How the NFL Rules Have Changed Over the Years

Founded on August 20, 1920 (nearing its 100th inaugural season), the National Football League (NFL) has its ups and downs–rules-wise. 

A bevvy of rule changes often had effects on both the game and the players. But for the NFL, can you imagine American football–or Super Bowl–if the rules had never changed at all?

Let us look at what changed in the league.

  • The catch rule

The catch rule was–historically–a convoluted rule that can easily confuse the players. In today’s rule, a catch can be completed by controlling the ball, getting two feet in bounds, and making a football move.

The player need not ‘survive the grounds,’ although if he falls butt-first, it is still considered a catch. If the receiver was pushed out of bounds through a defensive play and came down in bounds, the catch is counted.

  • The targeting rule

In 2018, a 15-yard penalty was implemented against players who intentionally lower his head to initiate contact using his helmet. The rule applies to all players on the field regardless of where he is or they are at on the field. 

The violation may also lead to an ejection, though the criteria for ejection are not cleared yet as of this writing. As such, players must come up with new tackling strategies. And speaking of removals, players can be ejected based on non-football acts other than the facemask infraction.

  • The kickoff rule

Considered as the most dangerous part of American football, the NFL Football Operations decided to introduce new kickoff rules. The primary goal is to minimize the dangers involved, including the numbers of players colliding at one another at full speed. 

In the most recent rules, there would be five players on each side of the ball (with at least two players outside the numbers and another two between the numbers and hash). Only three players are permitted to remain outside, but they cannot perform a wedge block. Running start is no longer allowed. Everyone must follow the no-blocking zone as well.

  • The horse-collar tackle rule

In protecting the players further, especially a defenceless receiver, the Roy Williams rule was introduced in 2005. Players have a habit of pulling down another player by grabbing the collar and producing avoidable injuries in the first place.

When a player is taken down in this way, the legs are trapped underneath in an undesirable angle. This may lead to potentially serious injuries from the neck down especially the spine and lower back. 

  • The PAT rule

PAT stands for point(s) after touchdown wherein if a team scores, they won’t be forced to perform a PAT. It means shortening a game since a PAT play would require at least three minutes of the game.

In connection, a player off the line of scrimmage is prohibited from running and jumping over the scrimmage line for blocking a PAT attempt or a field goal.

The defensive and offensive strategies are altered continuously to reflect the teams’ workaround when new changes are introduced. Likewise, there remains the fact that the NFL has become a more pass-friendly league.

The plays are also more specialized now wherein teams plan a game around a specific opponent on the field depending on his play or talent (specialized skill).

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NFL Week 10 Handicap Betting Preview – Sunday 13th November by @DarkDyson

My trip to Miami was a blast and my first live NFL experience was amazing! The Jets at Dolphins turned out to be an action packed, close game with a thrilling finish.

Thankfully the final score of a game, a 96 yard kick-off return, by rookie Kenyan Drake won the game for Miami. Their four point victory capped a brilliant day out for me and landed last week’s pick of Miami -3.5 at 1.94.

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I have found a couple of interesting picks this week, which should see my good form continue this evening.


Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Redskins – Fedex Field at 18:00

Washington Redskins…

The Redskins are currently 4-3-1 and three games off the red hot Cowboys in the NFC East. But this prime time division is the most equally balanced in the NFC, if not the entire NFL.

They still have a chance to claim a place in the post season playoffs. Even if the Cowboys go on to confirm their current status of number one seeds in the conference.

The Redskins have a multifaceted offence, which performs best when playing at home in Washington.

Even facing the fearsome Vikings defence this week Kirk Cousins and co, will be confident of claiming a vital fourth win of the season on Sunday.


Minnesota Vikings…

The Vikings started the season like a team on fire. Five straight wins so them being touted as potential Super Bowl contenders, not to mention getting crowned as the Team of ATL by everyone’s favourite NFL podcast crew.

However, since returning from their bye week the wheels have come flying off their early season hype train.

Three consecutive defeats have given their NFC North rivals all the encouragement they needed, in the race for the divisional title.

Plus, with two of those defeats coming against the limited quality of NFC North teams, Detroit and Chicago, the Vikings are in danger of total collapse.


Match up…

As mentioned the Redskins operate an impressive offence. They rank 19th in TDs per Game, 14th in Points per Game, 6th in 3rd Down Conversion, 4th in Yards per Game and 2nd in Yards per Play.

However, their main failing on offence is a critical one, they struggle badly when in the Redzone. They have so far converted just 40.62% of their visits to the 20 yard line into TDs. This really needs to improve if they want to go deep into the season.

