast to coast, the NFL will want customers to have the chance to focus on more games. More accurately, the customers will demand it.

Enter Tuesday and Wednesday. And maybe regular doubleheaders one or more weekdays.

Yes, teams will have less time between some games. Four days. Five days. That will be balanced by ongoing efforts to make the game safer. One way to make the game safer will be to make it shorter. And the easiest way to do that will be to reduce regular-season overtime to sudden death.

Or maybe the league will get rid of overtime in the regular season altogether. Don’t be stunned if that happens. Before 1974, when overtime first expanded from the postseason to the regular season, it was harder to avoid a tie, since the advent of the two-point conversion remained 20 years away. Now, it’s far easier for teams to keep their scores from being the same.

Gambling will compel many changes to the NFL. Once the league realizes the value in shifting games from 1:00 p.m. ET into other slots on other days, the league will likely do whatever it has to do to justify cramming even more cheese into the pizza.

Under the guise of milking even more cash out of the cow.

31 responses to “Could regular-season overtime eventually revert to sudden death, or go away completely?

  1. I’ve always wondered why more bye weeks aren’t the answer to all these problems?

    Add two more byes. Ensure no team plays on a Tuesday or Thursday without an appropriate adjacent bye week. Gamblers love it because there are more weeks to the season. Players never have to play back-to-backs in under a week.

  2. Scrap OT in regular season. Only need to have overtime rules in the post season. Win it in regulation.

  3. At this point lets just do Rock, Paper, Scissors if teams are tied at end of regulation.

  4. No O.T would make end of game strategy very interesting. Score a TD with 20 seconds left to be down by one. What do you do?

  5. 100% in favor. Just don’t do 5 minutes of commercials. Get the ball back in play so it’s like tacking a drive or two onto the 4th qtr.

  6. Regular-season OT should go away, but playoff OT should be 1 15-minute quarter followed by sudden death

  7. Classic sudden death in regular season. Eventually it will overtake the participation trophy format of the playoffs.

    OR… it like hockey regular season (three on three for five minutes, then a shootout). Play seven on seven sudden death, and if no score after 10 minutes, a field goal contest. The NHL has done quite well with this in their regular season, and they still have classic sudden death in the Stanley Cup, and it makes hockey playoffs the greatest survival test in sports

  8. Redo last year standings to see what it would have been if games ended in ties.

  9. Sudden Death and offense starts will ball started at their own 10 yard line. Problem solved!

  10. Here’s an idea:

    Drop that idiotic Thursday night game. Make it Saturday if you need to. You’ll get the views.

  11. Philip Rivers Cuomo says:
    April 1, 2022 at 3:30 pm
    I’ve always wondered why more bye weeks aren’t the answer to all these problems?

    Add two more byes. Ensure no team plays on a Tuesday or Thursday without an appropriate adjacent bye week.


    Since when do NFL teams play on Tuesday ?

  12. Keep regular season OT. It use to be Thursday night games were sporadic and the 2 teams that played on Thursday night had a bye week the weekend before. There could be 2 Thursday night games with different starting times. Example, 7pm ET and 830pm ET. The same could be said for MNF.

  13. “Somehow I don’t think ties are good for gambling.”


    Let’s say Baltimore Ravens are -700, -8.5 against the Cleveland Browns, +330, +8.5.

    In a tie the bookies refund all money line bets, and would only pay out the Browns spread. Assuming it was a 50/50 split from bettors, the house would profit.

    If it was a 50/50 split on the money line too and the Browns win by 1 point, the bookies would get massacred paying out those wins. If the Ravens win the house would obviously win.

  14. The bottom line is that nobody likes a tie. The players don’t like it and the fans don’t like it. Whatever changes they make, it has to be that one team or another is the winner.

  15. gronkhof says:
    April 1, 2022 at 3:31 pm

    How about everyone just play better defense in OT?


    That would be great – for 1990. With all the rule changes made to favor the offense it’s very difficult for a defense to “just play better” and decide a game.

  16. I like sudden death. Every play has the potential to win the game. I think it adds a level of tension to the game and makes it more exciting. Otherwise, just get rid of overtime and accept ties which have the potential of making interesting playoff chases.

  17. Dates are wrong for the regular season ot change.

    Regular season ot didn’t change until 2012 after the broncos steelers (and giants 49ers) played ot in January 2012. There was a two season gap between the changes in post and regular season.

  18. I am ok with regular season games ending in a tie because 1. Each team had 60 minutes of play to “win” a game but didn’t 2. A team has 16 other games to “off-set” the effect a tie creates and 3. For standings purpose, a tie “serves” as a compromise in that it is not as good as a win but not as bad as a loss.

    I am not ok with sudden death in play-off games because the stakes are very high. At the very least, each team should have a possession before sudden death applies.

    I prefer an extra full 15 minute period played under 4th quarter conditions (e.g., 2 minute warning, clock stoppages, challenges), with each team receiving two time-outs.

    If the score is tied after that 15 minute period, the teams change directions, the team in possession of the ball maintains possession, and sudden death applies. The period is played under 4th quarter conditions and last for 15 minutes, each team receives two time-outs.

    If still tied, rinse-repeat.

    Regular season games that end in a tie are relatively rare, and until recently so were play-off games, not to mention only one out of 56 Super Bowls has gone into OT. Meaning that because of the historically low occurrence of games ending in a tie, there is no need or reason to rush the process to deter a winner, especially in a play-off game.

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