NFL playoffs overtime rules: Explaining how the new OT format works in 2023 postseason


More overtime, please.

The Bills and Chiefs played one of the NFL’s all-time great games in the AFC divisional round last year, but there was a big problem: The people wanted more.

The Chiefs took advantage of an exhausted Bills defense and scored a touchdown on their first overtime possession, leading many to question the fairness of the NFL’s overtime structure. Well, the league felt the same way, apparently.

NFL owners voted to change the overtime rules for this year’s playoffs to make sure to satisfy everyone who had questions over the structure and format of the way overtime is played in the postseason. While some mavericks (like Steelers coach Mike Tomlin) wanted sudden-death rules back for overtime, some consider the new rules to be a bit more fair than a simple “coin flip.”

MORE: Full NFL playoff schedule for road to Super Bowl 57

Here’s how the playoff overtime rules will work for 2023:

NFL playoffs overtime rules 2023

Prior to the start of the 2022 season, the NFL amended the overtime rules for this year’s playoffs. The change largely came off the heels of the thrilling 2022 AFC divisional playoff game between the Chiefs and the Bills. 

Owners voted to change the rules this offseason. Here’s how OT works for playoff games (NFL rulebook): 

  • Following an intermission of no more than three minutes after the end of the regular game, an extra period of 15 minutes shall commence.
  • Both teams must have the opportunity to possess the ball at least once during the extra period, unless the team kicking off to start the overtime period scores a safety on the receiving team’s initial possession, in which case the team that kicked off is the winner.
  • After each team has had an opportunity to possess the ball, if one team has more points than its opponent, it is the winner.
  • If the team that has the ball first does not score on its initial possession, or if the score is tied after each team has had a possession, the team next scoring by any method shall be the winner.
  • 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 in 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.

The bolded part is the most important thing, and the biggest change and difference from the regular season and pre-2022: Regardless of if the team who receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown, the other team is guaranteed a possession. 

The game is, however, over if a safety or defensive touchdown (pick 6, scoop-and-score) is scored. 

So if Team A scores a touchdown on its first overtime drive, then Team B has an opportunity to match. If the game is tied after both teams possess the ball once, then the next score wins.

MORE: NFL overtime history — The 12 playoff games that have gone to OT since 2010

NFL overtime rules for the regular season

This is how the overtime rules work for regular-season games: 

  • 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.
  • Each team gets two timeouts.
  • The point after try is not attempted if the game ends on a touchdown.
  • If the score is still tied at the end of the overtime period, the result of the game will be recorded as a tie.
  • There are no instant replay coach’s challenges; all reviews will be initiated by the replay official.

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