American football, or just football in the United States, is a contact sport between two teams. Each team has 11 players. The main objective is for each team to try and score more points than their opponents.
The American football field is rectangular in shape and has one goalpost at each end. Players move the ball down the field by running with it or passing it. At the same time, their opponents attempt to prevent them from making progress.
In terms of fan base and TV viewership, American football is the most popular sport in the US. The National Football League (NFL) is the biggest American football league, and college football is also immensely popular. There are over 1.1 million football players at the high school level. Over 70,000 play the game at the collegiate level.
There are many different betting markets for American football from the spread and totals to proposition bets and futures. All NFL games will give bettors a variety of options to choose from, as will the bigger college games.
With American football being so popular many sportsbooks offer special bonuses and promotions for the sport. This is especially the case for bigger games, such as the playoffs and Super Bowl in the NFL. Or the National Championship in college football.
The Super Bowl is one of the most significant betting events of the year. It is also one of the most-watched events worldwide.
The team with the ball is the offense, and the team without the ball is the defense. There are four downs in American football, which are individual plays, and the goal of the offense is to either score or move the ball 10 yards in those four plays. If they don't succeed, possession goes to the opposing team.
The team on offense will try to move the ball down the field to score in the end zone or get close enough to attempt a field goal, which is kicking the football through the goalposts.
The offense moves the ball down the field, running it or passing the ball in the air. They can also punt the ball to the other team in a long kick to give possession to the other team or kick a field goal to score.
A field goal is worth three points. If the team goes the entire length of the field and gets in the opponents' end zone, they get six points. The team that scored a touchdown can then choose to kick and an extra point, worth one point, or go for a 2-point conversion having the ball placed on the two-yard line and then trying to get into the end zone.
The team with the ball has four downs to get 10 yards for another set of downs. There is first down, second down, third down, and fourth down, and the team can get a first down on any of the downs by gaining at least 10 yards. Wherever the ball is stopped on the field is called the line of scrimmage, and that is where the next play will start.
On the fourth and last down, the team can punt the ball down the field, making it harder for the opposing team to score. The team with the ball can also go for it on fourth down attempting to get a first down, but if they do not get to the first down marker, which is the 10 yards that needs to be gained in the set of downs, the opposing team takes control of the ball from that point.
The defensive team tries to keep the offensive team from moving the ball by tackling the player with the ball, forcing the player with the ball out of bounds, or defending pass plays.
The defense can also force turnovers by causing a fumble or intercepting the ball. A fumble is when the player running with the ball loses control before their knee hits the ground. An interception is when the defensive team catches the ball in the air meant to go to a player on offense.
The defensive team can score a touchdown if they pick up the fumble and take it into the opponent's end zone or if they intercept a pass and take it into the opponent's end zone. The defense can also score on a safety, which is worth two points, if they tackle an opposing player in their own end zone.
On offense, the main positions, which are referred to as the skill positions, are:
Quarterback – The leading role on offense and the player that passes the ball and runs the plays.
Running Back – The player that runs with the ball trying to gain yards down the field.
Wide Receiver and Tight End – Players that go down the field, running routes, and try to catch the ball. At times, they have to block opposing players if it is a run play.
On offense, there is also the offensive lineman that line up on the line of scrimmage. They are the bigger players who protect the quarterback and try to open up holes for their running backs.
On defense, there are two lines in the front line and the secondary. The front line defense are the bigger players that oppose the offensive lineman and try to tackle the running back and put pressure on the opposing quarterback.
The second line is called the secondary. These players are further back covering the wide receivers. They cover the receivers and tackle runners that pass the first line of defense.
There are also two kickers in the place kicker and the punter. The place kicker is the player that kicks the field goals and kicks off at the beginning of each half and after their team scores.
The punter is the player that kicks off, usually after third down, to launch the ball as far as possible down the field to have the opposing team have a harder time to score being further back in their territory.
Every play besides a kickoff starts with the two teams opposing each other in the offense and defense. The center, which is the center position on the offensive line, will have the ball and hike it, which means give it to their quarterback under their legs to start the play.
They are assessed the yardage penalty and then have to play that down again. For example, if the offensive team is given a penalty of 10 yards on first down, it is first down again, but they have to go 20 yards for another first down with the yardage penalized.
If the team on defense commits the penalty, they are assessed the yardage, and it may result in a first down. One defensive penalty that can be more than 15 yards is pass interference. This means a defensive player interferes with a player trying to catch the ball.
If that is called, the offensive team not only gets an automatic first down, but the new line of scrimmage is where the penalty occurred no matter how far it is from the line of scrimmage.
The severity of the penalty will determine how many yards the opposing team gets. Here are some of the minor penalties.
When an offensive player moves prior to the ball being hiked to the quarterback.
When a defensive player moves before the ball is hiked to the quarterback.
When any part of the player's body is past the line of scrimmage before the ball is hiked.
When an offensive player holds a defensive player.
When a player on defensive holds or tackles an offensive player without the ball.
Delay of Game
Going past the allotted time to run a play.
Unintentional Face Mask
Touching an opposing player's face mask without trying to do so.
Minor Penalty Actions
The harshest penalties for 15 yards are given on plays where a player's health is at risk, and they are:
Roughing the Passer
Defensive player hits the opposing quarterback after they pass the ball or in a violent manner.
