The NFL is testing a new rule in this year's Pro Bowl that might actually make the game worth watching.
The rule, announced Tuesday, is being presented as an alternative to onside kicks, and would help teams stage dramatic comebacks. It would be a supremely exciting addition to pro football, and would also make the game safer by limiting kickoffs. In other words, it'll probably never get the green light.
Here's a full breakdown of the test rule, per the NFL Operations website:
"Team A may elect to give Team B the ball at Team B’s 25-yard line, beginning a new series of downs with a first-and-10.
"Or, Team A may elect to take the ball at its own 25-yard line for a fourth-and-15 play.
"If Team A is successful in making a first down, Team A will maintain possession and a new series of downs will continue as normal.
"If Team A is unsuccessful in making a first down, the result will be a turnover on downs and Team B will take possession at the dead ball spot."
On top of eliminating kickoffs entirely, which is likely to become a permanent Pro Bowl staple, the rule would effectively let teams play make-it, take-it, if they can convert a long-shot gamble.
According to Brian Burke at Advanced Football Analytics, going for a 4th & 15 from your own 25-yard line is worth -2.5 expected points, which is not exactly a good-odds play. But, considering how aggressive coaches have been in recent years on fourth downs, including the Eagles' Doug Pederson, the mere option would probably lead to some interesting in-game choices.
The Broncos proposed a similar rule last offseason, though the Denver version of the rule would've allowed teams to attempt the 4th & 15 play from their own 35-yard line, rather than their own 25-yard line. The new rule makes the gamble even more intriguing, since the 25-yard line automatically places a team in field goal range.
The league's Competition Committee endorsed the Broncos' proposal last year, but owners voted it down, which is unfortunate. Hopefully, the fact that the league is testing the rule in a game, albeit the most meaningless game of the year, signals the idea isn't dead.
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