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Five ways the XFL will differ from the NFL

New league announces new rules

XFL: DEC 16 Tampa Bay Vipers Mini-Camp Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the AAF firmly in the rear view of football history, the XFL is getting set to be the next and newest professional league to offer fans of the game a viewing option after the Super Bowl has crowned the NFL’s 2019-20 Champion.

New league’s bring more than just new teams and logos. Familiar faces will be suiting up, such as Aaron Murray who will quarterback for the Tampa Bay Vipers. Another feature of new leagues tends to be new rules, and potential ideas which could innovate the way football is played and viewed worldwide.

The XFL released five “Game Play Innovations” which will surely make the league’s version of the game a distinct one, and could potential leave NFL fans clamoring to see the biggest league of them all adopt some of these ideas.

Let’s break them down.

*All videos from XFL


The first thing that stood out to me was the alignment. Each team lined up five yards away from each other is intriguing, and has a stand-off feel to it sure to add some tension to the moments before the kick.

I kind of think of it as those moments when fighters come together for a pre-fight photo at weigh-in. Gums will be flapping and excitement will build in close games, especially late in the event.

Another interesting aspect is the fact there will be a return every time the ball is kicked off if executed properly.

Kickers aren’t allowed to kick the ball out of bounds or short of the 20-yard line, and breaking the rule will result in the opposing team starting at their own 45-yard line. No strategic advantage here to kicking away from a guy.

There is still the chance of a touchback, but it results in the receiving starting at their own 35-yard line. So when you factor in the fact kick coverage starts at the exact spot the touchback awards, it’s highly likely teams will take their chances to try and pin their opponents inside that mark.

Only draw back to the way the XFL is doing it, is no surprise onside kicks. A small sacrifice to implement the rest of these rules, but the idea that an onside kick could come at any time is a fun one on the rare occasion it comes into play with the NFL.

Through the league’s website, the XFL offered the following rationale for the way their kickoffs will be executed,

“In college football, kickoffs are only 6% of plays but lead to 21% of concussions. To eliminate the safety issues with kickoffs, the NCAA and NFL created more opportunities for touchbacks. The increase in touchbacks naturally leads to fewer returns which means fewer meaningful plays. The XFL’s proposed rule change will encourage more kick returns while making the play less dangerous by eliminating the 30-yard sprint to collision.”


Many Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans may be suffering from anxiety related to missed extra point tries by kicker. Well, Tampa Bay Vipers fans won’t have that problem.

Extra points used to be a prime time to go to the bathroom, grab a snack, or whatever you wanted to do between the touchdown and ensuing kickoff. The NFL changed that with the adoption of a longer kick for extra points.

The XFL is seeing the NFL’s idea, and raising them some exciting possibilities. If your team is down 18 in the fourth quarter, usually the game is over. Not in the XFL.

With the adoption of one, two and three point tries after touchdowns, one big play can turn into a nine point swing in the blink of an eye.

Very cool. On paper. We’ll see how it plays out.

The XFL’s website offered the following explanation behind the creation of the way they’ll do post-touchdown bonuses.

“The NFL has a near automatic play with its extra-point kick. The XFL has created excitement by replacing a kick with a play from scrimmage. To provide even more excitement, we have added the opportunity for a 3-point play, which means that an 18-point deficit is still a two-possession game. Fans have told the XFL that the 3-point play creates more strategy and innovation for the coaches.”


There should be a large amount of punts returned in the XFL compared to the NFL thanks to the new rules of this new league.

No aiming for the corner, and a 35-yard touchback spot all but eliminates the strategy of offense used to set up defense with field position. Instead, the special teams is going to have to earn their defense’s field position with solid coverage and tackling.

It should be fun. Someone call Devin Hester and see if he wants to field punts again.

Again, through the XFL website,

“Fans told the XFL that they didn’t like the amount of punts (specifically punts in an opponent’s territory) and how many punts did not have a return (47% ended in fair catch, out of bounds, or touchback). The XFL has instituted two rule changes to address these concerns: all out of bounds kicks create a touchback (Major to 35), and no punt-coverage players can release until the ball is kicked. This will create an average distance between the punt return and the nearest defender to 11 yards, vs. similar leagues of 6 yards, creating less reason to fair catch.

The XFL touchback changes will create less incentive for teams to punt in an opponent’s territory. In NFL and College, touchbacks go to the 20, so teams will risk less vs. the XFL on punts. Our coaches will be incentivized to go for it on 4th down because there is a higher likelihood of a positive punt return, and no ability to “pin” the receiving team with a coffin corner kick.”


A disciplined defense is a good defense. We’ve all seen the trick plays leading to wide-open receivers - or even quarterbacks - downfield waiting for a duck to land softly in their arms for an easy score. These things happen when a defender loses discipline and over pursues and initial play-action.

The XFL is doubling down on those overly-aggressive defenses and defenders by allowing one forward pass, which can then turn into a second forward pass, as long as the first one doesn't cross the line of scrimmage.

Here’s the XFL’s explanation behind the rule,

“The “Double Pass” is one of the most exciting plays in football and the XFL aims to add excitement while maintaining traditional football. The Double Forward Pass Behind the Line of Scrimmage updates the rules to make double passes less risky because the first pass may fall incomplete rather than becoming a fumbled lateral.”


You had me at, no ties. Nothing is worse than watching your favorite team fight for over four quarters against an opponent just to leave the field with a tie. No winners. No losers. Except everyone loses.

Or, you watch your team battle to a tie in regulation only to never have their offense step on the field to try and deliver a blow or counter their opponent. Talk about a sense of missed opportunity.

In the XFL, there will be a winner, and they’ll do it by adding just five plays to the game. Simultaneously reducing risk and ensuring a winner in every game.

NHL shootouts are some of my favorite parts of hockey, and this is the closest I can imagine a football league can get to replicating this.

Is it gimmicky? Maybe. But is it going to be fun to watch? I can just about guarantee it.

“NFL overtime can end in a tie and a team’s offense may never see the field. Overtime may also take up to 27 minutes to complete in the NFL. XFL overtime allows both teams to play offense, in under 10 minutes, and always has a winner.”

These some of the biggest changes to the game of football you’ll see when watching the XFL beginning in February. But there are plenty of other tweaks to the game the new league is putting in place for their inaugural campaign including changes to clock management, halftime, a new official on the field, replays, and more.

For the full run down, head to the XFL’s official webpage.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see what the XFL has to offer this February. Leave your thoughts on this and anything else XFL related down in the comments. And keep coming back to Bucs Nation as we bring you continued coverage of the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL!