American Football An Introduction…

Written by Andy

 

Good day sports fans welcome again to The Sports Lab and today is a blog intended for sports fans who are looking to get into American Football.

I have spoken to several people who seem interested in American Football but don’t understand the rules and concepts of the game so today’s blog will be an introduction piece for them.

The history of American Football goes was back to 1869 when it first started and was actually modelled on rugby and football (soccer to the Americans) and was played in many college and universities in the first half of the 19th century.

So how does American Football work?

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Field and Players

Well the game is played on a field 360 by 160 feet (120.0 by 53.3 yards; 109.7 by 48.8 meters). The longer boundary lines are sidelines, while the shorter boundary lines are end lines. Sidelines and end lines are out of bounds. Near each end of the field is a goal line; they are 100 yards (91.4 m) apart. A scoring area called an end zone (the big colourful bit behind the goals with the home teams name) extends 10 yards (9.1 m) beyond each goal line to each end line. The end zone includes the goal line but not the end line. While the playing field is effectively flat, it is common for a field to be built with a slight crown—with the middle of the field higher than the sides—to allow water to drain from the field.

Yard lines cross the field every 5 yards (4.6 m), and are numbered every 10 yards from each goal line to the 50-yard line, or midfield. Two rows of short lines, known as inbounds lines or hash marks, run at 1-yard (91.4 cm) intervals perpendicular to the sidelines near the middle of the field. All plays start with the ball on or between the hash marks. Because of the arrangement of the lines, the field is occasionally referred to as a gridiron in a reference to the cooking grill with a similar pattern of lines.

At the back of each end zone are two goalposts (also called uprights) connected by a crossbar 10 feet (3.05 m) from the ground. For high skill levels, the posts are 18 feet 6 inches (5.64 m) apart. For lower skill levels, these are widened to 23 feet 4 inches (7.11 m).

Each team has 11 players on the field at a time. Usually there are many more players off the field (an NFL team has a limit of 53 players on its roster, 46 of whom can be dressed for a game). However, teams may substitute for any or all of their players during the breaks between plays. As a result, players have very specialized roles and are divided into three separate units: the offense, the defense and the special teams. It is rare for all team members to participate in a given game, as some roles have little utility beyond that of an injury substitute.

START OF HALVES

The game begins with a coin toss to determine which team will kick off to begin the game and which goal each team will defend. The options are presented again to start the second half; the choices for the first half do not automatically determine the start of the second half. The referee conducts the coin toss with the captains (or sometimes coaches) of the opposing teams. The team that wins the coin toss has three options:

  1. They may choose whether to kick or receive the opening kickoff.
  2. They may choose which goal to defend.
  3. They may choose to defer the first choice to the other team and have first choice to start the second half.

Whatever the first team chooses, the second team has the option on the other choice (for example, if the first team elects to receive at the start of the game, the second team can decide which goal to defend).

At the start of the second half, the options to kick, receive, or choose a goal to defend are presented to the captains again. The team which did not choose first to start the first half (or which deferred its privilege to choose first) now gets first choice of options.

GAME DURATION

A standard football game consists of four 15-minute quarters (12-minute quarters in high-school football and often shorter at lower levels), with a half-time intermission after the second quarter. Depending upon the level of competition, the duration of the half-time ranges from 10 to 20 minutes. At all levels, a down (play) that begins before time expires is allowed to continue until its completion, even after the clock reaches zero. The clock is also stopped after certain plays, therefore, a game can last considerably longer (often more than three hours in real time), and if a game is broadcast on television, TV timeouts are taken at certain intervals of the game to broadcast commercials outside of game action. If an NFL game is tied after four quarters, the teams play an additional period lasting up to 15 minutes. As of the 2012 season, if the first team with possession does not score a touchdown on the initial possession, the other team is given a possession. If the score is still tied after both teams have had a possession, then the old sudden death rules go into effect. In a regular-season NFL game, if neither team scores in overtime, the game is a tie. In an NFL playoff game, additional overtime periods are played, as needed, to determine a winner. College overtime rules are more complicated.

Advancing the ball

The team that takes possession of the ball (the offense) has four attempts, called downs, in which to advance the ball at least 10 yards toward their opponent’s (the defense‘s) end zone. When the offense succeeds in gaining at least 10 yards, it gets a first down, meaning the team starts a new set of four downs to gain yet another 10 yards or to score. If the offense fails to gain a first down (10 yards) after four downs, the other team gets possession of the ball at the point where the fourth down ended, beginning with their first down to advance the ball in the opposite direction.

