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What Is The NFL? A Beginner’s Guide

So, you’ve probably heard of the Super Bowl or, at the very least, the famous Super Bowl half-time show. But you still probably wondering what exactly American football is and why is it such a popular sport in the U.S.?

A quick review, American football is played on a rectangular grass turf, the same as rugby or soccer. There will always be 22 players on the field, including both teams.

This game is one of the most complicated sports worldwide, with a lot of rules, positions, and equipment to follow. It’s much more than just trying to score a touchdown while avoiding the other team’s players from tackling you!

Let’s explain everything you need to know about the NFL.

What Are The Basics?

The main purpose of the game is to score points by having a player run the ball into the opposition’s end-zone. The quarterback can either short pass it to the running back or long pass it to him down the field—either way, they have to avoid getting tackled. 

The length of the field is 100 yards, which is roughly around 91.44 meters, and it’s 53 yards wide, which is roughly 48.46 meters. At the end of each side of the field is what’s known as the end-zone, the area the players need to reach to score a touchdown.

The game consists of four 15-minute quarters; at half-time, the teams get a 12-minute break. At the end of the first and third quarters, the teams get an additional two-minute break to change sides on the field. 

If there is an incomplete pass, penalty, or a player goes out of bounds, the clock will stop until the matter is resolved, in which case the game will continue as normal.

If the game ends in a tie, the team will play off in a sudden death round, where the first team to score wins the match.

Time Out

Each team gets a total of three time-outs during a match; this calls for the game to stop temporarily and gives the coaches time to talk about strategy or to change up player positions.

When the sudden death, or overtime, has to be played, each team will get an additional two time-outs during the 15-minute overtime play.

What Are The Different Players And Positions?

All the teams in American football are made up of a total of 45 players, but there are only 11 players allowed on the field each time during a match.

The positions are broken down into two categories: offence and defence.

The offence is the part of the team possessing the ball. Only four players in the offensive line can legally handle the ball: the quarterback, the running back, the wide receiver, and the tight ends.

The quarterback is the leader of the team, the one that calls all the shots and the one who outlines the play for his team to run the strategy set out together with the coach.

The defence are the players that try to stop the other players from reaching the end-zone.

Let’s take a closer look at all the positions a team has.

A quarterbackThe linebackers
A centreThe defensive ends
Two guardsThe cornerbacks
Two tacklesA strong safety
Two-four wide receiversA free safety
A running backA defensive tackle
A fullback 
One of two tight ends 

Key Terms Everyone Should Know

  • Interception: This is when the defensive team catches a pass meant for the other team’s players.
  • Fumble: When the player who carries the ball drops it, it’s called a fumble. Any player on the field can pick up the ball; once they do, that team receives possession.
  • Substitutions: When there is a man down during the game, the coaches have time to replace any player on the field with a new one.
  • Turnover: When the ball is lost from the offensive line to the opposition’s defensive line, the defensive team gets possession of the ball.

Different Variation Of Points

  • Touchdown: 6 points
  • Extra point or two point conversion: 1 or 2 points
  • Field goal: 3 points
  • Safety: 2 points


Even though football can be a complicated sport, especially if you’re trying to learn everything at once, it’s best to learn the basic gameplay, offence, and defence. 

Once you’ve mastered that, you can move on to learning different strategies, for example, the different odds against the various teams, in which case, you will do well to look at Neds for all the information you require.


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