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NFL overtime is officially shortened to 10 minutes. Does it matter?

The NFL owners voted on the change due to concerns for player safety, but it’s unlikely to have a big impact.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

NFL owners voted Tuesday to approve a change to the overtime rules, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Starting with the 2017 season, overtime periods in regular season games will be shortened from 15 minutes to 10 minutes.

This proposal was originally presented at the owners’ meetings in March, but it was tabled.

Why did the NFL vote to shorten overtime?

The driving force behind the rule change is the idea that shortening overtime would be better for player health and safety.

The turnaround time for players between a Sunday game and Thursday Night Football is a challenge. The NFL’s competition committee recommended this rule change to make it easier for players to recover over that short span before a Thursday night game.

"First of all, the number of plays that these guys play, then take that to the next week, is really a competitive disadvantage,” Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said in March. “Guys get worn out. It's hard to recover from one week to the next.”

Still, it’s unlikely to have a significant impact. If the NFL really wanted to make the game safer, it’d get rid of Thursday Night Football and give players some more time to recover the week before.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin supported the rule change at the last owners meeting.

“So obviously we want to have clarity in terms of the victor, but if we can reduce that amount of time and get out of the stadium, and doing so with fewer snaps, I think that is beneficial to both teams, regardless of outcome.”

However, ESPN research projected that shorter overtime would only cut down on the number of plays by .06 percent next season.

Will this mean more ties in the NFL?

That question is up for debate.

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien doesn’t see it happening. He thinks teams will be more aggressive in overtime now.

“You may see more risk taking, maybe an onside kick to gain possession because you know you don't have as much time,” O’Brien said.

Based on recent history, the rule change would only apply to a small number of games. Less than 2 percent of all regular season games over the past five seasons have had an overtime period of longer than 10 minutes, accounting for 26.5 percent of all overtimes during that time.

Last year, two games ended in ties. The Cardinals and Seahawks played to a 6-6 tie in Week 7, and the Bengals and Washington drew, 27-27, in London.

Harbaugh agrees with O’Brien, and thinks that a 10-minute overtime is plenty of time to determine a sudden-death winner.

“Usually by 10 minutes it seems like everyone's just trying to survive the last five."

On the other hand, Saints quarterback Drew Brees isn’t as convinced.

“From what I see I would disagree with it because I think more games are going to end in ties now," Brees said on The Dan Patrick Show. "That additional five minutes, especially with the way the rules changed, to where in essence both teams get a possession, right? Unless somebody goes down and scores a touchdown right away. So I think what we already saw with the new rules of, if a field goal can't win it on the first possession, I think we've seen more ties.”

Instead, Brees is a fan of college overtime rules, where both teams get possession of the ball starting at the opponent’s 25-yard line.

“I think you’re reducing the number of plays, it’s exciting for fans, it’s situational football,” he said.

Are there any other concerns with the new rule?

There’s also the possibility that the team that wins the coin toss could try to hold on to the ball for 10 minutes before scoring a field goal to win as time expired. That places additional importance to the coin toss.

Even if teams are more aggressive in overtime like O’Brien suggested, it’s not impossible.

According to Pro Football Reference, there have been 36 total possessions since 1999 that lasted 10 or more minutes — 29 ending in a field goal, seven in a missed field goal.

What about OT during the preseason and postseason?

The rule change will be implemented in the preseason as well. For the playoffs, it will remain in the modified sudden-death format, where each team gets to possess the ball unless the team that receives the kickoff scores a touchdown on its opening possession.

We saw this in Super Bowl LI, which marked the first time a Super Bowl ever went to overtime. The Patriots were able to punch it into the end zone on their first possession in overtime to complete the historic comeback for a 34-28 victory.