LOS ANGELES - Regardless of whether you’re decked out in your best championship Chiefs gear or trudging around San Francisco gloomily after the 49ers’ loss, all football fans are generally bummed as they’re likely under the impression that it will be many months until the professional pigskin is picked back up again.
But things are different this year for one reason: The XFL is making a comeback.
First kicked off in 2001, the XFL has been revitalized with a new season starting this Saturday, Feb. 8. Eight brand new teams across the country will vie for gridiron glory during a 10-week regular season.
In the XFL, things are a tad faster, a lot bolder, and, generally speaking, there’s plenty of opportunity for excitement.
Before you gear up for the XFL’s debut, check out these key rulebook changes that separate the league from the NFL.
XFL kickoffs have shortened the difference between opposing players to just 5 yards, and except for the kicker and the receiver, neither team has the ability to move until the ball has been caught. After it’s been on the ground for three seconds, players are free to run, block and tackle as they please (or at least within the rules).
For teams that are receiving punts, if the ball goes into the endzone, they will get it back on their own 35-yard line. For punts that go out of bounds, the ball will be placed on the 35-yard line or where the ball left the field, depending on which is more advantageous for the receiving team. The punting team can’t cross the line of scrimmage until the ball itself has been kicked.
In essence, this makes it so the receiving team is more likely to return the ball and less likely to opt for a fair catch, so every punt has the potential for a memorable play.
In conventional football, fans are generally accustomed to only seeing teams lateraling the ball backwards in desperate, go-big-or-go-home situations. In the XFL, teams get the ability to throw TWO forward passes each play, just so long as that first pass doesn’t cross the line of scrimmage.
Yes, two passes. Each. Play. This is going to be insane.
Big Changes to Overtime
This may be the hardest concept for soon-to-be XFL fans to wrap their heads around, but could likely be one of the trademark differences between the league and any other type of football (and any other sport in general). In XFL overtime, teams get five, one-play possessions from the 5-yard line, with successful conversions counting for two points.
In overtime in one XFL game, Team A could score four times for eight additional points total and win, while Team B could score only twice for four additional points. In another overtime battle, Team C and Team D could go into eight or nine possessions until a team finally makes a conversion. All scenarios will be different, but none will be boring.
New Point After Touchdown Options (And None That Involve Kicking)
After an XFL team scores a touchdown, they’ll have three different options for scoring extra points. These are an offensive play from the 2-yard line for one point, a play from the 5-yard line for two points or a play from the 10-yard line for three points. Expect to see miraculous, 10-yard line miracles, and coaches and players reeling in regret after not opting for the safer, 2-yard line option.
Brace yourselves, it’s going to be exhilarating.
The XFL starts Saturday, Feb.8. Watch the Los Angeles Wildcats take on the Houston Roughnecks at 5 p.m. ET/ 2 p.m. PT on FOX.
This story was reported from Los Angeles. This station is owned by the FOX Corporation.