Roughing the Kicker
The same penalty as above but committed against the kicker.
Intentionally grabbing the face mask of the opponent.
An illegal or flagrant foul, usually a late or illegal hit.
Helmet to Helmet Collision
A player using their helmet to hit another player's helmet to tackle them.
Horse Collar Tackle
Grabbing a player by the shoulder pads, as well as jersey, from behind and yanking them down.
Harsher Penalty Actions
American Football games last for 60 minutes in NFL and college with four quarters of 15 minutes. High school football games are 48 minutes long, with four quarters of 12 minutes.
Strategy and Tactics
American football has a lot of strategies and tactics, which often can change during a game. The teams try to play to their strength while attempting to thwart the opponents' strength. For example, a team can be a run-first team, one that likes to pass often, or one that relies on their defense to win.
Many of the strategies and tactics that American football teams use are devised by the coaches, especially the head coach. The tactics can also change for a team during a game. This is dependent on how the game is unfolding and the time left on the clock.
For example, if a team is a run-first offense that relies on defense but is down late in the game, they will have to change their strategy to move the ball quicker, which is done by passing the ball.
If a team is a pass-first offense, their opponents' defensive strategy will be to defend the pass. If a team likes to run the ball, the strategy on defense will be to try to contain the run. The matchups for teams in an American football game will determine the strategy used by each team.
American Football: A Brief History
American football originated in colleges in the northeast of the United States in the latter part of the 19th century. It evolved from rugby and soccer, which came from Britain, and the first form of the sport was very different from what it is today. In those earliest days, American football was very brutal with no real set of set rules.
The first accepted official American football game was between the two colleges of Rutgers and Princeton. In that form of the game, the players could not pick up the ball but had to push it forward by kicking it and swiping it with their hands.
There are variations of American football for many colleges in the northeast, and the first attempt to standardize the sport came with the 1873 establishment of the Intercollegiate Football Association (IFA). At the time, many colleges still played under their own rules.
American football became more codified in the 1880s, and the modern game is credited to the rules Walter Camp (1859–1925) came up with. He is referred to as the father of American football, and under his rules, 11 players had to move the ball a certain distance in a number of plays, which are now known as downs.
College football used the new rules and thrived in popularity at the turn of the century. In 1920 the American Professional Football Conference was established, and in 1932 it changed its name to the NFL.
The game grew with more college and pro teams for the next several decades with styles of play changing. The NFL is now the most profitable sports league, and NCAA football is a multi-billion dollar business.
Hall of Fame
Having been around for quite some time, there are plenty of notable players who have been recognized as key contributors to the sport. Many are named in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton, Ohio, and the College Football Hall of Fame, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Quarterback Tom Brady is considered to be the greatest football player of all time, with six Super Bowl rings. However, many people think Joe Montana is the GOAT, and the debate is a heated one considering there are many greats at different positions than the quarterbacks, who tend to get most of the glory.
One of the distinctive elements of American football is that it is very physical and sometimes quite brutal. Skill is displayed with powerful and speedy players all on the field simultaneously with the same goal. In this millennium, there have been many safety measures taken in American football to make the game safer for players.
Another distinctive element of American football is how big it is, from the youth and high school level to the pro level. For example, in Texas, high school football is the biggest sport around, by far, and it permeates the culture.
All of the pro teams in the NFL have a huge fan base. College stadiums can hold over 100,000 fans, and every Saturday is a big-time event on campus with millions of fans.
There are many statistics for American football. While every position can have different stats, the more important ones are usually for the skill positions of quarterback, running back and wide receiver. There are also many key stats for teams on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
For the quarterback, the key stats are passing yards per game, completion percentage, touchdown to interception ratio, and yards per pass. For the running back and wide receiver positions, the main stats are rushing yards per game, average rushing yards per attempt, receiving yards per game, and average yardage per reception.
On the defensive side, key stats are tackles, tackles per game, sacks, sacks per game, and interceptions.
When it comes to team stats, the most important is the win-loss record. Other vital ones are yards per game, points per game, points allowed per game, and passing and rushing yards allowed per game.
Popularity and Cultural Impact
American football is the most popular sport in the United States. Because of that, the most prominent stars can, and often are, the biggest ones in the sports world. They endorse products and support worthy causes. Many also get plenty of further exposure in movies and on various TV shows.
American football has shown no signs of waning in popularity. And why would it? The sport is thrilling at every level, from high school to the NFL.
While there has been some concern over the level of violence in the sport, that hasn't affected ratings. American football is a big part of US culture, and it will remain so for a long time to come.
American Football FAQ
How long is a football field?
The official length of an American football field is 120 yards.
How wide is a football field?
The official width of an American football field is 160 feet.
When does American football season start?
The 2021 NFL season will start on Thursday, September 9.
How long is a football game?
An American football game is 60 minutes in duration. That time is divided into four quarters of 15 minutes each.
About Jude Sutcliffe
Jude is a lover of all sport. Particularly European Football (Premier League/Champions League) and Basketball (NCAA/NBA). Expert sport betting analyst. Uses facts and statistics to calculate the best ways to make money in the world of sports betting. Published journalist in the UK.
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