What percent of teams that win the coin toss win in overtime in the NFL?

Coin Toss Bias in the NFL

The NFL uses a sudden death format for overtime games, with the first team to score winning the game. Winning the coin toss gives a team the choice between kicking or receiving the ball and overwhelmingly the team decides to receive the ball in overtime, giving them the first chance to score and end the game.

Stats on Overtime Coin Tosses (1974-2003)


The NFL has had 325 overtime games since the rule was adopted in 1974. The results:
  • Both teams have had possession 235 times (72.3%).
  • The team that has won the toss has won 169 times (52.0%).
  • The team that has lost the toss has won 141 times (43.4%).
  • 223 games were decided by a field goal (68.6%).
  • 86 games were decided by a TD (26.5%).
  • One game was decided by a safety (0.3%).
  • There have been 15 ties (4.6%).

Source: NFL

*It seems fair but these numbers are somewhat misleading because in 1994 a rule changed moved the kickoff back 5 yards to the 30 yard line (those numbers were based on data from 1973-2003). Since then, it's been about 60%. Prior to the rule change, the coin toss had no predictive value for deciding who would eventually win the game. Since 1994, the coin flip winner has a clear advantage.