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The National Football League (NFL) has, in many people’s view, supplanted baseball as “America’s Pastime.”  The debate of what is more popular College versus Pro Football shows no sign of getting any easier as both sports have a huge fan base throughout the country.

How the game is played

Football is played on a field that is 100 yards long by 53.33 (repeating of course) wide. There is an offense (team with the football) and a defense (team trying to get the football) with eleven players each for a total of 22.  The offense is provided 4 plays to advance the ball 10 yards.  If they are successful they get 4 more plays (First Down).  The goal for the offense is to score by either having the ball cross the goal line (6 points +1) or by kicking the ball through yellow uprights for a field goal (3 points).  The defense is tasked with stopping the offense from scoring by not allowing them a First Down or by taking the ball away from the offense through a fumble recovery or interception.

There are a myriad of rules in football and as such there are seven officials decked out in black and white stripes (commonly referred to as “zebras”) responsible for enforcing them.  There are tons of rules infractions such as holding, false start, offsides, neutral zone infraction, and pass interference.  If you know all of these infractions then you shouldn’t be on this site.  The officials do put forth their best effort, but officiating is only a part time job.  As big and powerful as the NFL is, one would think that they could hire some full time cronies, um, officials.

The game itself consists of four – 15 minute periods (quarters).  The team with the most points wins, duh.   In the event of a tie, the game goes into a 15 minute overtime and if the team that has the ball first scores a touchdown, the game is over.  If, however, that team only scores a field goal, then the other team gets a chance to score at a minimum a field goal (still tied up).  If both teams get a field goal on their first possession the next team to score wins.  If both teams are so inept that they can only muster field goals during the overtime then they keep playing until there is a winner.  Suck it Soccer and your nampy pampy fans!
 
The NFL consists of 32 teams and is broken down into two conferences, The American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC).  The two conferences are the result of a merger that happened many years ago in the heyday of the Leisure Suit.

Each Conference contains four cardinal divisions (North, South, East, West) with four teams each and is shown in the table below:

American Football Conference National Football Conference
East East
Buffalo Bills Dallas Cowboys
Miami Dolphins New York Giants
New England Patriots Philadelphia Eagles
New York Jets Washington Redskins
North North
Baltimore Ravens Chicago Bears
Cincinnati Bengals Detroit Lions
Cleveland Browns Green Bay Packers
Pittsburgh Steelers Minnesota Vikings
South South
Houston Texans Atlanta Falcons
Indianapolis Colts Carolina Panthers
Jacksonville Jaguars New Orleans Saints
Tennessee Titans Tampa Bay Buccaneers
West West
Denver Broncos Arizona Cardinals
Kansas City Chiefs St. Louis Rams
Oakland Raiders San Francisco 49ers
San Diego Chargers Seattle Seahawks

The regular season consists of 16 weekly games that encompasses 17 weeks and generally lasts from early September to the end of December.

Each division winner and two “Wild Card” teams from each conference make up the 12 team playoff.  The winner of each conference (Conference Champion) meet in the Superbowl (most watched television event) , which if I really need to explain this to you, I question that you are actually from this planet.

Send comments to: Pat@notasportsguy.com

Terminology:

Hike or Snap: the action of the center lineman giving the ball to the quarterback (or in some cases a running back).  He does this by handing the ball between his legs to the quarterback or by tossing the ball between his legs if the quarterback is standing a few steps behind the lineman (called shotgun).  This action marks the start of each play.
 
Fumble: when an offensive player carrying the football drops it to the ground.  At this point, any player may pick the ball up and advance it down the field.  If a defensive player is the one that gets the ball, his team then becomes the offense.
 
Interception: when a player on the defense catches a thrown ball intended for an offensive player.  If the defensive player intercepts the football, his team then becomes the offense.
 
Touchdown: a score in football when the ball crosses the plane of the defensive team’s end zone while in possession of a player on offense.  It is worth six points.
 
Field Goal: a score in football where a team kicks the football through the goal posts.  It is worth three points (not to be confused with a Point After Touchdown aka PAT or extra point)
 
Point after Touchdown (PAT or extra point): a point scored after a touchdown by kicking the ball through the goal posts.  After a touchdown, a team may attempt a PAT or try for a two point conversion.
 
Two Point Conversion: a two point score made after a touchdown where a team advances the ball from the three yard line to the end zone.  A team may alternatively attempt a PAT.

Offense:  The dudes with the ball that try to get the ball past the goal line or through the uprights

Defense: Dudes charged with stopping aforementioned offense from scoring.

Special Teams:  Not really a separate team, just a grouping of players put on the field when there is an upcoming change of possession (kickoff, punt, field goal).

Quarterback:  The defacto leader of the offense because the ball passes through his hands every play.  The quarterback is the most visible player on the field and generally has the biggest and most easily bruised ego.   The Quarterback will generally hand the ball to a running back or throw the ball to a myriad of players/positions (Running Back, Tight End, Wide Receiver, Tackle eligible lineman).

Tight end:  For the Ladies only…dude with a nice rear end.  The tight end is a hybrid player who is big enough to run block and nimble enough to get out in the open field and catch balls thrown from the quarterback.  The tight end usually lines up next to an offensive lineman in a three point stance.   In today’s  offense, the tight end is a valuable commodity.

Bye week:  A week that a team does not play a game.  For example, the NFL season is seventeen weeks long, but teams only play sixteen games because during one of the weeks, they will have a “bye.”