Monday, January 05, 2009

My anecdotal evidence says: 'NFL Overtime sucks!'

It's NFL playoff time and that means the team/player/coach with the most heart, guts, ability to run the ball/stop said run will obviously win the Super Bowl.

It also means some games may go to overtime, as some teams are equally matched. This happened with San Diego/Indy over the weekend, a game in which the Chargers won after winning the coin flip.

This one instance means the coin flip sucks as a way to "decide who wins" an NFL game.

King me:

The overtime rule continues to be the dumbest, stupidest, most indefensible rule the NFL has on its books. Giving a coin flip more power than Tony Soprano has now deprived us of a satisfactory ending to two pivotal games this year -- Jets-Patriots in Week 11, when the Patriots and 401-yard passer Matt Cassel never saw the ball in overtime after a heroic fourth-quarter comeback, and Colts-Chargers, when we didn't get to see the NFL MVP even play in the fifth quarter because it was a one-possession overtime."

Oh how quickly we forget things that do not support our opinions. In week 16 the Giants and Panthers played a football match that proceeded to go into extra play. The Giants won the flip. Auto-win, right? Well they went three and out and punted. But so did Carolina. The second time around, the Giants win.

So the Giants won the flip and won the game, but both teams had a shot at it. Sounds fair to me.

That brings me to the enemy of anecdotes, mathematics (here, and elsewhere).

There have been 365 OT games from 1974 to 2003 (finding up-to-date stats was difficult). Seventy two percent of the time, teams have each had a possession. Fifty two percent of the time, teams that have won the flip have have won the game. Forty four percent of teams that have lost the flip have won the game, with five percent ending in a tie. Only 28% of teams have won the flip and driven to a score. It is unclear if that means directly scored, or, as in the Giants/Panthers case, simply scored and won the flip.

To me, 52 to 44 is a difference, but not a huge one. Plus, 365 games over thirty years isn't a very substantial sample size. There were 512 games played in 2008 alone, not including the playoffs.

Is it perfect? Obviously not. There are a number of solutions such as a timed OT period, not sudden death or using the idiotic college overtime system - in which teams start at the one-yard line and must only use linemen for quarterbacks.

But the coin flip isn't that bad - it just sticks out when teams who win it, win the game.

And for the record, I think pass interference is the "dumbest, stupidest, most indefensible rule the NFL has on its books."

That, or roughing the kicker. Those guys are wimps.

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