Except at the beginning of halves and after scores, the ball is always put into play by a snap. Offensive players line up facing defensive players at the line of scrimmage (the position on the field where the play begins). One offensive player, the center, then passes (or “snaps”) the ball backwards between his legs to a teammate behind him, usually the quarterback.

Players can then advance the ball in two ways:

  1. By running with the ball, also known as rushing.
  2. By throwing the ball to a teammate, known as a pass or as passing the football. If the pass is thrown down-field, it is known as a forward pass. The forward pass is a key factor distinguishing American and Canadian football from other football sports. The offense can throw the ball forward only once during a down and only from behind the line of scrimmage. However, the ball can be handed-off to another player or thrown, pitched, or tossed sideways or backwards (a lateral pass) at any time.

A down ends, and the ball becomes dead, after any of the following:

  • The player with the ball is forced to the ground (a tackle) or has his forward progress halted by members of the other team (as determined by an official). For the next down a new line of scrimmage is fixed at this point in the field.
  • A forward pass flies beyond the dimensions of the field (out of bounds) or touches the ground before it is caught. This is known as an incomplete pass. The ball is returned to the most recent line of scrimmage for the next down.
  • The ball or the player with the ball goes out of bounds. The new line of scrimmage will be at the point where the ball went out of bounds.
  • A team scores.

Officials blow a whistle to notify players that the down is over.

Before each down, each team chooses a play, or coordinated movements and actions, that the players should follow on a down. Sometimes, downs themselves are referred to as “plays.”

CHANGE OF POSSESSION

The offense maintains possession of the ball unless one of the following things occurs:

  • The team fails to get a first down— i.e., in four downs they fail to move the ball past a line 10 yards ahead of where they got their last first down. The defensive team takes over the ball at the spot where the 4th-down play ends. A change of possession in this manner is commonly called a turnover on downs.
  • The offense scores a touchdown or field goal. The team that scored then kicks the ball to the other team in a special play called a kickoff.
  • The offense punts the ball to the defense. A punt is a kick in which a player drops the ball and kicks it before it hits the ground. Punts are nearly always made on fourth down, when the offensive team does not want to risk giving up the ball to the other team at its current spot on the field (through a failed attempt to make a first down) and feels it is too far from the other team’s goal post to attempt a field goal.
  • A defensive player catches a forward pass. This is called an interception, and the player who makes the interception can run with the ball until he is tackled, forced out of bounds, or scores.
  • An offensive player drops the ball (a fumble) and a defensive player picks it up. As with interceptions, a player recovering a fumble can run with the ball until tackled, forced out of bounds, or scoring. Passes that are thrown either backwards or parallel with the line of scrimmage (lateral passes) that are not caught do not cause the down to end as incomplete forward passes do; instead the ball is still live as if it had been fumbled. Lost fumbles and interceptions are together known as turnovers.
  • The offensive team misses a field goal attempt. The defensive team gets the ball at the spot where the previous play began (or, in the NFL, at the spot of the kick). If the unsuccessful kick was attempted from within 20 yards of the end zone, the other team gets the ball at its own 20 yard line (that is, 20 yards from the end zone). If a field goal is missed or blocked and the ball remains in the field of play, a defensive player may pick up the ball and attempt to advance it. In this last case, possession is awarded at the spot where the recovering player is ruled down.
  • (Rare) While in his own end zone, an offensive ball carrier is tackled, forced out of bounds, loses the ball out of bounds, or the offense commits certain fouls in the end zone. This fairly rare occurrence is called a safety.
  • (Rare) An offensive ball carrier fumbles the ball forward into the opposing end zone, and then the ball goes out of bounds. This rare occurrence leads to a touchback, with the ball going over to the opposing team at their 20 yard line (Note that touchbacks during non-offensive special teams plays, such as punts and kickoffs, are quite common).

