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How do the XFL rules differ from the NFL?

The XFL looks to up the pace and lower the dead ball time in their new league.

The official XFL game ball for the Tampa Bay Vipers during the XFL’s Vipers Minicamp on December 16, 2019 at Plant City Stadium in Plant City,FL. Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Now that we have to wait seven months for another NFL game, plenty of us addicts will want to see what the XFL is all about. Yes, the skill level plunges, but there is talent in the new league and plenty of interesting tweaks to the rules. Staunch NFL fans might not be too keen on big changes but there are some rules that the NFL could end up adopting if they work in the XFL and all told, they could make for a good product if we give them a chance.

The biggest changes are to help offenses and the pace of play, as the XFL wants to shorten games without sacrificing the number plays or scoring. Overall, the rules set up for a fast-paced game with teams going for it on fourth downs and field position always being better than you’d have in the NFL.

These teams won’t mesh as well as NFL teams do, as they’ve been thrown together and are learning new offenses quickly, but the rules should keep scoring opportunities high throughout the game. As you consider DFS and betting options at DraftKings, it is important to keep in mind how all of this will impact the flow of the game.

For a complete rundown of the new rulebook, check out the XFL’s lengthy breakdown. Here are some of the notable changes.

Game/Play Clock

There will be a “running game clock” outside of the last two minutes of each half. Basically, this means that if a player goes out of bounds, the clock will continue once the refs place the ball for the next play, not at the next snap.

There is a 25-second play clock compared to the NFL’s 40-second play clock. This change offsets the running game clock, pushing teams to play fast.

Unlike the NFL, the XFL also has a dedicated ball-spotting official to speed up ball placement and get the 25-second play-clock started again.


There will be no extra points scored by field goals. Teams will have three options to put up 1, 2, or 3 points after their six-point touchdown.

  • 1 point: Run a play from the 2-yard line
  • 2 points: Run a play from the 5-yard line
  • 3 points: Run a play from the 10-yard line

This rule is self-explanatory, but will no-doubt help teams come from behind, as a nine-point score is possible at any time.

Comeback Period

The XFL wants to up the drama in the last two-minutes of each half by slowing the game down and giving teams the ability to comeback with little time remaining.

  • On plays that end in the field of play in the final two minutes of each half, the game clock will be stopped until the ball has been spotted and 5 seconds have run off of the 25-second play clock.
  • On incomplete passes and out of bounds plays, the game clock will stop completely until the ball is snapped; whereas normally, there is a running game clock.


The new overtime rules are radically different than the NFL. There will be five rounds in which each team will get one play from the five-yard line to score. Teams will alternate scoring chances until there is no chance for a team to come from behind to win. If the game is still tied after the five rounds, the next team to score with their opponent failing to score, will be the winner.

  • Each score will be worth 2-points.


There will be no coaches’ challenges and all plays are reviewable by the replay official. They believe they can bring more common sense to the review process, which is probably true.

“Common Sense” rules

  • Receivers need just one foot in bounds instead of two.
  • Double forward pass allowed behind the line of scrimmage.
  • A lateral does not count as a fumble if the player drops the pitch.


  • The coverage team lines up on the return side 35-yard line and the return team lines up on the 30-yard line. Each team cannot move until the ball is caught by the returner.
  • If the ball is kicked into the end zone and is downed it is a “Major” touchback and the ball is placed at the return side 35-yard line.
  • If the ball bounces in bounds and then out of the end zone or is downed in the end zone, the ball is placed at the return side 15-yard line.
  • Out of bounds kicks and kicks that fall short of the 20-yard line will result in an illegal procedure penalty, taking the ball all the way out to the kicking team’s 45 yard line.

The XFL’s rationale for these new kickoff rules: With a goal to eliminate 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.


  • Punting team cannot release past the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked.
  • If the ball goes out of bounds inside the 35-yard line, it is a “Major” touchback and the ball goes to the 35-yard line.
  • If a punted ball lands in the opponent’s end zone or goes out of the end zone the result is a “Major” touchback, and the ball goes out to the 35-yard line.

The XFL’s rationale for these new punt rules: The XFL has instituted two rule changes to address concerns pm un-returned punts: 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. 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.