How Does the NFL Work?

Introduction of NFL

NFL: American Football: Americans love their football games, and before your mind drifts to the European players running and tossing a checkered spherical ball around, let me tell you, that is what the Americans call “soccer.” Gridiron or American football is similar but not the same as Rugby. It is said that American football is inspired by Rugby although, it has its own set of rules. Below are a few differences between the two sports

  • Players: Rugby allows 15 players on the fields while Football allows 11
  • Substitutes: In Rugby, substitutions are slowed only seven times in a game depending on the tournament/league whereas, football allows unlimited substitutions.
  • Field: Rugby pitches are 120m long and 70m wide. A football pitch is smaller in comparison and stands at 109.73m in length and 48.77m in width.
  • Balls: All though they look the same, a Rugby ball weighs 1lb and is 27cms long, while the American football weighs lighter and is 28cms in length.

NFL: A Brief History

In the early years of its formation, the National Football League (NFL) was called the American Professional Football Association (APFA). The APFA was formed in Canton, Ohio, on the 17th of September, 1920 when 14 men stuck a deal in an automobile showroom. The president of this newly formed organization was the outstanding athlete, Jim Thorp, who played for the league in the later years. In 1920, the league had fourteen teams in all (five from Ohio, four from Illinois, two from Indiana, two from New York and one from Michigan). APFA was later renamed as NFL on the 24th of June 1922.

NFL is among the top four major professional leagues in North America.  Initially, the champions were determined on behalf of their standing at the end of the season, which was later replaced by a playoff system in 1933 and stayed until 1966 with the game. Modern-day NFL is a professional Football league with 32 teams equally divided between the two conferences- National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC).

How Does the NFL Work

How Does the NFL Work: Each team at the NFL plays 16 games in the regular season that runs up to 17-weeks and 256 games in all. A team of five NFL executives each spring are given the responsibility to create a seamless schedule for 256 NFL games every year. The two conferences (NFC and AFC) are divided into East, West, North, and South divisions, with four teams in each division. A rotating formula ensures that all the 32 teams play each other at least once in every four years. This is how the opponents of every team are chosen

  • Within division: Six games per team, facing opponents in the same division twice per season- one at home and once on the road.
  • With a division in another Conference: Four games per season with opponents of a division from another conference- two at home and twice on the road. Each team in all divisions in a conference should play with all the divisions in the other conference at least once in four years.
  • Within conference: Four games with the opponents of another division within the conference- twice at home and two on the road. Each team in a division to play all the teams in the other division at least once in three years.
  • The two pending games are played against the two remaining divisions within the same conference- one game at home and one on the road. A similar division ranking of the last season’s game is considered for the matchups.

After the schedule is decided, when and where each game will be played is determined next.

From 2001, the NFL regular season begins every year on the first Monday of September, a week after Labor Day and continues till a week after Christmas. The season opens with a home game for the league’s defending champions on a Thursday night. All major games are played on Sunday, and the best matchups are aired on the week’s prime slots- Monday, Thursday, or Sunday nights. Thanksgiving is the only weekend with three Thursday features.

The federal law prohibits clashing of the NFL game with high school and college football games hence, the NFL games are not played on Fridays and Saturdays. Though Saturday games are common late in the season, games on a Friday are rare. In recent times, a match was scheduled on Friday in 2009 during Christmas. Again, it is rare to have an NFL game scheduled on a Tuesday or a Wednesday and have only ever been scheduled twice after 1948- once a Sunday game was rescheduled on a Tuesday in 2010 due to a blizzard and again in the year 2012 when to avoid a conflict with the Democratic National Convention the Kick off was rescheduled from Thursday to a Wednesday. So this is how the NFL Work.

Team NFL

There are two conferences that the NFL comprises of- the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference. Both conferences are divided into four divisions: East, West, North, and South.

There are two ways of determining which team will be a part of which division:

  • The Geographical Location
  •  The Historic Rivalries

The AFC:

  • East Division: Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, New England Patriots
  • West Division: Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs,
  • North Division: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns
  • South Division: Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts,

The NFC:

  • East Division: New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins
  • West Division: Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, San Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams
  • North Division: Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers
  • South Division: Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints

Most divisions are based on the regional locations however, at times, the existing rivalries between teams are taken into account while deciding the divisions.

In the AFC, Baltimore should have been in the easy, Indianapolis in the North and Miami in the South if we consider their geographical locations. However, that would mean breaking up significant and existing rivalries- Jets and Dolphins of the east and Steelers and Ravens of the North.

Even in the NFC, Dallas could be placed in the south by replacing with Tampa or Carolina, but that would mean breaking up their longstanding and historic rivalries with the Eagles, Redskins, and the Giants.