SCORING

A team scores points by the following plays:
  • touchdown (TD) is worth 6 points. It is scored when a player runs the ball into or catches a pass in his opponent’s end zone. A touchdown is analogous to a try in rugby. Unlike rugby, a player does not have to touch the ball to the ground to score; a touchdown is scored any time a player has possession of the ball while any part of the ball is beyond the vertical plane created by the leading edge of the opponent’s goal line stripe (the stripe itself is a part of the end zone).
    • After a touchdown, the scoring team attempts a try (which is also analogous to the conversion in rugby). The ball is placed at the other team’s 3 yard line (the 2 yard line in the NFL). The team can attempt to kick it through the goalposts (over the crossbar and between the uprights) in the manner of a field goal for 1 point (an extra point or point-after touchdown (PAT), or run or pass it into the end zone in the manner of a touchdown for 2 points (a two-point conversion). In college football, if the defense intercepts or recovers a fumble during a one or two point conversion attempt and returns it to the opposing end zone, the defensive team is awarded the two points.
  • field goal (FG) is worth 3 points, and it is scored by kicking the ball through the goalposts defended by the opposition. Field goals may be place kicked (kicked when the ball is held vertically against the ground by a teammate) or drop kicked (extremely uncommon in the modern game due to the better accuracy of place kicks, with only two successful drop kicks in sixty-plus years in the NFL). A field goal is usually attempted on fourth down in lieu of a punt when the ball is close enough to the opponent’s goalposts; when there is little or no time left to otherwise score; or via a fair catch kick (also uncommon, due to the specific conditions under which it is legal).
  • (Rare) A safety, worth 2 points, is scored by the opposing team when the team in possession at the end of a down is responsible for the ball becoming dead behind its own goal line. For instance, a safety is scored by the defense if an offensive player is tackled, goes out of bounds, or fumbles the ball out of bounds in his own end zone. Safeties are relatively rare. Note that, though even more rare, the team initially on offense during a down can score a safety if a player of the original defense gains possession of the ball in front of his own goal line and then carries the ball or fumbles it into his own end zone where it becomes dead. However, if the ball becomes dead behind the goal line of the team in possession and its opponent is responsible for the ball being there (for instance, if the defense intercepts a forward pass in its own end zone and the ball becomes dead before the ball is advanced out of the end zone) it is a touchback: no points are scored and the team last in possession keeps possession with a first down at its own 20 yard line. In the extremely rare instance that a safety is scored on a try, it is worth only 1 point.

KICKOFFS AND FREE KICKS

Each half begins with a kickoff. Teams also kick off after scoring touchdowns and field goals. The ball is kicked using a kicking tee from the team’s own 35 yard line in the NFL (as of the 2011 season) and 30 yard line in college football (as of the 2007 season). The other team’s kick returner tries to catch the ball and advance it as far as possible. Where he is stopped is the point where the offense will begin its drive, or series of offensive plays. If the kick returner catches the ball in his own end zone, he can either run with the ball, or elect for a touchback by kneeling in the end zone, in which case the receiving team then starts its offensive drive from its own 20 yard line. A touchback also occurs when the kick goes out-of-bounds in the end zone. (Punts and turnovers in the end zone can also result in a touchback). A kickoff that goes out-of-bounds anywhere other than the end zone before being touched by the receiving team is a foul, and the ball will be placed within the hash marks of the yard line where it went out of bounds, or 30 yards from the kickoff spot, depending on which is more advantageous to the receiving team. Unlike with punts, once a kickoff goes 10 yards and the ball has hit the ground, it can be recovered by the kicking team. A team, especially one who is losing, can try to take advantage of this by attempting an onside kick.

After safeties, the team that gave up the points must free kick the ball to the other team from its own 20 yard line.

PENALTIES

Fouls (a type of rule violation) are punished with penalties against the offending team. Most penalties result in moving the football towards the offending team’s end zone. If the penalty would move the ball more than half the distance towards the offender’s end zone, the penalty becomes half the distance to the goal instead of its normal value.

Most penalties result in replaying the down. Some defensive penalties give the offense an automatic first down. Conversely, some offensive penalties result in loss of a down (loss of the right to repeat the down). If a penalty gives the offensive team enough yardage to gain a first down, they get a first down, as usual. The only penalty that results in points is if a team on offense commits certain fouls, such as holding, in its own end zone, which results in a safety.

If a foul occurs during a down (after the play has begun), the down is allowed to continue and an official throws a yellow penalty flag near the spot of the foul. When the down ends, the team that did not commit the foul has the option of accepting the penalty, or declining the penalty and accepting the result of the down.

