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2022 NFL Rulebook changes to keep an eye on

It’s not a long list

As the local “guy who cares way, waaaaaaay too much about the rules,” I feel it’s my duty to get fans of the Buffalo Bills prepared for the ever-evolving rules of the NFL. I’ve described the book as “encyclopedic” and “voluminous” in nature. Put it all together and it can be tough to keep everything straight. For the record, I don’t even have it all memorized—frequently checking and double-checking the text for articles. Let’s check out what’ll be new for the 2022 season.

Last season, I divided the rule changes into actual changes in the text of the rules and “points of emphasis”—which are more akin to changes in how enforcement is carried out. Taunting was last season’s point of emphasis, for context. There are only two rule changes this year and pretty simple points of clarification (which is the new name for points of emphasis).

Rule Changes

The first one isn’t even a change. In 2021 the NFL wanted to try a change to the kickoff formation. This was adopted as a permanent change this season. There’s no point retyping so here’s my explanation from a year ago:

For kickoff formations, during a free kick things are getting pretty proscribed. The league created what’s called the “setup zone” for the receiving team. This zone starts ten yards away from where the ball is teed, and 25 yards away for a 15-yard zone. The league used to require at least eight players here, with no maximum number set. Now the maximum is set at nine players in this zone.

The second rule change might end up being called the “Josh Allen Rule.” Though to be accurate, it was proposed by the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts. This rule changes postseason overtime rules and (mostly) guarantees both teams will receive the ball for at least one possession.

At its heart, this is pretty straightforward. The team with first possession in overtime no longer can win right away with a touchdown. If that team scores, the opponent gets a possession. Whoever has the higher score after both teams have the ball is the winner (this includes a defensive touchdown off turnover). If the game is still tied, it goes to sudden death.

There is still one way to win right out of the gate though. The team that kicks off to begin overtime can end the game by recording a safety.

Short and sweet this year. Let me know if there are any lingering questions/concerns in the comments.

Points of Clarification

The current winds are indicating that illegal contact and roughing the passer are this year’s points of clarification. Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking; “Great, just what we need. Way more flags.” You’re only half right.

The NFL felt there was a sizable drop in illegal contact flags last season. Officials have reportedly been asked to move their eyes faster from the point of contact to the quarterback to call this one correctly. Will this mean they go up? It’s very well possible.

However illegal contact, holding, and defensive pass interference have a lot of overlap when it comes to the rules. It’s possible this could lead to a straight up increase in penalties. It could also be a case of shifting flags. Specifically, we might see more illegal contact, but less of the other two as officials shift their attention differently.

When it comes to roughing, the Competition Committee apparently felt that they needed to remind the officiating teams that contact to the head/neck area or below the knees must be “forcible” and that some flags last season didn’t meet that criteria. This SHOULD lead to a reduction, but we’ll have to see.

ESPN has more info, including some good numbers to take a look at for those so inclined.