The revival of Vince McMahon’s XFL looms just around the corner. The launch of this league is coming with a multitude of rule changes designed to innovate. Plua, these changes will push a faster pace of play with more action on the field. Or, as the league simply put it: “Less stall and more ball.”
While the league isn’t completely changing the sport, there are some new key rules that fans should know before the league kicks off. We’ll take you through all of them and explain what’s to come with these changes below.
In order to make kickoffs safer, the XFL has made radical changes. The kicker will start at the 25-yard line, but instead of lining up with him, members of the coverage team will be positioned at the opposite 35-yard line. The returning team will line up 5 yards apart on their 30-yard line with a returner positioned behind them. Players are able to move once the returner has touched the ball or three seconds after the ball has touched the ground.
The kicker must place the ball between the 20-yard line and endzone for the kick to be returnable. If the ball goes out of bounds or falls short of the 20, the kick is penalized as an illegal procedure and the ball is spotted on the kicking team’s 45-yard line. If the ball is downed in the endzone it is ruled as a major touchback and placed on the returning team’s 35-yard line.
Both the NFL and NCAA have faced controversy for years due to the high amount of concussions in the game. “In college football, kickoffs are only 6% of plays but lead to 21% of concussions,” according to the XFL. This is mainly due to the fact that players are running 30 yards down the field and slamming into each other. This rule change should ultimately limit the amount of danger players are put in during these types of plays while also encouraging a higher rate of kickoff returns.
Point-After Touchdown (PAT)
Scoring is also seeing a major change. While touchdowns still count for 6 points, teams will have three options for their PAT, none of which involve kicking. The scoring team can choose to run a play from either the 2, 5, or 10 yard-line, to score 1, 2, or 3 points respectively.
This rule change will challenge coaches with the risk-reward elements it offers. It’s also significant because trailing by 9 points becomes a one-possession game. This allows for teams to stay in the game longer, and should create an interesting dynamic when close games come down to the wire.
Aside from being safer, the XFL is also trying to set itself apart from the NFL with creative and unique rules. One rule that could heavily impact the way the game is played is the double-forward pass. If a team completes a forward pass but stays behind the line of scrimmage, that team is able to complete a second forward pass.
This rule shows the possibility to shake up the way offenses in the league execute. Expect to see offensive-minded coaches like Pep Hamilton and Marc Trestman innovating their playbooks and utilizing this rule to the fullest.
Punting will also seeing a major shakeup in order to prioritize player safety. In addition, the change should encourage teams to go for more 4th down conversions. Players on the punting team can not move past the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked. If the ball is kicked out of bounds, it will down either at the 35-yard line or where it went out of bounds. The return team will reap whichever benefits. If the ball is downed in the endzone, it is ruled a major touchback and placed at the 35-yard line.
Since punting will be riskier, expect teams to go for it on 4th down much more frequently. When a team does decide to punt, expect big returns. Fair catches are now incentivized due to how much space a returner will have when they catch the ball.
Here’s a fact: people hate ties. They aren’t exciting or fulfilling, and people have been calling for the NFL to have similar overtime rules to the NCAA. Instead of doing this, the XFL has gone a completely different direction in their approach and is instead doing something more akin to the NHL or MLS.
Overtimes will consist of a five-round shootout, where each team gets a single-possession play from the 5-yard line. Teams switch off until mathematical elimination. If teams remain tied after all five rounds then they continue in a sudden-death format.
Expect these overtimes to feature an incredibly fast-paced, with fans being able to see both teams play offensive and have a winner within 10 minutes.
Minor Rule Changes
- 25-second play clock: Compared to the NFL’s 40-second play clock.
- Comeback period: From the XFL, “On plays that end in the field of play, the game clock will be stopped until the ball has been spotted and 5 seconds have run off of the play clock.” This makes it so a team is unable to run the clock out until there is less than one minute remaining.
- Catches: Only one foot is needed inbounds to catch a ball. This aligns with the NCAA’s rules instead of the NFL.
- Running game clock: Game clock continues to run on incomplete passes, except in the final 2 minutes of each half.
- Timeouts: Each team will have only 2 timeouts per half.
- Replays: There will be no coach’s challenges, but all plays will be subject to review from a Replay Official, who will be stationed in a booth above the field.
- Halftime: Halftimes will be 10 minutes long.
For fans looking to fill the seven month void of the NFL’s offseason, the XFL might be the perfect option. With new rules meant to emphasize action and a faster game, the XFL tries to do everything it can to create an enjoyable experience for fans.
The XFL kicks off Feb. 8, at 2 p.m. ET, as the Seattle Dragons face Cardale Jones and the D.C. Defenders on ABC.