Player Positions

OFFENSE

In American football, the offense is the side which is in possession of the ball. It is their job to advance the ball towards the opponent’s end zone to score points. Broadly speaking, the eleven players of the offense are broken into two groups: the five offensive linemen, whose primary job is to block, and the six backs and receivers whose primary job is advance the ball by means of either running with the ball or passing it. The backs and receivers are also commonly known as skill position players or as eligible ball carriers (offensive linemen are not normally eligible to advance the ball during each play).

The organization of the offense is strictly mandated by the rules; there must be at least seven players on the line of scrimmage and no more than four players (known collectively as “backs”) behind it on every play. The only players eligible to handle the ball during a normal play are the backs and the two players on the end of the line. The remaining players (known as “interior linemen”) are considered “ineligible”, and may only block. Within these strictures, however, creative coaches have developed a wide array of offensive formations to take advantage of different player skills and game situations.

The following positions are standard in nearly every game, though different teams will use different arrangements of them.

Center (C)
The center is the player who begins the play from scrimmage by snapping the ball to a back. As the name implies, the center usually plays in the middle of the offensive line, though some teams may employ an unbalanced line where the center is offset to one side or another. Like all offensive lineman, the center has the responsibility to block defensive players. The center often also has the responsibility to call out blocking assignments and make last second adjustments depending on the defensive alignment.
Offensive guard (G)
Two guards line up directly on either side of the center. Like all interior linemen, their function is to block on both running and passing plays. On some plays, rather than blocking straight ahead, a guard will “pull”, whereby the guard comes out of his position in line to lead block for a ball carrier, on plays known as “traps” (for inside runs), or “sweeps” (for outside runs), or “screens” (for passing plays)
Offensive tackle (T)
Two tackles play outside of the guards. Their role is primarily to block on both running and passing plays. The area from one tackle to the other is an area of “close line play” in which blocks from behind, which are prohibited elsewhere on the field, are allowed. For a right-handed quarterback, the left tackle is charged with protecting the quarterback from being hit from behind (known as his “blind side”), and this is usually the most skilled player on the offensive line. Like a guard, the tackle may have to “pull,” on a running play, when there is a tight end on his side.
Backs and Receivers

THE SIX BACKS AND RECEIVERS ARE THOSE THAT LINE UP OUTSIDE OR BEHIND THE OFFENSIVE LINE. THERE ARE FOUR MAIN POSITIONS IN THIS SET OF PLAYERS:

