Here we go again. The NFL is modifying its overtime rules. Now, both teams will have an opportunity to possess the ball in overtime. Even if the winner of the coin toss scores a touchdown on the opening drive of overtime, they will still have to kick off to the other team, who will now have an opportunity to match with a touchdown of their own, or potentially win the game if they convert a 2-point conversion.

The rule change is in response to the Chiefs' victory over the Bills in last season's AFC Divisional Playoff. If you recall, the 4th quarter of that game was a shootout with 5 lead-changes. The Bills scored what should have been the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds left in regulation. The Chiefs then gained 44 yards in 2 plays and kicked a game-tying 49-yard field goal to trigger overtime. The Chiefs received the opening kickoff, drove down the field, and scored a game-winning touchdown against the exhausted Bills' defense. The Bills never got to possess the ball in overtime because, according to the old rule, if the opening drive results in a touchdown, the game ends.

Chiefs beat Bills in overtime Photo Credit: William Purnell/Icon Sportswire
The Chiefs beat the Bills in overtime of the 2022 AFC Divisional Playoff.

Fans have complained about NFL overtime rules for a very long time. The common complaint is that the winner of the game often comes down to a coin toss. But this is only partially true. In fact, in the regular season, the winning percentage of the team receiving the overtime kickoff is only barely more than 50% (86-67-10). This percentage changes to over 90% (10-1) in the playoffs (since the current hybrid sudden death rule went into effect). The disparity probably results from playoff teams being generally better and having better offenses.

So what else can be done to change the rules? I've already expressed my distaste for proposals to implement college overtime rules. I'm not going to rehash that here, since that isn't what the NFL is doing. Other proposals include making overtime an extension of the 4th quarter, which just gives an overwhelming advantage to the team who possesses the ball at the end of the 4th quarter, and removes any pressure for that team to execute in the final minute or so. Or maybe overtime should just be decided by a field goal shootout? Just take the offenses and defenses out of the equation entirely, and let the kickers decide the winner!

Really though, the NFL's new rule still doesn't solve the underlying problem: which is the coin flip. Now, if both offenses score, the game still goes into sudden death, and the team that gets the tie-breaking 3rd possession was still determined by the coin toss. In that Chiefs vs Bills Divisional Playoff game, even if the Bills had scored a TD to match the Chiefs in overtime, the Chiefs would still get the ball next, and it would be sudden death. The Chiefs would probably still win against a tired Bills defense that was completely incapable of stopping them. The game would just go on longer, the defenses would be even more tired, and the risk of injury would be greater. So here's my proposal:

I propose the NFL get rid of coin tosses.

Get rid of the coin toss

I think the NFL should go back to having sudden death overtime, and should get rid of the coin toss entirely. Instead of having a coin toss, the visiting team should just be able to chose whether it wants to receive the opening kickoff, and the home team should be able to chose whether they want to receive the overtime kickoff. This might sound unfair, but the idea here is to remove a coin toss from the equation, and make the opening possession of overtime become a part of a team's home-field advantage.

In regular season games, teams play half their games at home -- or at least they do over a 2-year average, since the NFL added a 17th game to the schedule. This means each team will have a 50/50 change of getting the opening possession in regular season overtimes, so it's fair. In the post-season, the home team is determined by playoff seeding, which is a function of the teams' regular season records. The team with the better regular season record gets homefield in a playoff matchup. This means that getting the opening kickoff in a playoff overtime will be a privilege that the home team will have earned by having the better record (or the seeding tie-breaker).

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Friday, January 7, 2022 05:30 PM

Should the NFL allow teams to force a tie?

in Sports by MegaBearsFan
NFL

This weekend could see an interesting possibility occur in the NFL. It's the final week of the regular season, and the schedule has been set in a way in which the best outcome for both teams playing in the Sunday night game could be to just not play and force a tie. I'm not sure if this has ever happened in NFL history before, or if the NFL has any plans in place to prevent this from happening.

The Colts, Chargers, and Raiders all currently have 9 wins on the season, and are all competing for the last 2 AFC wildcard slots. The Steelers and Ravens sit on the fringe of eligibility with 8 wins each, and the Steelers already have a tie in their record. The schedule is such that the Colts play their game against the Jaguars in the early game, and the Ravens and Steelers also play each other in the early game (10 am for us on the west coast). The Chargers and Raiders game is then scheduled as the Sunday night game, which means that the outcome of both the Colts / Jaguars game and the Steelers / Ravens game will be known to the Chargers and the Raiders before their game kicks off.

Here's the crazy thing: in the unlikely event that the Colts lose their game, and the Ravens beat the Steelers, then the Colts, Ravens, Chargers, and Raiders will all have 9 wins prior to the Chargers and the Raiders playing their game. In that event, the Chargers and Raiders could effectively not play their Sunday night matchup, take the tie, and both would have 9 wins, 7 losses, 1 tie, while the Colts and Ravens would both have 9 wins, and 8 losses. The Chargers and Raiders would both have the same number of wins as the Colts and Ravens, but 1 fewer loss owing to the tie, and both would have better records than the Colts and Ravens. In that scenario, the Chargers and Raiders would both get those last 2 playoff spots, and the Colts and Ravens would be eliminated.

Could we see an NFL game in which both teams kneel the whole game to run out the clock?

If the Steelers win, they would also have the same record as the Chargers and Raiders (9-8-1), and I'm not sure who would win the tie-breakers in that case. It would come down to head-to-head matchups, division record, conference record, and then I think points for and against.

