Yesterday, the NFL got the first test of its new playoff overtime rules. The rule is designed to give both teams a shot at scoring unless, of course, the first team scores a touchdown.
And that is exactly what happened when the Denver Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on the first offensive play of the overtime period. And the Steelers were sent home without ever getting a shot.
This is another case where the NFL has taken something simple and made it overly complicated in an effort to make everybody happy.
The overtime rule is just one rule that needs to be changed immediately. On the next few pages, we present 10 rules that the NFL needs to address to improve the game.
The NFL moved up kickoffs in large part to minimize the number of violent collisions that are associated with 22 giant men running full-speed at each other. But part of this problem can be fixed by requiring the kickoff team to remain still until the ball is kicked.
The kickoff is the only play in the NFL in which a team in possession gets a running start before the play begins. The speed of the players is a big part of the violent impacts. Eliminate the head-start, and the players won't be travelling as fast.
The NFL added a rule this season in which all touchdowns are automatically subjected to instant replay. But the new rule does not include plays in the endzone that are not ruled touchdowns, but should have been. In other words, if a receiver's catch is ruled a touchdown it gets replayed. If the official on the field says no catch, it is not automatically replayed. How does this make any sense?
The head coaches may have the worst view on the field, and yet, it is up to them to determine if a replay is needed and then notify the official before the start of the next play.
The NFL has all replays in the final two minutes determined from the booth. There is no reason why this can't be the case for the entire game. The big fear is making the game longer. But the NFL has the ability to make the correct call. Why not do it?
Whether or not a player made a catch has become too complicated. This was done out of fear that one odd play could have an impact in a big game. And while they have added clarity to the complicated catches, they have also added confusion to the simple catches.
The NFL needs to get back to the basics. Did he catch the ball without assistance from the ground? If the answer is Yes, then move on.
You know the play. A runner is tackled, but he miraculously landed on top of another player and never touched the ground. Everybody stops, but he gets up and keeps running. The defender made a good play, and yet the other team gets a big play and maybe even a touchdown because everybody thought the ball was dead.
In fact, the NFL only needs to enforce a rule already in the books. Once a player goes down, his forward progress has been stopped, and should be ruled that way. Stop rewarding players for getting tackled.
Next time you are in a sporting goods store, try on some wide receiver gloves, and feel just how sticky the surface is. They feel like they are made out of duct tape.
These gloves are a big reason why we see so many incredible catches. The passing game is out of hand. One way to slow it down will be to make the receivers learn how to catch the ball without sticky hands.
This one is just a rule that NFL coaches need to save them from themselves. Once a team is on the opponent's side of the field, take away the option to punt. Nobody wants to see it. Either kick the field goal or go for it on fourth down. Be aggressive. B-E-Aggressive!
Why not add to the excitement of the final two minutes by increasing the number of plays that are possible. The NBA has more buzzer-beaters because they allow teams to inbound at mid-court after a timeout. It is artificially created excitement. But it is excitement. And that is never a bad thing.
If the NFL wants to have sudden death, fine. If they want both teams to have at least one possession, fine. But this 'both-teams-get-the-ball-unless' rule in which the game is over if the first team scores a touchdown is just silly.
Give both teams the ball or don't. But in Sunday's overtime game between the Steelers and Broncos, it took the referee longer to explain the OT rule than it took the Broncos to end the game.
Quit trying to make everybody happy. Pick one rule and stick with it.
During the regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers won 12 games and the Denver Broncos won eight. And yet, just because the Broncos played in the weak division, they hosted the playoff game between the two teams.
With four teams in each division, only 37.5% of a team's games (6 of 16) are played within the division. So why should the most important games of the year be influenced by how the Broncos won a tie-breaker over the Raiders?
It is fine to use the divisional system to determine which teams go to the playoffs. But once there, the NFL should be seeding based on record.
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