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Coin toss would remain important if OT rule is tweaked

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 20: Rex Burkhead #34 of the New England Patriots scores the game-winning touchdown to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime during the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Patriots defeated the Chiefs 37-31. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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If the NFL tweaks its overtime rule, guaranteeing both teams a possession, the coin toss would remain as important, if not more important.

As it stands now, the team winning the overtime coin toss has an obvious advantage. Score a touchdown, and the game is over without the other team ever seeing the ball in overtime.

As Michael David Smith wrote earlier today, since the overtime rule was changed for the 2011 postseason, eight playoff games have gone into overtime. Five were decided with a touchdown on the opening drive.

If the rule is changed to assure both teams a possession, the team winning the coin toss still would have a huge advantage. It would defer so it could see what it had to match to stay in the game or what it had to do to win the game.

It’s what college teams do in overtime when they win the coin toss, though the college overtime format obviously is different than the NFL’s.

In the NFL, 52.7 percent of teams winning the overtime coin toss (and receiving) win the game at some point in overtime, according to Ross Tucker of SiriusXM NFL Radio. In college football, the team that wins the coin toss (and defers) wins 54.9 percent of the time.

If the overtime rules had guaranteed both teams a possession Sunday, the Patriots would have deferred after winning the coin toss. If the Chiefs had scored a touchdown and kicked an extra point, the Patriots would have had the option of going for two to win the game. Or they could have kicked the PAT to send the game to sudden death overtime.

So a rules change wouldn’t change the importance of the coin toss.

The bottom line is: No overtime format is perfect. Nor will everyone agree on the best one. That’s why the NFL’s competition committee might choose to do nothing when it discusses its overtime rules.