It’s been a wild season in the NFL with an unprecedented number of overtime games (9) and tied games (2), and we’ve only completed Week 6.

NFL Overtime
The 2018 NFL season has had 9 overtimes and 2 ties (Image: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today)

After six weeks of action in the NFL, we are witnessing one of the closest seasons in recent memory. According to a report from NFL Operations, 54 contests this year have been decided by one score or less. One score is defined as a touchdown or less.

OT Trending

Simply put, there are more close games and fewer blowouts. This is what the NFL and the networks desire. Competitive games result in higher ratings. Blowouts result in viewers clicking off to watch something else.

With games getting more and more competitive, there’s an increase in potential overtime games.

After six weeks of action, the 2018 season has seen at least one overtime every week. In total, nine games were tied at the end of regulation that required overtime. The 2002 season set a record for most overtimes in a season with 25. The 2003 season saw 23 ties. The current season is on pace to fall short of the mark, but it will be close.

All Tied Up

The 2018 NFL season has also seen an uptick in tied games. In the past, ties happened once in a blue moon. By the second week, there were two tied games, or four teams with a notch in the tie column.

The current NFL record for most ties in a season is two. The 2018 season is tied for the tie record with 1986, 1997, and 2016. At this pace, the 2018 season will end with 5 tied games.

The increase in ties is correlated with changes to overtime policy. In 2012, the NFL modified its sudden death overtime, which extended the overtime if a touchdown was not scored on the first possession. A quick field goal after winning the coin flip no longer settled an overtime game.

In 2017, the NFL decreased the overtime period from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. Not only were the conditions for winning overtime extended, but the overall time was shortened. As a result, the NFL has seen an uptick in ties.

Although the NFL has its fair share of innovators and rebels in the coaching ranks, the majority of coaches are conservative. When thrust into an overtime situation, most coaches will opt for a more conservative approach. Within that perspective, a tie is just is a good as a win because it’s not a loss.

College Rules

If you’ve seen a college football overtime game, you know it’s one of the most exciting ways in all of sports to reconcile a tie. In 1996, the NCAA adopted an overtime system developed by Kansas high school athletics.

Each overtime period begins at the opposing 25-yard line and each team receives one possession or one drive. If the score is tied at the end of the period, they flip turns and go again until the score is no longer tied after drives from each side. Starting with the third round or period, teams are no longer allowed to kick an extra point. Instead, they are forced to go for the 2-point conversion. This twist speeds up the conclusion of overtime and intensifies the drama.

The current college overtime system is far from perfect, but it has created exciting endings to games. The 2018 BCS Championship game between Georgia and Alabama demonstrated best example of the exhilarating overtimes. Bama QB Tua Tagovailoa threw a TD strike in overtime to clinch the win and championship.

The collegiate overtime rules generated several absolute thrillers in recent years, such as the infamous game in 2003 between Florida and Arkansas, that was punctuated with seven overtime sessions. Arkansas also played a 6-overtime nail-biter against Ole Miss.

Rethinking Overtime

With so few games on the schedule and the cost of NFL tickets escalating, fans do not want to see their favorite teams with a tie in the standings. Reinstating overtime to fifteen minutes seems like the most logical choice to revert to the original rule.

Perhaps the NFL will eventually adopt a version of the NCAA overtime rules with an adjustment. For example, the overtime session will commence at the 35-yard line instead of the 25-yard line.

For now, the NFL is sticking with their current system. Which game will head into OT this week?