Let me take you through the basics of the NFL

ESPN and ESPN 2 are once again available as part of the DSTV viewing package. I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s been a frustrating seven years with no NFL or College Football on our screens. But the new NFL season is upon us, and South Africans will be able to watch. And I’m way too excited.



So I thought I’d go over some basics of the NFL for all the novices out there. The competition format, rules, teams etc. And maybe, you’ll give the sport a watch sometime.


There are 32 teams in the NFL. The league consists of two conferences, each comprised of sixteen teams: The National Football Conference(NFC), and the American Football Conference(AFC). Each Conference is divided into four divisions consisting of four teams, based on geography.

NFC East:

Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Football Team (formerly Redskins, awaiting a new name)

NFC North:

Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South:

Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West:

Arizona Cardinals
Los Angeles Rams
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South:

Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West:

Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Las Vegas Raiders
Los Angeles Chargers

Each team plays a total of sixteen matches during the regular season, including home and away fixtures against their divisional rivals. Division winners automatically progress to the playoffs. From the remaining teams, the three with the best overall record in each conference join the division winners in the playoffs.

Playoff contenders are restricted to their conference. The winners of the NFC and AFC face each other in the ultimate showdown, the SuperBowl.

NFL Records

Most SuperBowls: Pittsburgh Steelers & New England Patriots (6)
Most NFC Championships: Dallas Cowboys (8)
Most AFC Championships: New England Patriots (11)
Current SuperBowl Champions: Kansas City Chiefs


Football matches take place on a field that is 120 yards in length(including the end zones), and 53 yards in width.

Each team is allowed a maximum of eleven players on the field of play.

A football match has a total playing time of 60 minutes. Each match is divided into two halves of 30 minutes, and each half is further divided into quarters that last 15 minutes.

A team can advance a football by running, passing, or kicking.

A team has four plays(downs) to advance a ball ten yards. If they are able to break the ten-yard barrier, they will receive a fresh set of downs. Failure to advance ten yards results in a turnover of possession to the opposition.

During a single play, once the ball has been advanced beyond the line of scrimmage, a forward pass becomes prohibited.

Turnovers occur from kicks, fumbles, and interceptions.


Touchdown = 6
Conversion = 1
2-point conversion (attempting a touchdown instead of a kick after a touchdown) = 2
Field Goal = 3
Safety (when the ball carrier is tackled in own end zone) = 2




Primary Objectives

Put pressure on the Quarterback before he can make a play.
Stop running plays.
Judged by the number of tackles and sacks made.

Physical Characteristics

Normally the biggest and slowest players on defence, but still possess explosive speed off the mark.



Primary Objectives

Assist the defensive linemen in stopping running plays.
Assist the defensive backs in stopping passing plays.
Pressure the Quarterback.

Physical Characteristics

The hybrid between defensive linemen and defensive backs.
The Quarterbacks of the defence. Receive instructions from the Defensive Coordinator.


Defensive Backs

Primary Objectives

Cover the Wide Receivers and Tight Ends.
Stop passing plays.
Last line of defence.
Judged by interceptions and pass interruptions.

Physical Characteristics

Fastest players on defence.
Need good hands to catch possible interceptions.




Primary Objectives

Protect the Quarterback.
Create openings for running plays.

Physical Characteristics

The biggest and strongest on both sides of the ball. But also the slowest.


Tight End

Primary Objectives

Protect the Quarterback
Block for Wide Receivers.
Catch passes.

Physical Characteristics

The hybrid between Offensive Linemen and Wide Receivers.
Incredibly fast for their size.
Good hands.


Running Backs

Primary Objectives

Run the ball, usually through a lot of traffic.
Protect the Quarterback on passing plays.
Judged by yardage gained and touchdowns.

Physical Characteristics

Stocky, strong runners.
Shorter than Wide Receivers and Tight Ends.


Wide Receivers

Primary Objectives

Catch passes.
Block for other Receivers and Tight Ends.
Decoy runs.
Judged by receptions and touchdowns.

Physical Characteristics

Tall and fast.
Phenomenal handling skills



Primary Objectives

Lead the offence. Call the plays.
Advance the teams position by either passing or running the ball.
Receives instructions from the offensive coordinator or the head coach.

Physical Characteristics

Throwing the ball with pinpoint accuracy.
Calm under pressure.
Reading the defence.


Leave your comments/questions below.

If you were never into NFL below be sure to get into it this weekend when the season starts. You’ll love it!

Sizwe Luthayi