NFL American Football Match

NFL – A Guide to American Football

Is any sport in the world accompanied by more passion, more flash and pizazz, or more reverence than American Football? From those star-studded half-time shows to the victory parades, when confetti and ticker tape rains down from the city’s high-rises onto the shoulders of the Super Bowl’s world champions.

As the name suggests, the phenomenon that is American Football exists, for the most part, within the United States. True, it’s played in all corners of the globe – from Israel to Japan, Sweden to Canada – but the sheer spectacle of gridiron can be found in one place and one place only: the NFL. 

The National Football League is not only the top of the American football pyramid, but also the global pyramid. Anyone looking to see the sport played in its purest, most compelling form needn’t look any further than the NFL, which takes place over the course of 18 weeks – typically beginning in the autumn and running into the new year. 

Whether you’re looking to boost your knowledge ahead of the upcoming Super Bowl, or need to go all the way back to basics, you’re in the right place. Ready our DAZN Bet guide to everything you need to know about the NFL.

NFL 101: 

  •     NFL stands for ‘National Football League’. It is the highest professional level of American football within the United States.
  •     Each season, the NFL consists of 32 teams. 16 teams are from the National Football Conference (NFC) and the other 16 are from the American Football Conference (AFC).
  •     Each team will play a total of 17 games before a total of 14 teams (again, split evenly between the NFC and the AFC) progress to the play-offs.
  •     These play-offs decide a champion from each conference. Both of these champions will meet in one final game of the season – the venerated Super Bowl, which will decide the champion of the NFL. 
  •     The NFL has been around, under various names and formats, for more than a century. 
  •     In terms of revenue, no other sports league can rival the NFL’s wealth. This comes as no surprise, given the incredible value of the Super Bowl’s ad-slots alone. In 2022, it was estimated that a 30 second ad played during the Super Bowl would set companies back around $7 million – which is around $233,333 per second. 
  •     Then again, what goes around comes around. The Super Bowl half-time show – a big favourite among fans – is a major expense for the NFL, with the bill exceeding the $10 million mark on some occasions. 

A Touchdown History of the NFL 

Before the League

The history of the NFL is tied to the history of American football itself, which stems way back into the nineteenth century when association football (now known as soccer on American shores, but simply football in many other parts of the world) and the sport of rugby were introduced to America. While there’s no way of knowing exactly how the sport evolved, we know that variations of American football were played across the country throughout the 1800s

Back then, the sport was unstructured, and the rules were – how shall we put this? – open to interpretation. Harvard University, for instance, hosted an annual ‘Bloody Monday’ competition, which saw the starters (freshmen) compete against the second years (sophomores). As the name would suggest, the competition was pretty brutal – mob-like, rather than organised – and would eventually be banned in 1860. Similar embargoes would be introduced on college campuses across the country. 

The first official American Football game was played in 1869, between Princeton and Rutgers Universities. However, very few official games took place in those early days, since many universities were reluctant to adapt their rules and find a ‘status quo’. Without that consistency, inter-collegiate games were few and far between. 

By most accounts, a sportsman named Walter Chauncey Camp is credited as being the ‘father’ of the sport. While the rough outline of the sport predated him, he created the rules and structure that would make it far more recognisable to modern audiences than its earlier iterations would. 

In 1880, a meeting designed to regulate college football rules saw Camp propose a pivotal new change. He introduced the line of scrimmage – something that signified a clean break from the sport’s predecessor, English rugby. He would go onto introduce a number of other significant rule changes, including the points system and, a couple of years later, the down and distance rules (necessary for speeding up the game, and increasing excitement for spectators). 

Thanks to the rule changes, more and more colleges got on the same page. The Intercollegiate Football Association was created by Columbia, Harvard and Princeton in 1879 and, eventually, joined by Yale. A growing number of intercollegiate games took place, and things started to reach an equilibrium. 

The League’s Beginnings

A slew of violent and bloody games toward the end of the 1800s led to many suspensions. In 1905, following 19 deaths as a result of overly violent games, the issue became a national concern. President Roosevelt was unsettled by the risk to life and limb. By some accounts, he considered outlawing it; by others, he merely wanted colleges to introduce rule-changes aimed at protecting the players from one another. 

Thankfully, these rule-changes were introduced. In 1906, the forward pass was legalised, and proved pivotal to reducing injuries among players. Intercollegiate games continued. 

It wasn’t until 1920 that the first whispers of the NFL started to be heard. The idea was to give the sport a strong national presence similar to what baseball had. It would be unlike anything the sport had seen before – and, to that end, incredibly lucrative. 

The American Professional Football Conference was created with the intention of creating a clear framework for professional football. Later that same year, more teams joined the conference, and it was renamed the American Professional Football League. Two of those founding teams, the Chicago Cardinals and the Chicago Bears, remain in the league today. 