The NFC teams are more consistency than the AFC teams. Detroit Lions is the only NFC team that has not have made any Super Bowl appearance. Ever since the divisions were realigned in 2002, 12 teams from the NFC have been sent to the Super Bowl, whereas the AFC has sent only 6 teams- the New England Patriots (9 times), the Pittsburgh Steelers (thrice), the Denver Broncos (twice), the Indianapolis Colts (twice), the Baltimore Ravens (once) and the Oakland Raiders (once).

Wild Cards:

The NFL used to follow Ricky Bobby’s system: “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” To win their respective division was the only chance they had at postseason glory. The playoffs were shorter, and the teams with great seasons had to be excluded. After the NFC and the AFC merger in 1978, the “Wild Card Round” was added postseason.

Playoffs in the NFL

The NFL playoffs begin after the regular season and consist of three rounds:

  • The Wild Card Round
  • The Divisional Round
  • The Conference Championships

The Wild Card Round:

For the wild card, six teams from each conference are selected- the four divisional winners and two teams with the best season records. Once the regular season concludes, a single-elimination tournament is held between these twelve teams. The overall records are considered while seeding the teams wherein the divisional champions rank higher in comparison with the wild card entrants.

In the Wild Card Round, two wild card teams from each conference are pitted against the third seed and the fourth seed divisional winners. The top two weeks from each conference are awarded this week off. Winner of the Wild Card Round advances to the Divisional Round.

The Divisional Round:

The top-seeded teams play against the winners of the Wild Card Round in the following week. The top-seeded teams get the advantage of playing on the home-field. The winners of the Divisional Round advance to the Conference Championship.

The Conference Championships:

The top-seeded teams play against the winners of the Wild Card Round in the following week. The top-seeded teams get the advantage of playing on the home-field. The winners of the Divisional Round advance to the Conference Championship.

Super Bowl

In American football, Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the NFL. It is the closing game of the football season, which begins in spring. The game is played between the winners of the Conference Champions every year in January or February and is hosted in different cities each year.

In July early years, the league’s owners called it “AFL-NFL Championship Game.” The term “Super Bowl” was first coined by Lamar Hunt, owner of AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. It was likely named after a toy called Super Ball that Hunt claimed his children used to play with. There is a display of the ball’s vintage example at the Pro Football Hall in Canton, Ohio. However, in 1967, the league was considering alternative names such as “The Game” or “Merger Bowl.” The name became official at the beginning of the third annual game.

The Super Bowl uses Roman numerals instead of the year in which it was held to designate each game as the season begins and ends in different years. On January 15, 1967, the Super Bowl I was played with its regular season commencing in 1966. In 2019, Super Bowl LIII was played on the 3rd of February.

The Super Bowl Sunday, the day of the game, is an unofficial holiday in America. Viewing parties are held all over the country in homes, bars, restaurants, and taverns. A week before the game, there is a festive atmosphere all around, and ample media coverage is given to the host city. The average cost of a Super Bowl ticket varies between $2,500 to $3,000, but prices may vary depending on when the tickets were purchased and the matchups that are being played. For instance, at the Super Bowl XLIX, the average ticket was worth $4,314 during the match between the Seahawks and the Patriots.

Since the first game, all Super Bowls have been sold out and consistent leaders of TV-ratings. Many Super Bowls have been among the top-rated televised sports events at all times in the U S. television history. This is the reason that the commercial time during this time of the year is these advertisements feature noted filmmakers, celebrities, and new technologies in the hopes of making a lasting impression on the audience of the game.

The winner of the Super Bowl Championship gets to hoist, the Lombardi trophy, the most popular trophies in the world of professional sports. Originally called the “World Championship Game Trophy,” the trophy was renamed after the former coach Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, who led the Packers victorious in Super Bowl II and I. The trophy is made of sterling silver and is a titled football positioned on top of a pyramid-like stand.

Tiffany & Co. handcrafts each trophy and takes up to 72 hours to be made. The trophy stands at 22 inches tall weighs around 7pounds, and the sterling silver is estimated to be valued at more than $25,000! “Super Bowl and Vince Lombardi” with the great Roman numerals of the current season are etched on the front of the trophy while the “NFL logo” adorns the back. A ring to celebrate the victory is also given to the Players, coaches, and other staff organizers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are the top team of the league with maximum victories, a total of six to date. With five lost games, the New England Patriot and Denver Broncos earn the most lost Super Bowl games title. Super Bowl is a celebration, and no sporting event in the world can compete with the craziness it ensues. Be it the games, the commercials, or the food there is surely something for everyone.


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