The NFL approved two rule changes that will be in effect for 2016 on an experimental basis.
One is the automatic ejection of players who commit two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. This encompasses such things as fighting or using abusive language towards another player. This would be the equivalent of a “yellow card” in soccer.
According to research, this rule only would have come into effect twice during the 2015 season so it is likely to have minimal impact.
The experimental change that will effect what happens on the field is the placement of the football at the 25-yard line after a touchback on a kickoff. The thought process here is to further reduce the number of kickoff returns. The change will move up the “break even” point for bringing a kickoff out of the end zone by five yards, encouraging returners to take a knee more often.
It’s also a little bit of an advantage for the offense, as they will have better field position after a touchback.
The NFL has said that the kickoff is the most dangerous play in the game in terms of injuries and this is another step towards what many believe will be the elimination of the play.
However, some have theorized that the change might actually increase kickoff returns. With the touchback essentially being penalized five yards, more teams might try to hang some kickoffs up and drop them inside the five yard line, giving their coverage a chance to stop the returner short of the 25. Perhaps this is why the rule is experimental, so they can take a year to see what the effects are.