Quarterback (QB)
The quarterback is the player who receives the ball from the center to start the play. The most important position on the offensive side, the quarterback is usually responsible for receiving the play from the coaches on the sideline and communicating the play to the other offensive players in the huddle. The quarterback may need to make changes to the play at the line of scrimmage (known as an “audible”), depending on the defensive alignment. At the start of the play, the quarterback may be lined up in one of two positions. If he is positioned directly in contact with the center, and receive the ball via direct hand-to-hand pass, he is said to be “under center”. If he is lined up some distance behind the center, he is said to be “in the shotgun”. Upon receiving the snap, the quarterback has three basic options to advance the ball. He may run the ball himself, he may hand it to another eligible ball carrier to run with it, or he may execute a forward pass to a player downfield.
Running back (RB)
Running backs are players who line up behind the offensive line, who are in position to receive the ball from the quarterback and execute a rushing play. Anywhere from one to three running backs may be utilized on a play (or even none, a situation typically known as an “empty backfield”). Depending on where they line up, and what role they have, running backs come in several varieties. The “tailback” (or sometimes the “halfback”, though this term is somewhat archaic) is often a team’s primary ball carrier on rushing plays. They may also catch passes, often acting as a “checkdown” or “safety valve” when all other receivers on a pass play are covered. The “fullback” is often larger and stronger than the tailback, and acts primarily as a blocker, though the fullback may also be used for catching passes or for rushing as a tailback does. Fullbacks often line up closer to the line of scrimmage than tailbacks do, so they may block for them. A “wingback” or a “slotback” is a term for a running back who lines up behind the line of scrimmage outside the tackle or tight end on the side where positioned. Slotbacks are usually only found in certain offensive alignments, such as the flexbone formation. A similar position, known as the H-back, is actually considered a modification of the normal tight end position (see below).
Wide receiver (WR)
The wide receivers are pass-catching specialists. Their main job is to run pass routes and get open for a pass, although they are occasionally called on to block. Wide receivers generally line up split “wide” near the sidelines at the start of the play. Wide receivers, like running backs, come in different varieties depending on exactly where they line up. A wide receiver which is directly on the line of scrimmage is called a “split end”, and is counted among the seven required players on the line of scrimmage. A wide receiver which lines up behind the line (and thus counts as one of the four backs) is called the “flanker”. A wide receiver which lines up between the outermost wide receiver and the offensive line is said to be “in the slot” and is called the “slot receiver”.
Tight end (TE)
Tight ends play on either side of, and directly next to, the tackles. Tight ends are considered a hybrid player, something between a wide receiver and an offensive lineman. Because they play next to the other offensive lineman, they are frequently called on to block, especially on running plays. However, because they are eligible receivers, they may also catch passes. The position known as the H-back is a tight end who lines up behind the line of scrimmage, and is thus counted as one of the four “backs”, but otherwise his role is similar to that of other tight ends.
Depending on the style of offense the coaches have designed, the game situation, and the relative skill sets of the players, teams may run formations which contain any number of running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, so long as the mandated “four backs and seven on the line” rule is followed. For many years, the standard set consisted of the quarterback, two running backs (a tailback/halfback and a fullback), two wide receivers (a flanker and a split end) and a tight end. Modern teams show a wide variety of formations, from a “full house” formation with three running backs, two tight ends, and no wide receivers, to “spread” formations featuring four or five wide receivers, sometimes without any running backs.
DEFENSE
The defensive team or defense is the team that begins a play from scrimmage not in possession of the ball. The object of the defensive team is to prevent the other team from scoring. The defense accomplishes this by forcing the offense to turn the ball over, either by preventing them from achieving a first down and forcing a punt, or by forcing the offense to fumble or throw an interception.Unlike the offensive team, the rules do not restrict the defensive team into certain positions. A defensive player may line up anywhere on his side of the line of scrimmage and perform any legal action. Over time, however, defensive roles have become defined into three main sets of players, and several individual positions.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Like their offensive counterparts, defensive linemen line up directly on the line of scrimmage, close to the ball. There are two positions usually considered part of the defensive line:

Defensive tackle (DT);
Sometimes called a defensive guard, defensive tackles play at the center of the defensive line. Their function is to rush the passer (if they can get past the offensive linemen blocking them), and stop running plays directed at the middle of the line of scrimmage. A defensive tackle who lines up directly across from the ball (and therefore is almost nose-to-nose with the offense’s center) is often called anose tackle or nose guard. The nose tackle is most common in the 3-4 defense. Most defensive sets have one or two defensive tackles.
Defensive end (DE)
The two defensive ends play next to the defensive tackles, at the edges of the defensive line. Their function is to attack the passer or stop offensive runs to the outer edges of the line of scrimmage (most often referred to as “containment”). The faster of the two is usually placed on the right side of the defensive line (quarterback’s left) because that is a right-handed quarterback’s blind side.

Often, though not always, a defensive lineman will have his “hand(s) on the ground,” in a three- or four-point stance before the ball is snapped; this distinguishes his pre-snap stance from a linebacker, who begins in a two-point stance (i.e. without a hand touching the ground).

LINEBACKERS PLAY BEHIND THE DEFENSIVE LINE AND PERFORM VARIOUS DUTIES DEPENDING ON THE SITUATION, INCLUDING RUSHING THE PASSER, COVERING RECEIVERS, AND DEFENDING AGAINST THE RUN.

Middle linebacker (MLB)
Sometimes called the “inside linebacker” (especially in a 3-4 defense), and known colloquially as the “Mike” linebacker, the middle linebacker is often known as the “quarterback of the defense”, as they are frequently the primary defensive play callers and must react to a wide variety of situations. Middle linebackers must be capable of stopping running backs who make it past the defensive line, covering pass plays over the middle, and rushing the quarterback on blitz plays.
Outside linebacker (OLB)
Outside linebackers are given different names depending on their role and the philosophy of the team. Some teams keep their outside linebackers on the same side of the field at all times, and thus they are known as “right outside” (ROLB) and “left outside” (LOLB). Some teams define them by their role; as playing either “strongside” (SLB) or “weakside” (WLB). The strongside, or “Sam”, linebacker lines up on the same side as the offensive tight end and often is responsible for covering the tight end or running back on pass plays. The weakside, or “Will”, linebacker lines up on the side of the offensive line without a tight end, and is often used to rush, or blitz the quarterback, or may need to cover a running back on pass plays.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

