Explaining the new NFL playoff overtime rules for 2023

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Explaining the new NFL playoff overtime rules for 2023 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The 2023 NFL postseason is here, and with it comes a new set of overtime rules.

After last year’s incredible battle between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills ended without Josh Allen’s team possessing the ball in overtime, NFL owners voted on a rule change. The hope is that a coin toss will now have less of an impact on the results of these high-stakes games.

What exactly are the new overtime rules? And how will they impact the upcoming postseason?

Here’s everything you need to know about the updated protocols for this year:

Did the NFL change the overtime rules for 2023?


The Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts proposed an updated set of playoff overtime rules for 2023, and that rule change was passed after a 29-3 vote by the NFL owners.

What are the new NFL playoff overtime rules?

OK, here we go. The updated NFL playoff overtime rules are as follows:

  • There will still be a traditional coin toss, with the road team choosing either heads or tails. Whichever team wins the coin toss will have the option to kick off or receive the ball.

  • Both teams will have an opportunity to possess the ball.

  • If the score is tied after each team has possessed the ball, the next score wins – the game becomes sudden death.

  • If the team kicking off to start overtime scores a safety on the receiving team’s initial possession, the team that kicked off is declared the winner.

  • There are no coaches’ challenges in overtime. The only reviews will be initiated by the replay official.

  • Each team gets three timeouts for every two overtime periods (30 minutes total). So, if the game goes into triple overtime, timeouts will reset to three for each team.

Can a playoff game end in a tie?


While regular season games can end with an even score after a 10-minute overtime period, ties can not happen in the playoffs. Postseason overtime periods are 15 minutes. If the score is still tied after 15 minutes, the two teams start another 15-minute period until the result is decided. The second period is played like a regulation second quarter, where the team that had the ball at the end of the first period gets the ball at the same yard-line to begin the second.

What team wants the ball first with the new overtime rules?

This is where things could get tricky, especially for the first year of the new rules.

In previous years, the team that won the coin toss would almost certainly choose to receive the ball. If they could just score a touchdown, the game would immediately end and their defense wouldn’t even have to take the field. The team that won the coin toss was 10-2 in 12 overtime playoff games since 2010, with seven of those 10 winners scoring on the first possession.

That could change in 2023, especially if a team trusts their defense. The rules bring out plenty of hypothetical questions that coaches could have to answer in real time this winter:

  • Does the first team with possession ever settle for a field goal? Or do they go for it on every fourth down?

  • If the first team scores a touchdown, do they kick the extra point or go for two?

  • If the second team is down seven and scores a touchdown, would they tie the game or go for two and the win?

Regardless of how it all plays out, the new overtime rules will certainly bring a new level of strategy and excitement to the postseason.