If the Colts and Steelers lose, the Chargers and Raiders could both agree to send out reserve players to simply kneel down every play and punt in order to run out the clock and take a 0-0 tie, and both have a guaranteed playoff berth. If they actually play the game, then the losing team will be eliminated from the playoffs due to tie-breakers, and the Colts or Ravens would get the final spot. We could potentially see a game in which both offenses simply kneel on the ball on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd downs, then punt to a returner who fair catches the punt. That could be the entire game.

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Chicago Bears alt logo

Even though I write frequently about the NFL and the Chicago Bears, I have (believe it or not) never been to a regular season NFL game. Living in Las Vegas, seeing an NFL game always required a road trip. My dad and I went to a few preseason games in Pheonix and San Diego when I was younger (I once saw Joe Montana play the first quarter of a preseason game with the Chiefs), but my dad is a public school teacher, the start of the NFL regular season always coincides with the start of the school year, and so road trips were impractical. So we had never been to a regular season game.

Until now.

I was public and outspoken about my misgivings regarding the financing of the Raiders' stadium in Las Vegas, and I vowed not to support the team. The Raiders were already getting unnecessary corporate welfare from the city of Las Vegas, so I wasn't going to be subsidizing them further with money from my pockets if proceeds from ticket sales weren't going back to the city of Las Vegas. In my opinion, a publicly-financed stadium should put proceeds from ticket sales into the city coffers, and I don't approve of any publicly-funded stadium that doesn't. Mark Davis is a multi-millionaire, and the Raiders are a multi-billion dollar entity; Davis and the Raiders should be able to pay to build their own damn stadium without handouts from taxpayers.

The situation with funding the stadium changed since, and I've softened my position on supporting the team and seeing events at the stadium. One exception that I always had was that I would be willing to shell out for a game if / when the Bears come to town. So I check the schedule when it's released in the spring to see if there's a home game against the Bears.

Sure enough, this year, there was a Bears game on the schedule, and it just happened to be on my birthday, no less!

I saw my first regular season NFL game. The Bears came to Vegas to play the Raiders on my birthday.
The Raiders have a mandatory vaccination policy for attendees, but I still masked-up as an added precaution.
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Chicago Bears alt logo

Last weekend's game between the Bears and the Browns was ugly. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields started the game in place of an injured Andy Dalton. We all knew that Fields would start eventually, but this was not the game to throw him to the sharks.

Just like I said at the end of preseason, the Bears' offensive line was completely unable to hold off an aggressive pass rush from the Browns. But it was far uglier than I think any of us thought it would be, as the Browns totaled 9 sacks of poor Justin Fields. I think we all hoped that his mobility would allow him to escape the pocket and make plays on the ground, but it did not pan out that way. Fields often looked timid while moving around, as if he was trying to force the ball downfield rather than let himself take off and run. This resulted in him being dragged down from behind several times, and taking a lot more hits than he should have.

Justin Fields sack
Photo by Associated Press
Justin Fields was sacked 9 times by the Browns, and couldn't move the ball at all.

The Bears' offense was completely incompetent. It wasn't just pass blocking and Fields. The running game wasn't very effective, and receivers were dropping more than their fair share of passes. The whole offense looked like it was completely overwhelmed and shell-shock -- not just Fields.

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Axis Football 21 - title

Axis Football is still a tough game to review. It's a very playable game that I support and recommend, but without Maximum Football to make Axis look better by comparison, it's a lot harder to overlook Axis' flaws, limitations, and lack of large-scale improvement. There's forward progress and noticeable changes, but still so many long-standing issues. The slow rate of progress is much more forgiveable than Madden, however, because the developers at Axis Games do not have access to hundreds of programmers and animators, or billions of dollars in cash. Progress is slow and steady, and that's pretty much all we can ask for given the company's limited resources.

If you're looking for a remarkably different game, then you'll be disappointed. Axis 21 feels largely identical to Axis 20, which felt largely identical to Axis 19 If you like Axis Football and are OK spending $30 to play more of it, then you'll get your money's worth.

Axis Football 2021 still looks and feels very similar to previous years.

Customization is the focus in 2021

The primary focus of development for Axis 21 seems to have been in its customization options. Previous iterations offered only limited options for customizing teams and uniforms, but Axis 21 has a much more extensive customization suite. Team uniforms and logos can be edited, and whole new uniforms can be created. Team playbooks and play-calling tendencies can be edited. Even the field is customizable.

About the only things that are missing from this customization suite are the ability to create or modify stadiums, and a playbook editor. Maybe we'll see those next year.

The customization suite is much more extensive this year.

This more advanced customization suite should hopefully draw in some of the crowd that got left in the dust when Maximum Football was canceled. If you're a fan of customizing teams and uniforms, and you haven't played Axis Football before, then 2021 might be the year to hop on the Axis Football bandwagon.

Another nice inclusion in this year's customization suite is the ability to update team rosters, which means I could modify my roster to match my roster from several seasons into Axis 20's Franchise Mode, instead of having to start over with the same initial roster that I've been using since 2018. It's a lot of work though to modify every player on my team (let alone the entire league), and I opted instead to just randomize my roster and go from there. Randomizing the roster is, I think, also a new feature in this year's game. I wish Axis would include the ability to import last year's Franchise rosters so that I can have a sense of continuity and progress between releases, without all the tedious busy-work on my end. Being able to import team customizations from year-to-year would also help reduce the prep work required by the user, and allow us to get right into enjoying the game.

Using the roster editor, I can re-create my team from last year, but it's a lot of busy-work.
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Grid Clock provided by trowaSoft.

A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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