Usually, leaving points on the field is a death knell to all team’s ambitions of winning any game. But this weekend the Redskins might just get away with it.

This is because they are facing a Vikings team which is almost completely devoid of any offence whatsoever.

They rank 26th or worse in virtually all main metrics and in the past three weeks. Plus, they have averaged just 12 Points per Game! When you add in the fact that they could only score 16 points at home against Detroit, one of the weakest Defences in the NFL, you get a vivid picture of how bad this offence really is.

Sam Bradford is not a bad QB. In fact he is pretty good, with a current rating of 99 putting him 7th in the NFL. But, he simply has nothing to work with and very poor protection from his offensive line.

Bradford also ranks 7th in most sacked QBs and with Washington’s Defence ranking 6th in QB Sack’s per Game. He is in for another bruising afternoon on the Gridiron.

The Vikings did show a little more on offence at the end of their latest defeat, when going into a hurry up offence, this is clearly the best option for their limited players and it reduces the pressure & hits on their QB.

However, Washington have a solid defence. Which has only allowed an average of 21.57 Points per Game, since their opening day defeat against the Steelers.

Minnesota’s D should be able to keep the score down as usual but even 14 Redskin points could be enough to win this. That is why I am taking two bets in this match.


NFL Handicap Betting Pick: Washington Redskins -2.5 at 2.04 and Under 42 Points at 1.98 with Eastbridge

Finally, some RBs with a good chance of covering their lines this week are –

Jordan Howard on Over 70.5

Melvin Gordon on Over 87.5

LeVeon Bell on Over 84.5

David Johnson on Over 113.5 (Its a big line but still, it is against the 49ers)

Prices correct at the time of writing.

By @DarkDyson


Super Bowl 50 Handicap Betting Preview – Sun 7th Feb by @DarkDyson

Carolina Panthers v Denver Broncos – Levi’s Stadium at 23:30 live on Sky Sports 1

Finally, the wait is over and Super Bowl 50 will be kicking off in the early hours of Monday morning for those of us in Greenwich/European time zones. Unfortunately, I am not nearly as excited about this year’s Super Bowl as in recent seasons because this game simply looks like a mismatch to me.

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People often talk about how defence wins Championships and indeed it was Denver’s defence that got Peyton Manning to this final game of his career, at Super Bowl 50. Their performance against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game was something to behold, they hit Tom Brady a season high 20 times!

However, New England’s offensive line has been the most banged up all year and the line that got mauled by Denver a couple of weeks ago, has to be one of the worst in Conference Championship history.

Carolina’s offensive line is markedly better than New England’s and even with that woeful line, the Patriots were still able to rack up 336 Total Yards, compared to Denver’s 244. When you add into the mix Cam Newton at QB and the Panthers 2nd ranked rushing attack, it is difficult to see how the Broncos will be able to contain the league’s best offence for long enough to give Peyton a chance to get Denver on the scoreboard.

That is also notwithstanding the fact that Denver’s average offence (18th in Points Per Game), will be up against a Panthers D that ranks 6th in the league for both Opponent Points Per Game & Opponent Yards Per Game.



Peyton Manning and Cam Newton

So, basically I do not think that defence will win this Super Bowl, the Panthers are simply too good and deep on both sides of the ball and in almost every position to lose this game. Even Denver’s wrecking crew of Line Backers, Von Miller and Ware are almost matched by Kuechly and Davis. I would rate the Panther duo on par with the Broncos pair but for Davis’s broken arm.

The one key factor which could potentially swing the match towards John Elway’s team is experience, they have been to the Super Bowl as recently as two seasons ago and have numerous players, not least Peyton Manning who know how to handle the day.

But, will Cam Newton freeze on the biggest day of his NFL career so far, on the biggest stage in sports?

Based on what we know of and have seen from this seasons MVP, I would say it is highly unlikely/virtually impossible that he gets stage fright at Super Bowl 50. In fact I would even go as far as to say that, he is more likely to have his best game of the season on Sunday, than he is to choke.

Obviously, there is only one way I can be betting in Super Bowl 50 but to be honest, price on a spread which has moved quite a long way since the market opened is not great. The Panthers were available with -3.5, but now the spread is -5.5 and though that is not ideal, I expect them to win by at least 7 points.

For an interest elsewhere, I like the look of Cam Newton Over 38.5 Rushing Yards and Ted Ginn Junior Over 44.5 Receiving Yards. Good luck and enjoy the spectacle, if not what could be a very one sided game on Sunday night.

Handicap Betting Pick: Carolina Panthers -5.5 at 2.04 with Matchbook

Prices correct at the time of writing.

By @DarkDyson