Most football fans in New York and across the globe felt that this year’s NFL’s Divisional Playoff round was one of the most thrilling slates of games the league has ever produced. Three of the four games were decided on the final kick of regulation, and the fourth was decided in overtime.
But the Bills-Chiefs game rekindled a discussion of the NFL’s overtime rule. Is the rule fair? Does the rule favor the team that wins a random event (the coin toss)? Even more importantly to us here: Does the NFL OT rule provide an opportunity for live sports bettors?
Again, on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game, four quarters weren’t enough. That game was decided in overtime when the Bengals kicked a field goal. Speculation on the fairness of the OT period is bound to increase this offseason.
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Does the NFL Overtime Rule Provide a Betting Opportunity?
If a game goes to overtime, is there a good opportunity to make money by betting on the team that wins the coin toss?
A simple examination of overtime trends in the playoffs is too narrow. We must look at how the NFL’s OT process has impacted games no matter when they’re played. Otherwise, we risk a failure of imagination. “That will never happen” and “It’s not a big deal because it doesn’t occur very often,” are not reasonable reactions to the OT controversy, and looking at only a handful of games in the playoffs won’t give us enough data.
First, while OT games may seem rare. As a possible outcome, they are well within the range of possibility in the majority of NFL games.
“In almost 66 percent of the NFL regular season games in 2017, the team trailing in the fourth quarter was within just one score of tying the game or taking the lead. Inevitably, with so many games so close, some will end with a tie score at the end of regulation.”
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NFL Overtime Scoring Scenarios
Since the NFL changed its OT rules in 2011, establishing the system teams play under currently, there have been 164 OT games, including the playoffs through this year’s conference championship games. Teams that happened to win the coin toss have a record of 86-68-10 in those OT games. That’s a .524 win percentage for the team that has the coin land in their favor.
But in playoff games — of which there have been 12, including one Super Bowl, go to overtime — it’s been a much different story. In those crucial games, the team that wins the coin toss is 10-2. The only teams to win the coin toss in the NFL Playoffs under the current NFL OT rules and lose the game were the New Orleans Saints in 2019, and the Chiefs on Sunday in the AFC title game.
Here are the basic facts about OT games (regular season and playoffs since the 2011-12 rules change):
- Coin-toss winner wins OT games 52% of the time.
- Coin-toss loser wins OT games 41% of the time.
- OT games end in a tie 7% of the time.
What happens after the coin toss in NFL OT games?
- Coin-toss winner scores on first possession in 19% of NFL OT games.
- Coin-toss winner has kicked a field goal in 35% of all OT games, winning those games 84% of the time. In those games, the coin-toss loser gets a chance to have the ball on offense.
- The coin-toss loser has a near-.500 record when it gets to touch the football, posting a 68-60-10 in those situations (49.2% winning).
How does the OT period impact the spread?
- Of course, in OT games there are only six possible outcomes for the spread: 9 points, 6 points, 5 points, 3 points, 2 points, or even (when a game ends in a tie). For our purposes, we’re only interested in the 154 OT games that have seen a winner/loser decide since the modern rules were implemented.
- The most common spread in OT games has been 3 points (77 percent of the time). This was the result on Sunday when the Bengals defeated the Chiefs on a field goal at Arrowhead Stadium to advance to the Super Bowl.
- The rarest OT spread is two points, which has happened twice.
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How Sports Bettors Can Capitalize on Overtime Games
Speculation on the NFL’s OT rules and whether they are fair or not is great fodder for debate and deep-dive data analysis. But more practically, this topic can be helpful for live sports betting in New York.
What is Live Sports Betting?
Live betting is when you place bets after a game has begun. In the NFL, live betting is frequently offered at the beginning of a quarter, or at halftime, and in some instances, you can live sports bet before each play or drive. Live sports betting is sometimes called in-game betting.
Live betting allows NFL fans to capitalize on odds that normally aren’t available. For example:
- Next team to score AND
- The live point spread, which constantly changes as circumstances of the game change
Since we know that in the majority of OT games the coin-toss winner scores before the other team, it’s a good bet to wager on that outcome in live betting. However, that bet is only supported by about 160 games and it’s only a small margin.