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XFL vs NFL Rules; How They’ll Change the Game

The new XFL will be familiar in many ways. Same field, same positions on offense and defense, 4 downs to move the ball. It’s football, pure and simple.

But Oliver Luck and his team have been hard at work finding ways to refine the game. The stated goal is to create a faster paced league. In an NFL season that’s already seen a ridiculous uptick in penalties, a more streamlined style of play is more than welcome in the football world.

Achieving this goal is easier said than done, but it looks like the minds at the helm of the XFL have a solid plan in place to create such an environment. It seems every aspect of the game is under review here.

The Running Clock

Many outside observers of football, (usually soccer fans in my experience) note how the players “always stop” during the game. With the running clock, I think we will see a much more fast paced game as offenses try to get plays off. Play callers will have to completely change how they view time management.

With the exception of timeouts, the clock won’t stop before the two minute warning, so coaches won’t be able to rely on incomplete passes or out of bounds plays for most of the game. It will require them to make playcalling decisions much faster, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more scripted drives and no-huddle offenses.

Both of these options will help move the chains faster, and would require more rehearsed and cerebral play from offenses.

The two minute warning wrinkle is interesting as well, as the clock stops every play during this period at the end of each half. This is a great way to keep the action going, as teams with a lead won’t be able to take a knee and run out the clock.

Lateral Passes

According to the new rules, any pass behind the line of scrimmage is considered lateral. This opens up the possibility of double pass plays where the QB dumps it off to someone in the flat who could send the ball downfield. Coordinators could certainly take advantage of this if they have the right WR, especially one who played QB in high school or college.

While this opens up possibilities on offense, it’ll also speed up play. Since everything thrown behind the line is lateral, officials won’t have to burn time trying to figure out whether a pass was moving parallel to, backwards from or towards the line. Less stall, more ball.

Special Teams

The XFL is finding ways to make returns a viable part of the action again, in contrast to the NFL. Fair catches are not allowed, but coverage teams have to give the returner 5 yards of space to make a play. This rule has worked for years in the CFL and will bring more excitement to this phase of the game.

Kickoffs are also handled differently. The ball is placed all the way back on the 15, so touchbacks are unlikely. The league is also emphasizing player safety here, by barring coverage and return teams from moving until the ball is caught.

This way, players won’t be hitting each other at full tilt on each kickoff, and the return game will require more coordination and skill.

Extra Points

Rather than kicking for extra points or running two point conversions, teams will compete in a scrimmage after a touchdown. Here’s where it gets interesting.

If the offense takes the ball at the 2 yard line, they can score one point. If they choose to move further back to the 5 or 10, they can score two or three points respectively.

This adds some nuance to game management and situational football, as coaches can decide whether to gamble in a pinch or play it safe.

Overtime Rules

It seems like overtime rules in football are constantly in flux, from the NFL to the NCAA. In the new league, however ties will be decided by a shootout.

In a shootout, each team’s offense lines up at their opponent’s 5 yard line and has 5 attempts to score. While the offense can score a point on each play, the defense can also score if they get a turnover. Each offense lines up on their respective goal line at the same time, and they take turns making shots. Whoever has the most points by the end, wins the game.

This seems like a more fair option than letting a coin toss decide the odds, as each team has an equal chance to win the game in 10 plays of high intensity football.

It’s an intense, fast paced way to end games, and stadiums are going to be in a frenzy should a tie come about.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Dennis

    September 23, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    I would love to see the XFL adopt the rouge (also known as the single) from the CFL. Now the CFL’s endzone is 20 yards deep, which the returner must advance the ball out of the endzone to not give up the rouge (or single). I think in the XFL, you could use the redzone (on the kick return team side) for the same purpose where the kick returner must advance the ball out of the redzone to not give up a rouge (or single) only if the kicker does not kick it into or out of the endzone.

  2. Matt

    September 24, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    You mentioned the clock stopping after the 2 minute warning but forgot to mention that the clock stops after every play within that 2 minutes. No more victory formation, which is one of the worst things about the NFL. Watching a QB kneel 3 straight times and burn almost 2 minutes is dumb.

    • Matthew Nagashima

      September 24, 2019 at 4:33 pm

      That’s a great point! The end of games are going to be way more competitive this way.

      updated the article to include this

    • AK

      October 15, 2019 at 9:53 am

      Is it the worth thing to watch in the NFL when it’s your team doing it, rather than risking running plays, losing the ball, and perhaps losing the game?

  3. Ian

    September 25, 2019 at 11:27 am

    Kickass! That’s some good insight. Makes me much more curious to check out the XFL.

  4. Abe W

    September 25, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    Teams are rarely going to go for 1 unless they run a spread option attack. Passing from the 5 is a much easier pass as it spreads out the defense more because of dives for the pylon.

    The 5 yard space rule ends the onsides kick, which is probably fine. You don’t want to break players. Plus, you should have won by now.

    The final two minutes of the halfs are going to be arguably a whole quarter of football, between the two of them. The no clock stoppages are going to be almost a minus full quarter of football, between them all. Prolific passers are going to see more play because the incompletes don’t matter for TOP.

    Time Outs are going to be used almost specifically to decide on scripted drives from unusual turnovers, breathers, or substitutions. Icing the kicker statistically does not help.

    Super-excited to see kickoff return formations. The rules here are vague about where the coverage and return team lines up at and on-sides kick minimum (line up at the 15? Up to the 25, which would be probably better? Minimum recovery for coverage the 40?) This is a very, very important detail for coaches to learn right now! Or, are on-sides even possible? (coverage team just ends the ball, punt style?)

    Should you increase the field goal to 4 points, because a touchdown can be worth 9?

    IF YOU KICK IT OUT OF BOUNDS ON THE KICKOFF, IS IT STILL THE 35?

    SO MANY QUESTIONS!

  5. AK

    October 15, 2019 at 9:54 am

    “Kickoffs are also handled differently. The ball is placed all the way back on the 15, so touchbacks are unlikely. The league is also emphasizing player safety here, by barring coverage and return teams from moving until the ball is caught.”

    This does nothing but promote to an unsafe game. You mentioned that player safety is a top priority, but this is clearly the opposite. The kickoffs are the most dangerous plays on the field, and by going back to the 15, you’re promoting to the dangers that it brings.

    • Ryan

      October 15, 2019 at 5:11 pm

      That’s fine. Thats why NFL ratings are tanking. The players know what they are getting into. The sport is inherently dangerous. The danger is part of what makes it exciting. Who doesn’t holler and yell when there is a big hit.

      Another reason I stopped watching NFL is because damn near every play there is a flag thrown and sometimes multiple flags where they have to take a TV timeout to let the refs sort it all out. Then the refs don’t give a great explanation and you are just supposed to accept it. That gets old real quick. I hope the XFL can minimize this as well.

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