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The start of the 2021-2022 Season, a guide to understanding the NFL

32 teams duke it out over 18 collective weeks to see who will be the champion.



The start of the NFL season is a time of great joy for many. It is a time to witness the best of the best go head to head and cheer for your team to come out on top in each of the 17 games they will play in the regular season. This is why hundreds of thousands of people gather to watch these games every year.


To begin with, you might be asking yourself: what is the NFL? The National Football League is a yearly league where teams play American football. In American football, scoring is quite simple. Teams play in a 100-yard field (91.44 meters), where they aim to get the ball to the other team's end zone, at the end of their opposition's field. If a team reaches the end zone, either through a pass or running in, they score 6 points, called a ‘touchdown’. After this, one of two things may happen. Either the team's kicker will be able to attempt to kick the ball into the goal to score an additional point, or the scoring team will be able to attempt a two-point conversion, where they start 5 yards away from the endzone and have one possession to try to score. Other than that teams can attempt a field goal at any point in the game (from any distance), where in one possession the kicker kicks the ball and, if it reaches the goal, it counts for 3 points. These are the main ways to score within American football.


Now for the actual league, the NFL has a very standard way of scoring teams. Wins and ties give you higher standings, while losses take away opportunities to be placed higher. At the end of the 17 regular-season games, the top 7 teams of each division (AFC and NFC) go head-to-head in a tournament-style bracket for the playoffs in which the 2 finalists take the stage in the infamous Superbowl.


Within the AFC (American Football Conference) and the NFC (National Football Conference), there are 4 subdivisions: East, West, North, and South, each with 4 teams. However, these are determined mostly by location and teams will still play with teams from their larger conferences. The top 7 are decided solely by wins and ties no matter the subdivision (East, West, North, and South). The only exception is the #1 seed of each subdivision, which will always be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.

Both sources from: "Before You Continue To Google Search". Google.Com, 2021, https://www.google.com/search?q=nfl+scoreboard;. Accessed 7 Sept 2021.

In the first picture above, you can see an example of what I mentioned before. In the NFC East, Washington has 7 wins and will now advance to the playoffs (this can be deduced from the orange stripe behind their name which means they have a spot). But in the Northern NFC conference, the Vikings have the same amount of wins, losses and ties, yet did not make it into the playoffs (no stripe to the left of their name). This shows how placing first within your subdivision is of the utmost importance, as it can guarantee a spot in the playoffs, the most important and difficult games in the NFL.


The playoffs work as follows: 14 teams qualify, with the best in each division being given a higher seed. Then the teams play against those in their own division in a best of one bracket to decide who the ‘conference finalists are’. This will happen both for the NFC and the AFC. After that we have the conference finals, where the final 2 teams from each division (AKA conference) play a best of one to see who will become the conference champion and move on to the Superbowl, where they will face a team from the opposing conference.


From,On Twitter, NFL. "Twitter.Com". Twitter.Com, 2021, https://twitter.com/nfl/status/1345951773685473281. Accessed 8 Sept 2021.

Above is the bracket from last year. From this we can see how the Superbowl bracket really works. The Kansas City Chiefs (the KC within an arrow on the left) were the highest-scoring team in the AFC that year and secured a spot in the divisional round from the get go. Just like the Greenbay Packers (big green G on the right) in the NFC. These two teams did not have to play as many playoff games as the others and were able to ‘rest’ after successful seasons. I say ‘rest’ because as soon as the other teams finish their games these teams go back to competing for the title.


Finally, once you win the Superbowl, two main things happen. Firstly, all players get Superbowl rings (picture below), with the team logo, the year of the ring, and some other decorations on them. And secondly, they become the best team in the league that year and the prestige that comes with that carries on to the next season, giving these teams advantages psychologically and financially (with each member receiving an average of $150,000). Overall, the Superbowl journey is long, but the rewards are worth it. If just the prestige from winning this is astronomic, you can imagine the rewards…


The 2019 Superbowl ring, from: "Kansas City Chiefs Unveil Super Bowl LIV Rings". Usatoday.Com, 2021, https://www.usatoday.com/picture-gallery/sports/nfl/chiefs/2020/09/02/kansas-city-chiefs-super-bowl-liv-rings-photos/5692563002/. Accessed 8 Sept 2021.
The Kansas City Chiefs celebrating their 2019 win, from: America, Good. "The Halftime Mentality That Led Kansas City Chiefs To Super Bowl Win". Good Morning America, 2021, https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/culture/story/running-back-shares-halftime-mentality-led-kansas-city-68718873. Accessed 8 Sept 2021.
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