Football 101

It’s here. Football season. For me, it’s usually just another reason to load up on chicken wings but this time, I’m going to try to learn (and more importantly, follow) America’s favourite sport all season and give you the 101. Why? It’s because of those awkward five minutes before a meeting starts when you’re either stuck fake smiling or zoning out when your male colleagues talk about last night’s football game because you have absolutely nothing to contribute. That is now going to change.

First thing’s first - let’s get the basics down:

  1. Regular Season and Structure
  2. Teams to Care About
  3. Key Terms

Regular Season and Structure

  • NFL (National Football League) regular season begins the weekend after Labor Day and ends in December/early January
  • The league has 32 teams which are split into two conferences — the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC)
  • The 16 teams in each conference are split into the East, North, South and West divisions; every division has four teams. New England Patriots, for example, is part of the AFC East
  • Each team plays 16 games during a 17-week period. (The one week off is called a “bye week”)
  • Each team plays 6 games against the other 3 teams in its division, facing the same opponent twice per season — once at home and once on the road
  • Games are played on Sunday, Monday and Thursdays. The last day of any week is Monday

Teams to Care About

While you are still in your football 101 phase, I would recommend to act like Switzerland. Be neutral or else things will get ugly!

Living in New York City, I will naturally “care” about the AFC East teams (Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and New York Jets) and NFC East teams (Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins).

Look up which 8 AFC and NFC teams are in your region and keep track of those more closely.

Key Terms

  • Downs: If it’s one thing you should leave with by reading this, it’s understanding downs. The offensive team has four chances (or downs) to gain 10 yards. A first down is earned when the ball advances at least 10 yards within their four chances. A second down is the second attempt at reaching the same 10 yards. If the offensive team fails to advance 10 yards within four downs, possession is surrendered
  • Touchdown: Worth six points (and usually a victory dance!) A touchdown is scored when a player crosses the goal line or when he catches the ball in the end zone.
  • Extra Point: Worth one point. After a touchdown, the team has a chance to earn an extra point by kicking the ball through the posts. It’s surprising when a team doesn’t make this.
  • Field Goal: Worth three points. The kicker will attempt to kick the ball through the posts if close enough to the end zone. Usually attempted on a fourth down.