DEFENSIVE BACKS, ALSO KNOWN AS THE “SECONDARY”, PLAY EITHER BEHIND THE LINEBACKERS OR SET TO THE OUTSIDE, NEAR THE SIDELINES. DEFENSIVE BACKS ARE PRIMARILY USED TO DEFEND AGAINST PASS PLAYS, BY COVERING WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS TO PREVENT THEM FROM CATCHING THE BALL, OR TO ATTEMPT TO INTERCEPT THE PASS FROM THE QUARTERBACK. DEFENSIVE BACKS ALSO ACT AS THE LAST LINE OF DEFENSE ON RUNNING PLAYS, AND NEED TO BE ABLE TO MAKE OPEN FIELD TACKLES, ESPECIALLY WHEN THE BALL CARRIER HAS GOTTEN PAST THE OTHER DEFENDERS. A NORMAL COMPLEMENT OF DEFENSIVE BACKS INCLUDES TWO CORNERBACKS AND TWO SAFETIES, THOUGH SPECIALTY DEFENSIVE BACKS (NICKELBACKS AND DIMEBACKS) CAN BE BROUGHT IN IN PLACE OF LINEBACKERS AND DEFENSIVE LINEMAN, WHEN THERE IS NEED TO COVER ADDITIONAL PASS RECEIVERS.

Cornerback (CB)
Typically two players primarily cover the wide receivers. Cornerbacks attempt to prevent successful quarterback passes by either swatting the airborne ball away from the receiver or by catching the pass themselves. In rushing situations, their job is to contain the runner, either by directing him back to the middle of the field to be tackled, by tackling him themselves, or by forcing him out of bounds.
Safety (S)
The safeties are the last line of defense (farthest from the line of scrimmage) and usually help the corners with deep-pass coverage. The strong safety (SS) is usually the larger and stronger of the two, providing extra protection against run plays by standing closer to the line of scrimmage, usually on the strong (tight end) side of the field. The free safety (FS) is usually the smaller and faster of the two, and is usually the deepest player on the defense, providing help on long pass plays.
Nickelback and Dimeback
In certain formations, the defense may remove a linebacker or a defensive lineman to bring in extra pass coverage in the form of extra defensive backs. A formation with five defensive backs is often called a “nickel” formation, and the fifth (extra) defensive back is called a “nickelback” after the U.S. nickel coin, a five-cent piece. By extension, a formation with a sixth defensive back is called a “dime package”, a 10-cent dime coin being “two nickels (nickelbacks).” Rarely, a team may employ seven or eight defensive backs on certain plays.

Defensive formations are often known by a numerical code indicating the number of players at each position. The two most common formations are the 3–4 defense and the 4–3 defense, where the first number refers to the number of defensive linemen, and the second number refers to the number of linebackers (the number of defensive backs can be inferred, since there should be eleven players on the field.) Thus, 3–4 defense will consist of three defensive linemen (usually a nose tackle and two defensive ends), four linebackers, and four defensive backs (two cornerbacks, a strong safety, and a free safety).

SPECIAL TEAMS

Special teams are units that are on the field during kicking plays. While many players who appear on offensive or defensive squads also play similar roles on special teams (offensive linemen to block, or defensive players to tackle) there are some specialist roles which are unique to the kicking game.

