(Editor’s note: With the NFL season rapidly approaching Drew has prepared a really insightful and easy-to-digest guide for all you boys and girls out there looking to get into American Football, enjoy!)
NFL, the game with the largest viewership in the USA (no, it is not the NBA), unknown to 99.9% of the Greek sports audience and to Europeans in general to a lesser extent. The explanation is pretty straightforward, whatever sport you do not play as a child or grow up with your culture, you just do not understand. Ice Hockey and Baseball are also in this category, but here we will focus on American football!
NFL is one of the few sports that does NOT have national teams. It could be described as the merge of Rugby (Union & League) with soccer and won over the Americans around 1965, when it surpassed in popularity the national -until then- sport of Baseball.
In the early stage there were 2 leagues of different dynamics (AFL-NFL), running in parallel. At the end of every season each League crowned the 2 champions, which faced its other in a final (later known as the SuperBowl). The reason for the merge was a classic “David and Goliath” story where the champions of the underrated AFL, the Kansas City Chiefs, beat the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL. For the record, the Chiefs’ SB was the last before the one 2 years ago against the 49ers. Alright, enough with the history lesson!
The biggest obstacle for sports fans who stumbles upon an NFL game and what pretty much discourages him from watching is the complete ignorance of the rules. And between us, they are probably right. The rules of the game are recorded in 92 densely written pages, with incredible details about thousands of “scenarios” that can happen on the field during a match.
Now you wonder if indeed in 78 seconds you understood the whole game, right? Well, obviously not, but you have made a very good start!
The duration of each game is 60 minutes and it is divided into four 15-minute quarters. The 1st and the 3rd, start with a kickoff, while the other 2 continue exactly from the point where the previous one ended. And no, the game does not last just 1 hour, add the intermediate breaks and the average duration of a game is 3 hours and 12 minutes!
The field is a little smaller than the field of “our” football, or soccer for the Americans. Its size is 100 yards, that is about 92 meters.
Each team consists of 53 players in total, divided into three groups, offense, defense and special teams (there are always 11 players from each team on the field), with athletes who specialize in specific gameplay situations, such as holding the ball on the ground, in order for the kicker to shoot it, something in which the gentlemen in the following video failed miserably to do so ..
The ultimate goal of the game is to reach the area of the defending team and to score. The goal is called a “touchdown” and it translates to 6 points, followed by the option for 1 easy point with a kick or for 2 points with a pass or rush. 96% of the “touchdown” is followed by an attempt for 1 point.
But there are two other ways to score. One is with a kick for 3 points and is the “field goal” of the video above, also known as a “three point shot” in basketball. The other way is to “stop” the attacking team at its base (endzone) and earn 2 points, which is very rare. Statistically, it happens once in every 15 games!
Each team has 4 attempts (downs) to cover 10 yards and they can either throw the ball or run with it. For example, team A is on the attack, it is its 1st attempt (1st down) and it decides to run instead of “throwing” the ball. However, Group B, which is on defense, stops it after it has covered only 2 yards. So in the next attempt, team A is in the 2nd “down” and must cover 8 yards to win a new set of 4 “downs”. The purpose of the defense is to stop the attacking team, before covering the 10 yards!
Most of the attempts of the attacking team that will reach the 4th “down” end in a kick of the ball (called punt) and since they do not manage to cover the missing yards to get a new set of “downs” they lose the ball, at the point where the defense stopped it. Therefore, when the attacking team enters the field, it will have to cover less than 100 yards of the field to score.
To sum it up, in the 4th down, teams try to kick the ball in order to either manufacture as much distance as they can between their base (endzone) and where the other team will start the attack (punt), or to score a three-pointer (field goal).
The Game however, is made by the players and there are some important positions that you should know!
So just imagine, the good looking dude in an American high school! This “Satan” is the “Quarterback“!
The most crucial and highly paid position in American Football. The player who passes and ball and almost always gets credited with the failure or success of a team. If you had to remember three names – legends, these would be Payton Manning, Joe Montana and the GOAT of the sport, Giselle’s evergreen husband, Tom Brady, who still stars today at the age of 44 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers!
The “Wide Receiver” and the “Tight End” are the ones who catch the passes of the QB. WR is usually very fast and can be tall with the ability to “catch” high passes, but also short, with the ability to run in the background. TE on the other hand, has 2 jobs, to protect the QB along with the rest of the offensive line but at the same time he can be a WR when needed. The “Running Backs” are the ones who try to “break” the defense by running and reaching the “endzone”, scoring a touchdown. They are not famous for their height (#sorry Elliot), but for the power-speed combination. A rare exception is Derrick Henry. Legend names by position are WR Jerry Rice, TW Rob Gronkowski and RB Barry Sanders.
The “Guards” and the “Tackles” are also very important for the offense, as they are the ones who protect the QB, giving him the space and the time to pass the ball. In addition, they create space for RBs to run. We have seen many examples of RB falling into obscurity after being transferred to a new team where the O-Line was not good.
Against the “defense” of the offense, we have the team defense. Very strong players trying to break the formation of the attacking team who are protecting the QB and the RBs. Equally important is the contribution of “CornerBacks” and “Safeties”, as they are the back line of defense, which tries to keep the WR running in space and the TE.
That is all for today, follow me on Twitter and stay tuned for more blog posts as we get closer to NFL kickoff time!!
Until next time, homework, Fantasy and sports cards !!
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