A Beginners Guide To The NFL – A Basic Understanding Of Games, Point-Scoring & Divisions

The NFL season is finally back! Pre-season is in full swing and the regular season games are a mere two weeks away!

With the 2017 draft now a distant memory we’re all about looking forward and here, at Into the End Zone, we wanted to do a little something for those people out there who are new to the NFL, for the “rookie” fan if you will (sorry about that). So, we wanted to tell you a bit more about America’s most popular sport.

Wembley - International Series

The National Football league, as we know and love it now, was born in 1966 when it merged with the American Football league culminating in the creation of the greatest show on earth the SUPER BOWL (first won by the Green Bay Packers)!

NFL Conferences

It is made up of two conferences, the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC), each containing sixteen teams.

Each Conference is made up of four divisions North, South, East and West (unfortunately the teams don’t always remain as geographically correct as the division names would suggest).

A season is made up of four pre-season games, a seventeen-week regular season schedule (sixteen games with one bye week), two rounds of playoffs (Wild Card and then Divisional) and then Conference championship games which result in the winner from each conference playing in the Super bowl for the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy.

Divisional & Conference Games

Each team play its divisional rivals twice a season on the road and at home, the rest of the regular season games are determined by a complex combination of formulas and rotations. Every year a division plays each of the four teams from another division within their conference and also the opposing conference. These are rotated so that you play each division from your conference once every three years and each division from the opposite conference once every four years.

The remaining two games are also played against teams within the same conference but decided from the previous year’s rankings. For example, a team that finishes second will play the second-placed teams from two other divisions within its conference.

Game Time

An NFL game itself can appear somewhat daunting to an outsider. It basically boils down to a 60-minute game of chess using 53 (full squad or roster, as they say in the US) very rapid and physical pieces. Play is conducted on a pitch measuring 100 yards in length. Each team fields eleven players at one time with the squad being split into offense, defence and special teams.

The aim of the game is to move the ball INTO THE END ZONE (see what we did there?!) of the opposing team and score a touchdown which is worth six points (followed by a kick to score an aptly named extra point). This is achieved by a series of four downs, within each set of downs you must move the ball forward a minimum of ten yards to earn a new set of downs. The offense completes this with a combination of the Quarterback throwing to a receiver or by the Running back or Quarterback rushing the ball along the ground.

If the defence of the other team are successful in preventing the offense achieving the required ten-yard gain by the end of the third down, then a whole combination of things can happen at fourth down with the following main examples:

  • the attacking team bring on their special team unit to attempt a field goal (by kicking the ball over the bar and between the two upright posts of the goal) to score three points
  • punt the ball towards the opposing teams end zone (for better position when defending)
  • or keep the offense on and go for the remaining yards

This would then be followed by the defensive team’s offense taking over and we start the process all over again.

Quarters & Points

The game is split into four, fifteen-minute quarters, with the team scoring the highest number of points at the end of the sixty minutes winning the game.

With scoring points at an all-time high there is no better time to be part of an offense. Their task when written down seems a simple one, score as many points as possible, but as you will see after watching a few games this is no easy feat!

NFL Panoramic - Wembley Stadium

Finally, we here at Into The End Zone, wanted to personally welcome you to the world of high scoring, down to the wire, hard-hitting, nail-biting world of being an NFL fan.

Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below or hit us up on Twitter and Facebook.

Post Author: Matt "Stats"

Stats, Analysis and International Series writer for IntoTheEndZone. Arizona Cardinals fan and can be found tweeting at @Matt_ITEZ

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