Kicker (K)
Also called the “placekicker”, he handles kickoffs and field goal attempts. Both situations require the kicker to kick the ball off of the ground, either from the hands of a “holder” or off of a “tee”. Some teams will employ two kickers, one for each role. Most however use a single kicker for both jobs, and rarely, the same player may also punt.
Holder (H)
Usually positioned 7-8 yards from the line of scrimmage, he holds the ball for the placekicker to kick. The holder is often a backup quarterback or a punter.
Long snapper (LS)
A specialized center who snaps the ball directly to the holder or punter. This player is usually distinct from the regular center, as the ball often has to be snapped much farther back on kicking plays.
Punter (P)
Punting requires the player to drop the ball from their hand and kick it from the air. It is done to relinquish possession to the defensive team. Punting is usually only done on fourth down.
Punt returner (PR) and Kick returner (KR)
Returners are responsible for catching kicked balls (either on kickoffs or punts) and running the ball back. These are usually the fastest players on a team. Teams may use the same player for both positions, or may have a separate returner for punts and for kickoffs.
Upback
A blocking back who lines up approximately 1-3 yards behind the line of scrimmage in punting situations. Because the punter plays so far back, the upback frequently makes the line calls and calls for the snap to be received by the punter. Their primary role is to act as the last line of defense for the punter. Upbacks may occasionally receive the snap instead of the punter on fake punts and normally runs the ball but may throw it. The term “upback” may also be used to identify the blocker directly in front of the kickoff return man. This player, usually a back-up running back, is selected for his ability to block well and — if needed — return the kick himself.
Gunner
A player on kickoffs and punts who specializes in running down the field very quickly in an attempt to tackle the kick returner or the punt returner. They usually line up near the sidelines where there will be fewer blockers and thus allow them to get down the field quickly.

Uniform numbering

In the NFL, ranges of uniform numbers are (usually) reserved for certain positions:
  • 1–19: Quarterbacks, punters and placekickers (by rule)
  • 20–49: Running backs and defensive backs (by rule)
  • 50–59: Centers and linebackers (by custom)
  • 60–79: Offensive guards and tackles (mandatory), defensive guards and tackles (by custom)
  • 10–19, 80–89: Wide receivers (by rule)
  • 80–89 (by rule), 40-49 (optional): Tight ends
  • 90–99: Defensive ends and linebackers (by custom)
  • Players who switch positions in their career can keep their number if they played their prior position for at least a year and move from a position that is eligible to receive passes to another eligible position, or if he is moving from one ineligible position to another ineligible position.

Players wearing numbers between 50 and 79 inclusive are ineligible to receive forward passes, unless they “report as eligible” to the official.

Basic Strategy

Because the game stops after every down, giving teams a chance to call a new play, strategy plays a major role in football. Each team has a playbook of dozens to hundreds of plays. Ideally, each play is a scripted, strategically sound team-coordinated endeavor. Some plays are very safe; they are likely to get only a few yards. Other plays have the potential for long gains but at a greater risk of a loss of yardage or a turnover.

Generally speaking, rushing plays are less risky than passing plays. However, there are relatively safe passing plays and risky running plays. To deceive the other team, some passing plays are designed to resemble running plays and vice versa. These are referred to as play-action passes and draws, respectively. There are many trick or gadget plays, such as when a team lines up as if it intends to punt and then tries to run or pass for a first down. Such high-risk plays are a great thrill to the fans when they work. However, they can spell disaster if the opposing team realizes the deception and acts accordingly.

The defense also plans plays in response to expectations of what the offense will do. For example, a “blitz” (using linebackers or defensive backs to charge the quarterback) is often attempted when the team on defense expects a pass. A blitz makes downfield passing more difficult but exposes the defense to big gains if the offensive line stems the rush.

Many hours of preparation and strategizing, including film review by both players and coaches, go into the days between football games. This, along with the demanding physicality of football (see below), is why teams typically play at most one game per week.

The National Football League (NFL) is the highest level of professional American football in the United States, and is considered the top professional American football league in the world. It was formed by eleven teams in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association, with the league changing its name to the National Football League in 1922. The league currently consists of thirty-two teams from the United States. The league is divided evenly into two conferences—the American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC), and each conference has four divisions that have four teams each, for a total of 16 teams in each conference

AFC

Division Team City/Town Stadium
East Buffalo Bills Orchard ParkNY Ralph Wilson Stadium and Rogers Centre (1 game per year)
Miami Dolphins Miami GardensFL Sun Life Stadium
New England Patriots FoxboroughMA Gillette Stadium
New York Jets East RutherfordNJ MetLife Stadium
North Baltimore Ravens BaltimoreMD M&T Bank Stadium
Cincinnati Bengals CincinnatiOH Paul Brown Stadium
Cleveland Browns ClevelandOH Cleveland Browns Stadium
Pittsburgh Steelers PittsburghPA Heinz Field
South Houston Texans HoustonTX Reliant Stadium
Indianapolis Colts IndianapolisIN Lucas Oil Stadium
Jacksonville Jaguars JacksonvilleFL EverBank Field
Tennessee Titans NashvilleTN LP Field
West Denver Broncos DenverCO Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Kansas City Chiefs Kansas CityMO Arrowhead Stadium
Oakland Raiders OaklandCA O.co Coliseum
San Diego Chargers San DiegoCA Qualcomm Stadium

