CHICAGO — Beware standings tiebreaker person … an 8-5-3 division champion could be coming to the NFL soon.
The league reportedly has passed a rule at the owners meeting on Tuesday that will shorten the length of regular-season overtime games from 15 minutes to 10. There were two ties in the NFL last season, as many as there had been in the prior three seasons combined.
But this feels like a solution looking for a problem to us. How is this going to help … with anything? The NFL is expected to officially announce the changes later on Tuesday.
Some have suggested that shorter games means less chance for players to get hurt. Come on. Yes, it’s true — a fluky injury can occur at any point. But on average, only a handful of player injuries per season would be shaved off with this reduction. That’s right: Last season notwithstanding, ties are rare and most OT games do not go past the 10-minute mark.
So this also would eliminate the other fallacy that’s held up as reason for the reduction. Any coaches complaining about being at a competitive disadvantage the following week after an OT game are just whining unnecessarily. Twenty of the 26 teams in OT games last season ran fewer than 77 plays, which is a total that was reached or surpassed 31 times in regulation games. Sure, the games last longer in elapsed time … but is the wear that much greater?
And then there’s the whole fewer-ties-is-better thing. Are teams suddenly going to be more aggressive in this format? Or, perhaps, less aggressive? The team that gets the ball first might be prone to trying to bleed out the clock as much as possible and leave as little of the 10 minutes for the opposing team, which feels like a strange and unneeded competitive disadvantage to us.
We actually see this leading to more ties, not fewer. At the cost of shaving a few plays off each season? Feels like that should be the collateral damage in this case.
Less overtime also feels like less fun to us. Are people complaining about the unwieldy length of NFL games? If so, we’ve not heard the chorus on this one. Following a season in which the Super Bowl went to OT for the first time in league history, the timing is odd. Were people wanting the game to hurry up and end? Granted the rules are slightly different in the postseason where there are no ties. But the overarching point stands.
The league seems to be overreacting to one season that was out of whack from the annual norm. With six of the 13 overtime games going past the 10-minute mark last season, it was the highest percentage (per ESPN) over the past 15 seasons. Most years, that percentage of games is under the 30 mark and even occasionally under 10 percent of the time.
So reducing OT will have a minimal effect at best. The NFL’s intentions might be decent, but its actual impact on the game might not be felt at all.
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