While the end of summer can be saddening for many different reasons, one positive outcome is the start of football season! It’s an exciting time for many, especially for me: the biggest Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic! As a ride or die football fan, I've noticed that there are many people want to join in the excitement but have no idea how football works. Well, fear not: your biggest football fanatic is here to report to you the ultimate guide for any NFL newbie!

1. What is the NFL? 

The NFL (National Football League) includes 32 teams divided into two conferences: the AFC (American Football Conference) and the NFC (National Football Conference). Each conference is then divided into four divisions which have four teams in each. These divisions are pictured below. 

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2. What is the overall goal of the game?

The overall goal of football is to travel 100 yards down the field to score points. A player can score points by bringing the ball into their opponent's end zone. Each team gets four tries, or "downs," to travel 10 yards "down" the field. If they do not make it, they punt the ball away towards the other team. 

3. How do you score points for your team? 

There are several ways for a player to score points for their teams. One well-known method is achieving a touchdown. A touchdown, worth six points, is when a player catches the ball or runs with it into the end zone. After a touchdown, the team either kicks the ball through the goal post for one extra point or runs a "two-point conversion" where the team must complete a pass or run with the ball from the 20-yard-line. But if a team is too far away to score a touchdown, they can kick a three-point field goal.

4. What are the offensive line positions? 

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, be sure to note that the quarterback (QB) leads the offense by calling the plays. Then, he either throws the ball or hands it to a running back. The offensive line blocks the opponent so that the quarterback has time to do this. If a throw is caught by the other team, it is called an interception and the other team now gets the ball. Now, here are the positions of players who block and protect the quarterback:


Center: positioned at the middle of the "o-line" and snaps the ball to the QB at the start of a play.

Guard: positioned on each side of the center and blocks the opponent during the play.

Tackle: positioned on each side of the guards and also blocks opponents so the QB can pass the ball.

Running Back: lines up behind or next to the QB and can be used to run or catch the ball or to block.

Receivers: carries the primary role of catching the ball or to blocking runners.


Tight End: Carries the primary role acting as another blocker but can also be used in the passing game. 

Kicker: Is responsible for kicking field goals and earning extra points, as well as the kickoff to the other team after a score.

4. What are the defensive line positions?

Defensive Tackle: Usually the biggest guys on the team, their job is to rush or, bombard, the opponent.

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Defensive End: Players of the defensive end trying to put pressure on the Quarterback.

Cornerback: There are usually two of them on one team and they cover the opposing two wide receivers during the game. 

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Safety: There are always two of them on the field and the strong safety they provide helps to cover receivers while the free safety plays the backfield to help cornerbacks in deep passes.

5. Can you list some common penalties?

The rules of football keep changing to ensure players' safety, so players always need to be able to adapt and learn the new ways to tackle and play the game they love. If any of these rules are broken, the referee will throw a yellow flag to signal that a penalty has occurred. Here are some common penalties in football. 


Pass Interference: A Penalty where another player disrupts a receiver's attempt to catch the ball.

False Start: A Penalty where a player on the opposing team moves in a way to suggest they have started the play, prior to the snap of the ball.

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Unsportsmanlike Conduct: A penalty where a player behaves inappropriately and does not show proper sportsmanship.

Encroachment: A penalty where the defense crosses the line of scrimmage where the play starts.

Offside: A penalty where any part of a player's body is in front of the line of scrimmage when the ball is in play.

As you can see, football is a complicated game...and these are just the basics! But don't worry, with this guide next to you during the first few NFL games you watch, you'll become a pro in all things NFL in no time! Remember, go Steelers!

Lead Image Credit: Unsplash