No One Wins in a Tie: NFL Overtime

Written by Daniel Bragg

The NFL Regular season is just two weeks old, and already there is a glaring problem.


Tie games aren’t anything new to the NFL, however.  Since the NFL instituted overtime rules for the regular season in 1974, the league has had 24 games total finish in ties.  It’s not until you break down the numbers by rules that the problem appears.

Overtime Rules History

From 1974 through 2011, when the NFL had a simple “sudden death” overtime rule, there were just 17 ties.  That’s less than 1 tie every 2 years.  Look even further, and only 4 of those ties happened AFTER 1989.  Then, the NFL decided that a “sudden death” system wasn’t fair, because there was no guarantee that both offenses would get a chance to seal the win, so in 2012 they changed the rule to allow for both teams to have one offensive possession.  Well, in the 4 years of that system, there were 5 games that resulted in a tie.  Then, in 2017 the owners agreed to change the rule further.  In an effort to cut down on injuries, the length of overtime would be shortened from a standard 15 minute period, to 10 minutes.

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Despite concerns that this new shorter period would result in more ties, there were none in 2017.  Well, that streak is over.

In 2 weeks of regular season football, fans have witnessed two tie finishes; Browns/Steelers in Week 1, Vikings/Packers in Week 2.  The most frustrating part about all this is that none of this is necessary.  The NFL knows what they could do about overtime.  They have a perfect blueprint staring them in the face.  College, high school, and even Canadian football know how to do it, yet the NFL still keeps trying to do it their own way.  It’s inexplicable.  What is to be gained from having a system that has a remote chance of resulting in essentially a no-contest?  Isn’t that contrary to what the NFL wants?


Absolutely no one is satisfied with a tie.  Even in soccer, a draw feels empty, but soccer points systems have more-or-less relieved that empty feeling.  In professional competition, everyone wants to leave the arena knowing who won and who lost.  It’s the competitor in all of us.  A massive part of every sports fan is the ability to brag about your team.  It’s not personal.  It’s sports.  Fans don’t get that when they see a game finish in a tie.  To make matters worse, both ties have been in heated divisional matchups.

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Take today’s tie between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers for instance.  It was a great rivalry that saw a GREAT game today.  One of those teams deserved to walk out of Lambeau Field as the winner, but the NFL rule book didn’t allow it.  Even Aaron Rodgers was quoted as saying “It’s better than having an L, but a tie doesn’t feel much better.”  He’s not wrong either.  Let’s also not forget that since this was a divisional game, that the result could likely cause a convoluted mess toward the end of the season when determining the winner of the NFC North.

I know that tie games don’t happen often in the NFL, and that worrying about this may be silly, but every time I see a game head into overtime, this is the worst case scenario.

It’s a scenario that is unnecessary.

It’s a scenario that should be avoided.

Most importantly, it’s a scenario that needs to go.

About the author

Daniel Bragg