In 1922, the league changed its name to the National Football League – or NFL – and remained that way ever since. 

Things didn’t change overnight, and the league started out pretty rocky and haphazard – particularly in terms of picking a winner each season. Still, it did its main job – building-up the hype and popularity surrounding American football. In 1933, the league entered a dark point in its history when it introduced segregation – banning black players until 1945

In 1939 the first game was televised, though not yet to a national audience – that wouldn’t happen until 1958. 

Further rule changes made the game more exciting to watch. More and more once-casual spectators became full-fledged fans, and, finally, NFL became a major rival (or peer) to Major League Baseball. 

Mergers

In 1970, the NFL merged with the American Football League (AFL), and continued to operate as the NFL. It was at this time that the AFC and NFC were created, though several years would pass before each would offer up 16 teams for the NFL season. 

The NFL’s dominance in the American football world was threatened a few more times, but the NFL continually came out on top. For instance, despite poaching a few players from the NFL, the World Football League folded just a few years into its formation. Several years later, the United States Football League also folded (after a few years of competition between the two leagues) and, in 2001, the XFL came and went in the blink of an eye without harming the NFL’s dominance in the sport. In 2009, the United Football link rose-up and died-down in much the same way. 

NFL: Famous Players 

With more than a hundred years of history behind it, the NFL has seen some incredible players cross the field – names that will go down in history as some of the sporting world’s greatest. 

What better name to start with, then, than the person who, more than any other, is credited as being American football’s most valuable player ever: Jim Brown. The Cleveland Browns fullback scored a long list of records during his career – including the greatest distance covered (rushing yards) during play, and the most touchdowns by a single player. Lightning fast, with an average of more than 5 yards each rush, proves hard to beat to this day, despite the fact that Brown retired in 1966. 

Next – and, by some accounts, ahead of Jim Brown – we have Jerry Rice, who is the NFL Network’s choice for top of the list. The wide receiver spent the peak of his career with the 49ers – during which time he snagged three championship titles. His greatest claim to footballing fame comes from his incredible ability to catch passes that, to most people (and even professional players), would seem impossible

In terms of point-scoring, three names in particular stand out – Adam Vinatieri (2,673 points in his career), Morten Andersen (2,544 points in his career), and Ladainian Tomlinson (186 points scored in a single season).

A few other names we couldn’t possibly leave out – each of which deserves their own page detailing their accolades – include Dick ‘The Monster of the Midway’ Butkus and The Sheriff himself, Peyton Manning.

From the current line-ups, we can’t overlook football hall-of-famer to-be Aaron Donald – a real challenge even to more experienced players on the field – or, of course, the legend and GOAT himself: Tom Brady.

So far, Tom Brady has won no less than seven Super Bowls – not just more than other players in footballing history, but also more than any team. Don’t believe us? The New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers are both at the top of the table, and both have just six wins behind them. Brady fans are hoping he can stay one step ahead for as long as possible.  

There are so many great names worth knowing if American football is to your tastes. Walter Payton, Lawrence Taylor, Deion Sanders, and Anthony Muñoz – and so, so many more.

The NFL: DAZN Bet’s Pop Quiz

Want a few extra factoids to bring up at dinner parties? Or maybe you’re just looking to test your knowledge. Either way, feast your eyes on these trivia tid-bits.  

Which team has won the most Super Bowl’s in NFL history? 

It’s a two-way tie between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, both of which have 6 Super Bowl wins gleaming in their trophy case. 

How many Super Bowls have there been? 

56 and counting. The events have been known as the Super Bowls since 1969 – the third championship, which had previously been known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. 

Lamar Hunt, who was, at the time, the owner of Kansas City Chiefs, is credited with coming up with the name. 

Which sibling duo have won the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award? 

Peyton and Elisha Manning have both been named MVPs, making for plenty of proud moments in the Manning household. 

DAZN Bet’s Build-Up: The Super Bowl 2024

It’s almost that time again and, already, we can feel a certain frisson in the air. While, understandably, most of our attention is peeling away in favour of the upcoming 2023/24 NFL pearson in August – and, after that, the season starting in September – there’s no denying that the Super Bowl holds more weight than the preseason, the season itself, and the play-offs combined. 

Super Bowl LVIII is all set to take place on 11th of February 2024. It’s not the most romantic lead-up to Valentine’s, but what better excuse to close the door and hunker down on a crisp Sunday afternoon?

As defending champions, the Kansas City Chiefs are already hot favourites, but until the preseason starts, it’s impossible to know which team will be in the best form to compete for the title. As it stands, however, odds are already in for the Chiefs, Eagles and the Buffalo Bills to make a big impact when that first ball goes into play. As ever, we’re all going to have to wait and see!