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The NFL may never get it right, at least for teams that lose playoff games in overtime

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Should the NFL change its overtime rule yet again? Maybe. But even if it does, it probably won’t satisfy everyone.

Wild Card Round - Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Do you ever get the feeling overtime in the NFL is basically like the playoff system in college football? You know, like how when it was a two-team field, a third team was always angry, or now that it’s a four-team field, a fifth team is always angry, or if they expand it to an eight-team field, there will surely be a ninth team that’s angry?

Anyway, as I sit here writing this article mere hours before the start of the first of four divisional round NFL playoff games to be played this weekend, I have no idea if any of them will go into overtime. But if one does, I can almost guarantee you the losing team will be miffed that it didn’t get more time to win the game. And if one doesn’t, for the purposes of this article, we can always revert back to Wildcard Weekend, when the Saints (or, at least their spokespeople) were miffed that they didn’t get enough of a chance to win in what turned out to be a 26-20 loss to the Vikings at the Superdome.

You see, Minnesota (or, to keep this article current, some team in this weekend’s divisional round) took the opening kickoff of overtime and drove right down the field to score the winning touchdown. Game over. Vikings advance to the next round, while the Saints go marching home.

I used to think it was unfair that the team that won the overtime coin-toss had a chance to drive right down the field and win the game with three measly points without the other team ever having a chance to possess the football (at least in the playoffs). But, then, the NFL changed its overtime rule so that both teams had a chance to possess the football, provided the one that possessed it first didn’t score a touchdown.

I thought that was one of the best decisions the NFL ever made. I also thought it was quite fair.

But, much like that fifth team when the four-team college football playoff field is announced every year (or that 17th team, when they eventually expand the playoff field to 16), people continue to have a problem with how the NFL handles overtime (again, at least in the playoffs—I don’t think people care all that much about regular season overtime, you know, wanting the games to be over quickly and all).

Should the Saints have had a chance to possess the football, even after Minnesota scored a touchdown on its opening drive of overtime? I don’t know, what if New Orleans’ defense had intercepted Kirk Cousins’ first pass and took it straight to the house? Should the Vikings have been granted one more possession? After all, they only possessed the football a little bit the first time they had it.

This is what people always forget when it comes to overtime. They act as if the defense is a powerless entity, when, in reality, that unit can actually win the game with a safety on the opening play of overtime.

But if another solution is needed—at least for playoff overtime—why not just play a full 15-minute period? At the end of 15 minutes, the team with the most points win. That means, even if you fall behind by seven, you still have a chance to come back and win. Even if you fall behind by two scores, you still have a chance to come back and win.

If the game is still tied after five quarters, you revert back to old-school sudden death rules, where the first team that scores—even on a field goal—wins.

I presented the “extra 15 minutes” thing as a possible solution the other night, and a friend said to me, “How is that any different than playing a fourth quarter and then sudden death overtime?” And I said, “Because people keep whining about it.”

Not much of a rebuttal, but people do keep whining about NFL overtime (again, at least in the postseason), so why not try that?

Would people still whine? Eventually, but not right away.