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What is the NFL?
The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American gridiron football league. It is the most profitable sports league in the world. It is the dominant professional football league in the United States, with a growing footprint in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, and the broader European Union.
How many teams are in the NFL?
The NFL is made up of 32 teams. There are two conferences, the AFC and NFC, and four divisions within each conference. Every year, the winner of the AFC plays the winner of the NFC in the Super Bowl—the largest annual sporting event in the world.
How old is the NFL?
The name of the National Football League was officially adopted in 1922. However, the league itself began play in 1920. It started as the “American Professional Football Association” (APFA). On June 24, 1922, the APFA renamed itself to the National Football League. At the same time, the Chicago Staleys, a member of the APFA, also changed their name—to the Chicago Bears, the mascot that is still used to this day.
The NFL celebrated its 100th anniversary during the 2020 season—culminating in a Super Bowl victory for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers of the NFC defeated the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFC by a score of 31 to 9.
When is the NFL season?
The NFL season begins in early September every year and ends with the Super Bowl in early February. However, the NFL operates year-round in various capacities. The calendar year for the NFL is divided into four general categories:
The NFL Preseason
The NFL preseason is a period of exhibition games before the NFL regular season. It is a chance for teams to play “warm up” games to prepare for the regular season. The preseason generally takes place in the month of August.
NFL teams typically play 3 preseason games. Two teams every year will play a fourth preseason game: the Hall of Fame Game.
Generally, teams use the preseason to play young players to determine who will make the roster and who will be cut from the team. In many cases, starting players do not play much in the preseason.
NFL Training Camp
NFL training camp is when each team begins practice on a full-time basis for the coming year. It is the informal start to the new season for each team. NFL training camp coincides with the NFL preseason. NFL training camps run from late July until the end of August.
The NFL Regular Season
The NFL regular season is 17 games in length over an 18-week period. The regular season lasts from early September until early January. Each team receives one bye week during the regular season—a week with no game and a chance to rest.
The regular season schedule for every team consits of:
- 2 games each against the other three teams in division (6 divisional games in total)
- 5 games against teams in the opposite conference
- 6 games against teams in conference
The regular season determines which teams will earn a spot in the playoffs, and which teams will not. Teams that do not make the playoffs are done for the year after the regular season concludes.
The NFL Playoffs
The NFL Playoffs begin in January every year and last about one month—culminating in the Super Bowl in February.
14 teams make the NFL Playoffs every year: 7 teams from the NFC and 7 teams from the AFC. The 7 teams from the NFC and AFC are made up of the 4 division winners and 3 “wild card” teams from each conference. The 3 “wild card” teams are the teams with the 3 best records who did not win their division.
The division winner with the best record in each conference earns a bye week in the first round of the NFL Playoffs. The other 6 teams play. The team with the higher seed is awarded home field for every playoff game with the exception of the Super Bowl, which is always a neutral site game.
The NFL Playoffs are a four round tournament:
- Wildcard Round
- The #2 seed hosts the #7 seed in each conference
- The #3 seed hosts the #6 seed in each conference
- The #4 seed hosts the #5 seed in each conference
- Divisional Round
- The #1 seed hosts the lowest remaining seed
- The 2nd highest remaining seed hosts the 3rd highest remaining seed
- Conference Championships
- AFC Championship: the highest remaining seed hosts the other conference finalist
- NFC Championship: the highest remaining seed hosts the other conference finalist
- The Super Bowl
- The winner of the AFC plays the winner of the NFC at a neutral-site
The NFL Offseason
The NFL offseason begins when the NFL Playoffs are over. The NFL offseason lasts until training camps begin and the preseason starts.
The NFL offseason has several significant events: NFL free agency, the NFL Draft, and various team-run offseason workout programs.
NFL free agency opens in mid-March. NFL free agency is the time that players can sign with a new team (assuming that they are not under contract with their current team). It is a pivotal chance for teams to add veteran players.
The NFL Draft occurs in late April. It is when NFL teams get to select players from college football to join their team. The NFL Draft is when college players turn professional. The order of the NFL draft is determined by each team’s record from the previous regular season. The team with the worst record gets the first pick, and the Super Bowl champion gets the last pick. The NFL Draft is 7 rounds long.
NFL offseason workout programs include OTAs and mini camps. These are formal and informal training sessions. Some offseason programs are voluntary, while others have mandatory attendance rules. NFL offseason programs take place between April and July every year.
How many players are in the NFL?
NFL teams can have 53 players on their roster during the season. That means that there are 1,696 players on active NFL rosters at any given point.
On gamedays, each team can have 47-48 of those players dressed to play.
In the NFL offseason and training camp, teams can have up to 90 players on their roster. As the regular season nears, every team makes a slew of roster cuts to whittle their 90-man rosters down to 53 players. NFL preseason games and training camps serve a vital role in making roster cut decisions.