As the 2019-20 NFL season comes to a close, fans will be clamoring for more football. They will get that, as the 2020 iteration of the XFL will be kicking off one week after Super Bowl LIV, on Saturday, February 8.
But how will the rules be different than the NFL?
According to a report from ESPN, the following differents will be in place:
- A kickoff designed to discourage touchbacks and increase the likelihood of a return: The ball will be kicked off from the 30-yard line, but the coverage and blocking teams will line up at the receiving team’s 35- and 30-yard lines, respectively. Only the kicker and returner can move until the ball is caught, or three seconds after it hits the ground. A touchback will be spotted at the 35-yard line. Kicks out of bounds will go to the 45-yard line.
- Players can’t leave the line of scrimmage on punts until after the kick. Any kicks that go into the end zone or out of bounds will be marked at the 35-yard line or wherever the ball went out of bounds, whichever is better for the receiving team. The idea is to discourage fair catches and “coffin corner” kicks while providing more incentive to go for it on fourth down.
- Three options after scoring a touchdown: a 1-point play from the 2-yard line, a 2-point play from the 3-yard line or a 3-point play from the 10-yard line. There is no option to kick an extra point.
- A shootout-style overtime: Each team will get five single-play possessions from the 5-yard line. If the game is still tied at that point, the rotating possessions will continue until there is a winner. The XFL hopes that overtimes will be rare, in part because of the multiple options for points after touchdowns.
- A rule that allows two forward passes on one play, providing the first doesn’t go past the line of scrimmage. The purpose is to encourage creative trick plays without the risk of losing possession of a lateral or backward pass, which is a live ball if it hits the ground.
- A requirement for only one foot to be in bounds for possession. XFL director of football operations Sam Schwartzstein said the change is easier to officiate quickly. It also is better for player safety, Schwartzstein said, because players take more unbraced falls while trying to place both feet in bounds.
- A total of nine officials on the field, one of whom will be dedicated solely to spotting the ball to minimize downtime between plays. XFL head of officiating Dean Blandino said most XFL officials have experience at the Division I college level. Blandino, the former NFL officiating chief, has been consulting with the XFL for more than a year. He performed a similar function for the Alliance of American Football (AAF) last spring.
- A video official who can intervene on significant non-reviewable plays when involving player safety, or on any calls inside of five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. There will also be booth-initiated reviews of traditionally reviewable plays using Hawk-Eye technology that ingests video directly from the broadcast truck.
- Allowing offensive linemen to be up to 2 yards downfield when a pass is thrown, with the hope of minimizing flags on run-pass option plays.
- A series of tweaks that the XFL hopes will cap game times at 2 hours, 45 minutes. (NFL games typically run about 3:06.) The tweaks include a running game clock that won’t stop after incomplete passes or when players go out of bounds, except inside of two minutes in each half. Additionally, there will be a 10-minute halftime, two timeouts per team per half and no coin tosses. The home team will always make the choice to kick, receive or defer to start the game. The visitors will make that choice to start overtime.
Here’s a video explanation of the new overtime rules:
I’ll be very intrigued to see how these new rules play out with regard to the flow of the game. One of the things that the XFL is trying to do is market to NFL fans who are not happy with certain things about the game. I’m an NFL fan and I think that this could be very interesting. Let the games begin!
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