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Kickoff starts at 20-yard line, emergency third QB highlight changes

The USFL will kick off its second season Saturday, and there will be new rules for Year 2. The first spring league to play a second season since the original USFL in the 1980s, the USFL has updated playing rules to make the game more exciting than its first season.

Here are some highlights of the new rules (and what the NFL does in comparison):

Kickoffs will start from the 20-yard line. Kicking team members must line up within one yard behind the 20 and must be stationary when the ball is kicked. Receiving teams must have a minimum of eight — and up to a maximum of nine — players lined up in the set-up zone (between their 30- and 40-yard lines).
Kickoffs out of bounds will be placed 30 yards from the spot of the kick — normally, the receiving team takes possession at the 50-yard line.
NFL: Kickoffs start from the 35-yard line with a running kickoff. Kicks out of bounds result in the receiving team getting the ball at their own 40-yard line (25 yards from the kickoff line if penalty is accepted).

Option to retain ball after scoring
Teams will have two options to retain possession of the ball after scoring. The first option will be a traditional onside kick attempt from the 20-yard line. The second will be running a “4th-and-12” play from their own 33-yard line. If the team makes a first down, it retains possession. If it fails to make a first down, then the opposing team takes over at the dead ball spot.
NFL: Onside kick attempt. No fourth-down conversion to retain possession.

Overtime shootout
Overtime remains a best of three-play shootout. The winner of a coin toss may choose to go on offense or defense first and the USFL Command Center will determine which side of the field will be used.
Each team’s offense will alternate possessions against the opposing defense from the 2-yard line. Each successful scoring attempt will receive two points. The team with the most points after three possessions wins. If the score is tied at the end of three possessions for each team, overtime advances to sudden death. Each team will get one possession and will continue until there is a winner.
NFL: Team that has possession and scores touchdown on initial possession wins (regular season). A field goal or punt results in other team getting possession with opportunity to win. In postseason, both teams get possession of ball.

Extra points
Scoring teams will have three options to attempt extra points. Teams will receive one point for a successful kick between the uprights snapped from the 15-yard line, two points for a successful scrimmage play from the 2-yard line, three points for a successful scrimmage play from the 10-yard line.
If the defense scores on an attempted try, it will be a 2-point score regardless of the try attempt.
Prior to the extra point, the scoring team cannot change its original option unless a timeout is used or the defense commits a foul prior to the snap.
NFL: Teams have option to kick extra point from 15-yard line or go for two-point conversion from 2-yard line.

Emergency third quarterback
Each team will carry an inactive emergency third quarterback. To ensure fairness, if he is activated and enters the game anytime in the first three quarters, the first two quarterbacks cannot reenter the game. If he enters in the 4th quarter, the original two quarterbacks may reenter.
NFL: Teams can not dress a third quarterback.

A ball fumbled forward from the field of play into the end zone and out of bounds will be returned to the spot of the fumble and the fumbling team retains possession.
NFL: A fumble out of the back of the end zone or out of bounds results in a turnover and change of possession.

Defensive pass interference
The penalty for defensive pass interference will mirror the NCAA rule with exceptions. First, a defender intentionally tackling a receiver beyond 15 yards would become a spot foul (determined by USFL Command Center).
The penalty will be a spot foul if it occurs 15 yards or less from the line of scrimmage or a 15-yard penalty from the line of scrimmage if the spot of the foul is beyond 15 yards.
NFL: All defensive pass interference penalties are spot fouls.


Heavy snow to hit Buffalo prior to NFL divisional round playoff game

The Buffalo Bills overcame both extreme winter weather and the seventh-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers to earn the opportunity to play host to the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes in the AFC divisional round on Sunday.

Mahomes will be experiencing his first true road playoff game in his career after playing his first 15 either at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City or in neutral site locations for the Super Bowl. He and the Bills will also be playing in frigid conditions once again this week.

A lake-effect snow warning is in place in Western New York, which includes Orchard Park where the Bills’ Highmark Stadium is located. That means Buffalo could receive one to three feet of snow while additional storming could run the total to over four feet. This warning is in place until Thursday at 7 p.m. ET, per Accuweather, Buffalo could receive snow fall through Saturday.

That means the game between the Chiefs and Bills, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, likely won’t be affected by falling snow, but the home team may struggle getting its players and coaches into the team facility for practices and meetings during the week. A week ago, New York governor Kathy Hocul issued a travel ban during the storms a week ago, but there isn’t one in place currently.

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“We’ve got a plan in place to make sure we’re getting the players in at the right time, as well as the staff, and trying to be on top of that from a scheduling standpoint,” McDermott said on Tuesday, per The Associated Press. “So we’ll handle it. Confident in that. And the best thing we can do right now is just have great communication around it for right now.”