The National Football League more widely known as the NFL is the top professional football league in the United States of America. The NFL is extremely popular with the masses and is the most attended domestic sports league in the world!!
Boasting an average of over 67,000 spectators per game, per week.. and that’s not including those who watch from the comfort of their own home.
The SuperBowl, which is the end of season game between the two best teams of each conference, is said to be the most watched individual sporting event in the world!!
Now, not to confuse you ladies with European Football (Soccer, to those across the Atlantic) the two games couldn’t be more different! Apart from the term ‘football’ these two sports hold little similarities, although both are as equally entertaining!
Here at Girls Sport Talk, American Football is one of our favourites, and with its ever growing European popularity, we hope you ladies will join us in our admiration for the spectacle that is, NFL!
To the immediate eye, NFL is not the easiest to master, however the difficulty is more so in understanding the terminology and the plays that occur throughout. The sport was founded in Ohio in 1920, as The American Professional Football Association. In 1922 this name changed to what we know it as today.
Made up of 32 teams from across America, the league is divided into two conferences known as, the AFC (American Football Conference) and the NFC (National Football Conference). Each division is home to 16 teams, which are then divided again, into 4 sub divisions. Now let’s breakdown the basics of the game play…
The game is played on a grass or turf field measuring 120 yards long and 160 feet wide. The main objective is to move the oval shaped ball down the playing field, into the opposing team’s scoring zone, otherwise known as the End Zone!
The field is also marked with yardage lines. From the goal line, these are marked at ten-yard intervals, up to the 50-yard line, which is like the half way line in Football (Soccer).
The yardage after the 50 yard line then starts to descend in distance, for example.. (40, 30, 20, 10) until they reach the opposite goal line.
The distance and yardage in American Football is closely related to the “downs” system, which is a key element in understanding the game and will be explained shortly.
After the toss of a coin the game begins when one of the teams kick off to the other. The team on the receiving end must then catch the ball and advance as far up the field as possible without being tackled.
Like in Rugby, players can run with the ball, pass it to a team mate or kick the ball up field.
11 players from each team must be on the field at any given time, however each side has various specialised teams within the main squad, including Offence (Forwards), Defence (Defenders) and Special Teams which often include the kickers!
As we mentioned, the most complicated and confusing part of American Football is explaining the ‘downs’.
The term ‘down’ basically refers to a play of the ball, from the moment it’s picked up and then put down. The side’s offence team are given 4 downs (attempts at play) to move 10 yards towards the end zone, where the points are scored. If they make the ten yards needed within four downs, they are given a new set of downs. This is known as “a first down”. If for any reason they don’t make the required ten yards, the other team’s offence takes possession of the ball.
Keep with us… We’re almost at the end of the complex part!
Repeatedly in NFL you will hear the phrase, “first and ten” this means that it’s the team’s first attempt at moving ten yards. Therefore for example, on the first play, if the team picks up 4 yards, the next play would then be referred to as.. ‘second and six’, because it is the second attempt of play with six yards remaining to get the first down.
The offence team can carry on moving the football down the field, however they must continue to pick up first downs to do so.
Once the team has advanced far enough up the field, the different ways of scoring can then come into play. A touchdown is worth 6 points and is achieved when the offence cross the goal line, either by touching the ball down or catching it in the end zone. 3 points are awarded for a field goal, which is achieved by kicking the ball through the vertical posts, known as the uprights.
Extra points can be given by kicking a ball through the uprights immediately after a touchdown, similar to a Rugby conversion, and by kicking the ball back into the end zone.
So, similar to this explanation, American Football can sometimes seem like it’s never ending, however that is all part of the appeal!!
The game consists of 4 quarters, lasting 15 minutes each with a 12 minute half time period. Play is stopped and started by the official when the ball goes out of play. There are also 3 additional time outs per half given to each team, this is what makes an NFL game seem so “stop-start” in its nature.
If the score is tied at the end of play there’s just enough time to go and grab another snack, as the final 15 minute sudden death overtime period then commences! NFL is thrilling, dramatic and very exciting, so if you can stick with it, you’re a winner too!