New Kickoff Rule Among the Major NFL Rules Changes

A Hybrid Kickoff Rule Is Among Owners-Approved New NFL Rule Changes

Hip-Drop Tackle Has Been Outlawed Heading Into the 2024 NFL Season

It wouldn’t be the offseason if not for some tinkering with the NFL’s kickoffs. But this time, the change is a major one.

The owners approved new rule changes and the one involving the kickoff will be hard to miss when the NFL season gets underway.

Teams will get to adjust to the new rules in place when the preseason games begin in August.

Twelve NFL teams had touchbacks on at least 80% of the kickoffs during the 2023 season so more emphasis could be placed on finding kickers who can send kickoffs into the end zone. When looking at the NFL betting odds, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers are favorites to win the Super Bowl after meeting in the most recent Super Bowl.

Here’s a look at some of the new rules or those that have been amended.

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Getting Their Kicks

With research indicating that kickoffs are among the plays resulting in the most concussion and head injuries that could impact players after their playing careers are over, the NFL has been trying to come up with the best solution.

So far the league has resisted outlawing kickoffs from the game. The kickoff’s spot has been changed with the hope of having more unreturnable kicks.

Now comes a huge change. The owners’ approved new rule changes highlighted a move to the hybrid kickoff rule as used by the XFL.

The coverage team can’t advance down the field until the kickoff is either fielded by the receiving team or touches the ground in the landing zone. That could limit the vicious collisions on kickoffs and also increase the possibility of big returns.

If the kickoff doesn’t land beyond the 20, the ball will be placed at the 40 (or 25 yards from the spot of the kick). And if the ball is kicked into the end zone on the fly and is not returned, the ball will be placed at the 30. If the ball hits the ground and rolls into the end zone without being returned, the drive will begin at the 20.

The rule is in place for just one year and it will be reevaluated in the 2025 meeting when owners approve new rule changes.

During the 2023 season, Dallas Cowboys led the NFL with nearly 90% of its kickoffs resulting in touchbacks. Houston had the highest yard-per-return average on kickoffs and also had two of the four kickoffs returned for touchdowns.

The 31 kickoff returns by the Green Bay Packers were the most during the 2023 season while the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams were tied with just nine kickoff returns.

With the NFL Draft coming up at the end of the month, perhaps teams will push players up the draft board if they offer the potential of huge plays on kickoff returns.

More Limitations for Tacklers

The hip-drop tackle has been outlawed in the NFL after it has caused injuries to some high-profile players.
Much like the roughing the passer calls that come with much scrutiny because it falls on the discretion of the officiating crew, there are concerns that the way the rule is written will cause more controversy.

What the league is trying to do away with is the technique when a defensive player comes from behind and puts all of his weight on the legs of the ball carrier. That has caused some season-ending injuries.

Those opposed to the rule now wonder where a player may hit a ball-carrying player.

It will be worth watching how frequently penalties are called on the hip-drop tackles in the preseason.

The debate will rage about how exactly defensive players tackle receivers, running backs, quarterbacks, and kick/punt returners. A game may even be decided on a late penalty on a hip-drop tackle. If these calls impact betting, specifically the payouts of NFL spreads, there will be more controversy.

Stay tuned.

Upon Further Review

There have been some adjustments to the plays that can be reviewed.

If a passer is down by contact or out of bounds before throwing the ball, it is considered to be a reviewable play.
If there is clear evidence that the game clock or play clock expired before the snap, it can also be reviewed.

Another adjustment comes in the postseason as teams will have unlimited numbers of players designated to return off injured reserve.

Also, the trading deadline has been moved to the Tuesday after the Week 9 games.

For NFL betting news, odds analysis, and more, visit Point Spreads Sports Magazine.

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