The 2023 NFL Playoffs are underway and this year’s slate of games should bring some incredible action.
Unlike the regular season, playoff games cannot end in a tie so the rules are a bit different. But some very important things are exactly the same. This year will also mark the first playoffs with new overtime rules in place, spurred in large part by the showdown between the Bills and Chiefs in last season’s Divisional Round that saw the Chiefs score a game-winning OT TD on the opening possession without Josh Allen and the Bills offense ever getting to touch the ball. See below to find out how overtime works in the NFL playoffs according to the league’s official rulebook, as well as what’s different in 2023.
What has changed in NFL playoff overtime rules in 2023?
That 42-36 Kansas City Chiefs overtime win over the Buffalo Bills in last year’s AFC Divisional Round was one of the greatest playoff games of all time, but also one of the most controversial. The 2023 playoffs will feature guaranteed possession for both teams, rather than the receiving team being able to take the win on the opening possession. Here’s the full breakdown from ProFootballTalk:
Now if a team scores a touchdown on the first possession of overtime, it will line up to kick an extra point or attempt a two-point conversion. Then that team will kick off, and the other team will get a chance to score a touchdown. If that team does score a touchdown, it will line up for an extra point or two-point conversion of its own. It’s possible that the game can end at that point: For instance, if the first team kicked an extra point, the second team can try a game-ending two-point conversion attempt. But if the score remains tied after both teams’ touchdowns, at that point the team that scored the second touchdown would kick off again, and from there on it would be sudden-death overtime.
How does Overtime work in the NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl?
- In the regular season, overtime periods last 10 minutes. In the playoffs, OT periods are 15 minutes long, and with a tie game not an option, action continues until there is a winner.
- If the score is still tied at the end of an overtime period — or if the second team’s initial possession has not ended — the teams will play another overtime period. Play will continue regardless of how many overtime periods are needed for a winner to be determined.
- There will be a two-minute intermission between each overtime period. There will not be a halftime intermission after the second period.
- The captain who lost the first overtime coin toss will either choose to possess the ball or select which goal his team will defend, unless the team that won the coin toss deferred that choice.
- Each team will have an opportunity to possess the ball in overtime.
- Each team gets three timeouts during a half.
- The same timing rules that apply at the end of the second and fourth regulation periods also apply at the end of a second or fourth overtime period.
- If there is still no winner at the end of a fourth overtime period, there will be another coin toss, and play will continue until a winner is declared.
Why did the NFL overtime rules change?
The Chiefs and Bills combined for 25 points in the final two minutes, and after Mahomes led an incredible drive down the field in the final seconds of the game, Harrison Butker tied the game on a 49-yard field goal to send it to OT. The Chiefs won the coin toss, and on the opening drive of bonus football, Mahomes connected with Travis Kelce for an 8-yard TD to cap off an eight-play, 75-yard game-winning drive. Allen and the Bills’ offense never touched the ball in overtime.
The result reignited the conversation on why these rules might need to change, and in the ensuing offseason, they did. In March 2022, NFL owners approved a proposal that gives both teams (in the postseason) a guaranteed possession in overtime before the game becomes sudden death.
It’s not clear how long these changes will stay in effect but for now, at least, this is how all NFL postseason games will be played out.