The NFL heads into the third weekend of the 2018 season within touching distance of history it would rather not make.
With Weeks 1 and 2 both having seen thrilling ties, one more would see 2018 become the first year in which there have been three ties in a single season since overtime was adopted in 1974.
Ties are an outcome that prompt bemusement in the world of American sports. The NFL is the only one of the four major sporting leagues in which they are possible and when they occur they are regularly greeted with disdain.
Though a tie is treated as superior to a loss when it comes to the standings, there is still little in the way of benefit to either team when a game finishes even. And yet the NFL's overtime rules in their current guise increase the likelihood of ties.
The league in 2017 cut the length of the overtime period from 15 minutes to 10. Both teams have a chance to score, unless the team that wins the coin toss scores a touchdown on the first possession, but the reduced time in which they have to do it has proved key in the opening two weeks of the season as there have been ties between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, largely down to the failings of various kickers.
Minnesota and Cleveland have since parted with the kickers in question, Daniel Carlson and Zane Gonzalez, the latter having cost the Browns in their Week 2 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Yet no kicker can ever be without fault and, for a league that has suffered numerous public relations hits in recent times, it seems clear that the best course of action would be to remove the possibility of a result from which fans gain no pleasure and reduce the chances of engrossing contests being decided by one swing of the leg.
1971 - The last time there were ties in Week 1 and Week 2 of a #NFL season:— OptaJerry (@OptaJerry) September 17, 2018
Miami Dolphins 10 - Denver Broncos 10 (Sept. 19, 1971)
Los Angeles Rams 20 - Atlanta Falcons 20 (Sept. 26, 1971)
NFL coordinators are increasingly looking towards the college game for innovations to their gameplans, and the league would be wise to do the same and copy its overtime rules, which see each team given the ball on the 25-yard line in an untimed period that continues until a winner is determined. If the two teams are still tied after each team has had two possessions, they then must attempt a two-point conversion rather than an extra point after they score a touchdown.
Kickers can still decide a game, but in college the emphasis in overtime is firmly on the offense. The adoption of such rules in the NFL would be fitting as the league continues to trend towards more high-scoring affairs with recent player safety rule changes making defenses' jobs ever more difficult.
Introducing an overtime period that would keep players on the field for an undetermined period of time would appear to fly in the face of efforts to improve player safety. However, by abandoning the kick-off in overtime, the NFL would also be removing the play the league identified as the one that causes the most concussions.
That would appear to be a trade-off most players would accept given the collective dismissive attitude towards ties. Such a move would also make commercial sense for the NFL by keeping more television viewers glued to games that go into overtime for longer. Ties do nothing for the NFL and their removal from the league is long overdue. The NFL gets its future stars and an increasing number of plays from college, to eradicate the inconvenience of the tie, it should look to the same source.
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