NFC

Division Team City Stadium
East Dallas Cowboys ArlingtonTX Cowboys Stadium
New York Giants East RutherfordNJ MetLife Stadium
Philadelphia Eagles PhiladelphiaPA Lincoln Financial Field
Washington Redskins LandoverMD FedExField
North Chicago Bears ChicagoIL Soldier Field
Detroit Lions DetroitMI Ford Field
Green Bay Packers Green BayWI Lambeau Field
Minnesota Vikings MinneapolisMN Mall Of America Field
South Atlanta Falcons AtlantaGA Georgia Dome
Carolina Panthers CharlotteNC Bank of America Stadium
New Orleans Saints New OrleansLA Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TampaFL Raymond James Stadium
West Arizona Cardinals GlendaleAZ University of Phoenix Stadium
St. Louis Rams St. LouisMO Edward Jones Dome
San Francisco 49ers San FranciscoCA Candlestick Park
Seattle Seahawks SeattleWA CenturyLink Field

The Super Bowl is an annual American football game that determines the champion of the National Football League (NFL). The contest is held in an American city that is chosen three to four years beforehand, usually in warm-weather or domed sites. Since 1971, the winner of the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game has faced the winner of the National Football Conference (NFC) Championship Game in the culmination of the NFL playoffs. Before the 1970 merger between the American Football League (AFL) and the National Football League (NFL), the two leagues met in four such contests. The first two were known as the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game.” Super Bowl III in 1969 was the first such game that carried the “Super Bowl” moniker, the names “Super Bowl I” and “Super Bowl II” were retroactively applied to the first two games. The NFC/NFL leads in Super Bowl wins with 25, while the AFC/AFL has won 21. Eighteen different franchises, including teams that relocated to another city, have won the Super Bowl.

Appearances Team Wins Losses Winning
percentage
Season(s)
8 Pittsburgh Steelers
6 2 .750 197419751978197919952005,20082010
8 Dallas Cowboys
5 3 .625 19701971197519771978199219931995
7 New England Patriots
3 4 .429 1985199620012003200420072011
6 Denver Broncos
2 4 .333 197719861987198919971998
5 San Francisco 49ers
5 0 1.000 19811984198819891994
5 Green Bay Packers
4 1 .800 19661967199619972010
5 New York Giants
4 1 .800 19861990200020072011
5 Washington Redskins
3 2 .600 19721982198319871991
5 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders
3 2 .600 19671976198019832002
5 Miami Dolphins
2 3 .400 19711972197319821984,
4 Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts
2 2 .500 1968197020062009
4 Minnesota Vikings
0 4 .000 1969197319741976
4 Buffalo Bills
0 4 .000 1990199119921993
3 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams
1 2 .333 197919992001
2 Kansas City Chiefs
1 1 .500 19661969
2 Chicago Bears
1 1 .500 19852006
2 Cincinnati Bengals
0 2 .000 19811988
2 Philadelphia Eagles
0 2 .000 19802004
1 New York Jets
1 0 1.000 1968
1 Baltimore Ravens
1 0 1.000 2000
1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1 0 1.000 2002
1 New Orleans Saints
1 0 1.000 2009
1 San Diego Chargers
0 1 .000 1994
1 Atlanta Falcons
0 1 .000 1998
1 Tennessee Titans
0 1 .000 1999
1 Carolina Panthers
0 1 .000 2003
1 Seattle Seahawks
0 1 .000 2005
1 Arizona Cardinals
0 1 .000 2008
0 Cleveland Browns
0 0 N/A
0 Detroit Lions
0 0 N/A
0 Jacksonville Jaguars
0 0 N/A
0 Houston Texans
0 0 N/A

So I think that is enough for now on this introduction to American Football I know its a lot to take in but this basic info coupled with actually watching NFL on TV or even playing the video game Madden 13 will help you understand the game a little better as that’s how I learned about it. I started watching NFL proper in 2005 and the game I watched decided the team I would follow due to a stunning comeback and that team is the Seattle Seahawks!

I hope everyone enjoyed this piece and it helps you get into this amazing game that truly is one of the best sports in the world until next time

Thanks for stopping by The Sports Lab

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