NFL Analysis: Onside Kicks the Way to Go in Playoffs?

| by Off The Record

With the 2011 NFL playoffs set to kick off this Saturday, let us not forget of the new NFL overtime rule changes that are now in play. Instead of the typical, and often scrutinized sudden death scenario, NFL playoff overtime games will now feature a new set of stipulations. Here is a quick breakdown so you can impress your buddies on Saturday:

Scenario 1: If the receiving team (Team A) returns the kick for a touchdown or drives down the field on their opening possession for 6… game over. If they turn the ball over during that opening drive and Team B puts any points on the board… game over.

Scenario 2: If, after receiving the kickoff, Team A is only able to manage a field goal on the drive, Team B will then have an opportunity to either extend or end the game. If Team B can put up 6, the game is over. If they can only manage to tie the game with a field goal, then the game will head into the traditional sudden death manner. If Team B fails to score at all, adios.

Scenario 3: Perhaps the most interesting scenario of all. If Team B decides to get a little sneaky they can elect the onsides kick. I would suggest not informing the receiving team of this prior to actually attempting it. At any rate, if they are able to recover the kick, it will count as a possession lost by the receiving team. Therefore, the recovering team will have the ability to settle for a field goal to win the game.

In a different twist, if the kickoff is received and Team A puts up points on the board…the ensuing kickoff should be paid attention to as well. Team A can then attempt an onsides kick to effectively end the game. If Team A has the balls to kick an onsides kick after scoring three on their opening possession, they would, in fact, end the game by recovering the attempt. Ballsy…but interesting. Keep in mind Team B wins the game with a touchdown if Team A only scores 3.

While I personally disagree with rule changes that only take effect in the post season, this will certainly provide a little added entertainment should any of the matchups head into bonus coverage. Not only will these changes alter the mentality heading into overtime, but it will certainly add a whole new dimension that coaches, players and even fans have not experienced… and they’re doing so on the highest stage.

I tend to think it only makes sense to attempt the onsides kick at the onset of overtime. If you think about it, there are very few overtime games that are 34-34 going into it. Typically, overtime games are a low scoring affair with struggling offenses or dominant defenses (however you want to look at it). So as a coach, you take the risk of kicking it onsides and trust your defense to hold them to only three. If they can, then you have four downs on every possession to pick up the 1st…eventually to either tie or win it with a touchdown. In the best case scenario, you don’t even put your defense on the field; recover the onsides kick and put the ball through the uprights for a good old fashion W in overtime. Keep in mind: Onsides kicks from David Akers are recovered 45% of the time by Philadelphia. That’s a good clip.

Stay Tuned and keep your eyes on the coach with the biggest set of overtime footballs.