Yup, I'm an American football fan - I don't understand English soccer anymore. There are far too many foreign players, too much foul-mouthed behaviour, too much theatrical diving and whatever happened to wingers? It baffles me how teams expect to score goals with a solitary forward, five mid-fielders and four backs. Modern soccer strategy leaves me cold.
The NFL is the National Football League and the home of American football. It covers two conferences, the AFC - American Football Conference, and the NFC - National Football Conference with four divisions (North, East, West and South) in each conference. The regular season starts in September and runs till the end of the year with each team playing a schedule of matches against other teams from across the league. The ranking of the teams at the end of the regular season determines whether or not they go into the Play-offs. This is the run to the SuperBowl which is what American football is all about - the best AFC team versus the best NFC team.
The champion team from each division, together with 2 wildcard teams from the best of the rest make up the 6 teams from each conference to go into the Play-offs. This is a knock-out competition within each of the two conferences. The 2 regular season best-scoring teams have a bye in the first round leaving the other 4 teams playing for the remaining 2 places in the second round, then the final 2 teams in each conference play for their conference championship. It's the winner of these AFC and NFC championship matches who will play in the SuperBowl.
The Super Bowl is an annual all-nighter in our house - it can go on for up to 4 hours. Over the years there have been a number of real nail-biting finishes to the SuperBowl match - notably the New England Patriots (twice) with winning field goals in the dying seconds - awesome!
My team is the Washington Redskins whereas my wife supports the San Francisco 49ers, our younger son the New England Patriots and my brother the Denver Broncos. The thing about American football which keeps it interesting is the way the draft-pick system works. The worst teams get first choice of the up and coming college stars so the potential for the lower teams to improve dramatically and quickly is built into the system.
Go Skins go!
So, you've tried watching matches but don't understand it? Well, here are a few tips to help you enjoy America's favourite sport :-
Don't try to learn all the rules - leave that to the referees, all four of them. They also have instant video reviewing of challenged decisions but a decision on the field will only be reversed if the video shows positive evidence of a bad call on the field.
Each team has a huge number of players available and 'special teams' are brought on for specific plays. A typical example is the kicker who will only appear on the field for kick-offs, field goal attempts and conversions.
The basic objective is to achieve a forward movement of at least 10 yards in 4 plays (downs). If a gain of 10 or more yards is made, then that team keeps the ball and has another 4 downs to gain another 10 yards.
If, after the third down, a team hasn't gained 10 yards, they will usually punt (kick) the ball down field on the fourth down. This is because, after 4 downs the opposing team gets the ball so you want them to start their play from as close to their own goal-line as possible.
Other than for kicking plays, the quarter-back is the leader of the team and, together with the team coach will decide how the down is going to be played. When the play commences, he will either hand-off the ball to a runner, throw the ball to a receiver or sometimes even run with the ball himself.
Forward passes are allowed (within certain limitations), hence the sometimes spectacular long throw down field, usually to a wide receiver.
A touchdown is when a player catches or carries the ball into the in-zone (over the goal-line) and is worth 6 points. That team is then given the chance to convert that touch-down by either kicking a goal worth an extra point or scoring another touch-down worth 2 points.
If a team is close enough, they may choose to attempt to kick a field goal worth 3 points. Some successful kicks are in excess of 50 yards.
After each touch-down or field goal the opposite team gets the ball by receiving from a kick-off.
That's about all you need to know for starters so enjoy watching these true professional sportsmen give 110% effort all the time. By the way, the fans are there just to enjoy themselves - trouble both on and off the pitch is virtually non-existant so the whole family can enjoy a day out.
Get the facts at the Washington Redskins home page:
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