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Girl’s Guide to the NFL

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at WM chapter.

Ever been confused as to why anyone would spend a Thursday night in front of a TV watching the big football game? Can’t tell the difference between a quarterback and a cornerback? Want to have a semi-intelligent conversation about football with someone? Then this article is for you. Here is the first HCWM sports guide to the NFL.

League Basics

The NFL (National Football League) consists of 32 teams from cities all across America. The teams are then equally divided into two conferences, the AFC (American Football Conference) and the NFC (National Football Conference). Each conference is then divided into four divisions (NFC East, NFC West, NFC North, NFC South, and the same arrangement for the AFC). To help you with what teams are in what division, here they are:

Basically, there are four teams in each division and 16 teams in each conference. The NFL season starts the Thursday after Labor Day with a “Kickoff Game”, which is why you probably saw a lot of guys in jerseys last week. This year’s Kickoff Game teams were the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers (Seahawks won 36-16). Once the season starts, each team plays 16 games, usually one game a week with the occasional week off. As soon as the season ends in December/January, the playoffs begin. The top 12 teams (the ones with the most wins in each division plus four “wild card” teams) then play each other in an elimination tournament. The NFC and AFC winners then play each other in the Super Bowl (The Seattle Seahawks were the 2014 Super Bowl winners, defeating the Denver Broncos).

But How Do You Play Football?


A football field is 120 yards long and 53.3 yards wide, regardless of the league. You’ll find that same measurement in our own Zable Stadium, or even in your high school’s field. The field is divided into different “yard lines” used to measure distance. The 50 – yard line is the center of the field, with 10 – yard increments being set up along the way to the end zone (the place the players are trying to get the ball to). There are two field goals, one on either side of the field.

A team gets four tries, or downs, to advance the ball ten yards to get another first down. The goal of the offense is to get the ball to the endzone. Teams can earn points on offense by: scoring a touchdown (6 points, a player runs with the ball into the endzone or catches it in the endzone), kicking an extra point (1 point, a player kicks the ball between the goal posts after a touchdown), a two-point conversion (2 points; a player catches/carries the ball into the endzone after a touchdown) and a field goal (3 points, a player kicks the ball over the field goal during the 4th down only).

Players’ positions are divided into three categories, the offense, defense, and special teams. Each team is allowed to have 11 players on the field.  On the offense, the players who are actually allowed to catch and run with the ball are called “eligible receivers.” This includes the quarterback (the guy who throws/hands off the ball), the wide receivers (fast guys who catch the ball), the running backs (fast guys who grab the hand off and run with the ball), and the tight ends (guys who help “block” the defense but the quarterback can also throw them the ball if necessary). The linemen (the big guys you’ll see standing in a, wait for it, line) are “ineligible”, meaning that the quarterback cannot pass/hand them the ball. Their jobs are to use their bodies to protect the quarterback (and occasionally the running backs) from the defense. The offensive linemen consist of the center (the guy who snaps the ball to the quarterback), two guards, and two tackles.

The goal of the defense is to stop the offense from advancing down the field to score. The defensive line consists of tackles and defensive ends. The defensive ends try to sack the quarterback (tackle him while he’s holding the ball). More defensive positions include linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties.

The special teams include players who participate in field goals, kickoff and kickoff returns, and punts and punt returns (think players like the kicker).

Some Players to Know

Because you should probably know people other than Tom Brady.

Peyton Manning: quarterback for the Denver Broncos. You might have heard of him. He’s also in a lot of commercials and has hosted SNL before. Also has a little brother, Eli, who is the quarterback for the New York Giants.

Calvin Johnson: Nicknamed “Megatron”, he is the wide receiver for the Detroit Lions. Holds a lot of NFL records, including most receiving yards in a single season.

Richard Sherman: Cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks. Known for his personality and trash talking, as well as for making big plays.

Aaron Rodgers: Besides from being on a bunch of State Farm commercials, he’s also the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.

Russell Wilson: Quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. Also, he grew up an hour away in Richmond. Fun fact: he and my friend’s sister were co-presidents of their senior class.

Jonathan Grimes and B.W. Webb: one plays for the Texans, the other for the Steelers; the most important thing about them for you to know is that they both went to W&M. GO TRIBE!

What Team Should I Root For?

Whoever you want! The most common team for Virginians to cheer for is the Washington Redskins, mainly because they are the closest team near us. Or cheer for the team closest to your hometown. Or if you’d rather someone else decide for you, here’s a quiz.







infographic: http://seagawk.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/61898573/

Photo Credit: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4


Phoebe is a senior at W&M double majoring in economics and classical civilization. When not writing articles, she can be found streaming Netflix, watching her beloved Washington Wizards, and finding ways to procrastinate on things that actually need to get done.