NFL Playoff Overtime Rules Explained

NFL Playoff Overtime Rules Explained


The NFL Playoffs have entered the conference championship round, which is sure to be a battle as the remaining four teams fight for a Super Bowl berth.

In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs will try to defend home field against the Buffalo Bills.

With the top four teams playing on, Sunday's conference championship games are expected to be neck-and-neck, as the Packers and Chiefs are both only favored by a field goal, according to FanDuel Sportsbook's NFL betting odds.

There's a chance these games will go into overtime, and there are some key changes to the extra period in the playoffs compared to the regular season. With that in mind, here are the NFL's playoff overtime rules, explained.

NFL Regular Season Overtime Rules

  • At the end of regulation, the referee will toss a coin to determine which team will possess the ball first in overtime. The visiting team captain will call the toss.
  • No more than one 10-minute period will follow a three-minute intermission. Each team must possess, or have the opportunity to possess, the ball. The exception: if the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown on the opening possession.
  • Sudden death play — where the game ends on any score (safety, field goal or touchdown) — continues until a winner is determined.
  • If the score is still tied at the end of the overtime period, the result of the game will be recorded as a tie.

These rules are what most fans are used to. There's just one overtime period, which lasts 10 minutes, and the game ends in a tie if neither team is leading after time expires.

If the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown, the game is over. But if they kick a field goal, the opposing team gets a chance to possess the ball. Sudden death takes place if both teams have had a chance to possess the ball, meaning any score wins the game.

However, these rules are tweaked in the playoffs.

NFL Playoffs Overtime Rules

  • If the score is still tied at the end of an overtime period — or if the second team’s initial possession has not ended — the teams will play another overtime period. Play will continue regardless of how many overtime periods are needed for a winner to be determined.
  • There will be a two-minute intermission between each overtime period. There will not be a halftime intermission after the second period.
  • The captain who lost the first overtime coin toss will either choose to possess the ball or select which goal his team will defend, unless the team that won the coin toss deferred that choice.
  • Each team gets three timeouts during a half.
  • The same timing rules that apply at the end of the second and fourth regulation periods also apply at the end of a second or fourth overtime period.
  • If there is still no winner at the end of a fourth overtime period, there will be another coin toss, and play will continue until a winner is declared.

In the playoffs, games do not end in ties. If the score is tied at the end of the 10-minute period, they will play as many OT periods as it takes to determine a winner.

Make sure to check out The Duel's picks and predictions for conference championship weekend.

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