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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For years, I've been hearing people on sports talk radio say that "parlays are sucker bets". For those who don't know, a parlay is a group of multiple bets that all have to win in order for the ticket to pay out. If any pick on the ticket loses, then the whole ticket loses. The benefit is that if you do win, the odds multiply together for potentially large payouts. They are called "sucker bets" because the potential for large payouts leads casual gamblers to make more picks on one ticket hoping for larger payouts, which dramatically increases the risk of one pick losing and causing the entire ticket to lose.

Parlays are a "sucker's bet" because they lure gamblers
with promises of large payouts, but a single wrong pick
will invalidate the entire ticket.

I do parlay bets for college and NFL football every year. My local sportsbook (I live in Vegas, so there is a legal sportsbook in every suburb) has $2 parlay cards with a minimum of 3 or 4 picks per card, so I would often do between 5 and 6 of them for a total of $10 or $20 in bets per week. Not a lot of money; pretty casual gambling. I've never won any big parlays, and have been a little bit in the red every year (usually $50-$100 down by the end of the season). I do it for fun and to have some extra investment in the games that I watch. Since starting to track my winnings a few years ago, I've been hitting just above 50% on my individual picks, and winning back about 80% of my money.

Well last year, because of the disruption of COVID, my local sportsbook wasn't offering the usual $2 parlay cards. Instead, I had to start making regular bets off the board, at the counter. Unfortunately, these bets cost $5 minimum instead of $2, so my risk more than doubled. However, the minimum number of picks on a ticket decreased to 2 instead of 4. So in response to the higher cost, I started buying more tickets, but would only put 2 or 3 "safe" picks on a single ticket. Even though I ended up spending a lot more money each week ($50+), my winnings shot up from about 80% to almost 90%! Despite spending more money, I ended up losing far less overall because I would win back all my money almost every week by winning one or two of those 2 or 3-pick tickets.

So this year, after hearing sport talk radio hosts continue to refer to parlays as "sucker bets", I decided to double-down on last year's success. I started experimenting with direct money-line bets. A money-line bet is a single bet for which team wins. No point spread, no multiple picks per card. If the team I pick wins the game, I win the bet. Of course, the downside is that picking the favorite results in much lower payouts. A $10 bet might only win $5 or less if the winning team was favored by more than just a field goal.

But I've had pretty good success with this strategy this year. My winnings have once again shot up to almost 100% (meaning I've almost won back all the money I've bet), even though I've once again had to bet a lot more each week in order to pay for all these single-pick tickets.

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University of Nevada, Las Vegas

It's really weird to feel good about a team that is 0-6 on the season, but that is kind of how I feel about this 2021 UNLV football team. Their latest loss is a 4th quarter collapse against Utah State by a score of 28-24. UNLV seemed in control throughout almost the entire game until the 4th quarter. The offense was moving the ball with Charles Williams putting up over 200 yards rushing, and backup QB Cameron Friel was looking good -- up until about midway through the third quarter, when Utah State's defense tightened up, started keying entirely on the run, and UNLV couldn't move the ball. In the meantime, Utah State pivoted their offense more towards the run, and even though UNLV's defense had been stout against the run earlier in the game, they suddenly started giving up big plays on the ground.

I thought for sure that a Utah State comeback would be through the air. UNLV's zone defense had huge gaps between the linebackers and safeties, and Utah State's receivers were finding those soft spots all throughout the first half. UNLV either needed to soften their zone coverages, and let Utah State have the underneath throws, or they needed to switch to more man coverage. But I didn't really get to see whether either of those adjustments would make a difference, since Utah State focused so heavily on the run in the second half.

Utah State rushing TD
Photo credit: Steve Marcus, Las Vegas Sun.
UNLV had stuffed the run the entire first half, but Utah State powered through to win in the 4th.

This is the fourth game this season that UNLV has lost by one score, and the fifth game in which they've covered the point spread. Two of those games were against ranked opponents. Despite not having won a single game yet this year, this UNLV team is not getting blown out in the way that they have in years' past. I'm used to seeing scores like 45-20, in which the game is over by the start of the 4th quarter. This year though, UNLV has had a chance to win the game right up to the final drive. Despite the winless record, this feels like an improvement.

This leaves me in the confusing and frustrating position of wondering whether this 0-6 UNLV team is actually "good" -- or at least better than their 0-6 record would indicate.

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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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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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