Live sport is a lot more fun when you understand the rules - or at least have enough knowledge to pretend you know what you’re talking about.
Whether you want to get more out of watching the NFL, or just wish to appear as though you understand what the hell is going on, we’ve got your back. Here are five things every NFL virgin should know about before watching the Jacksonville Jaguars play Baltimore Ravens live from Wembley on Saturday 24 th September at Topgolf.
1) The Touchdown
The basic aim of American football is to run (or catch the ball inside) the end zone.
Conveniently coloured for rookie fans.
Similar (but different) to when rugby players score a try by grounding the ball over the try-line, American footballers score a touchdown (worth 6 points) not by touching the ball to the floor but by running into the end zone with the ball in hand, catching a pass inside the zone, or grabbing the ball after a fumble by the other team.
(We don’t know why they call it a touchdown either).
2) The Field Goal
Similar to rugby penalties, ball kicked between posts = points.
Jonny Wilkinson – but with a cooler kit.
Field goals are worth three points – and are often used as a last-ditch attempt to win or tie the game. They can be taken from anywhere on the field but most kickers go from inside the defence’s 45-yard-line.
After a touchdown, a chance at a field goal is earned for which the kicker can earn his team one point. Field goals taken in open play can be taken on any down.
Don’t worry, we’re about to explain those too.
3) The Down
A down is an attempt to run (or throw) the ball at least ten yards further towards the opposition’s end zone without being intercepted or tackled.
“Who forgot to count the steps?”
Each team gets four downs to get the ball ten yards further up the pitch. If they are successful, the count is reset and they have four more attempts at trying, thus helping them to get progressively closer to their opponent’s end zone.
4) The Positions
The quarterback isn’t just the handsome jock in a high school movie.
Again though, cool uniforms…
The QB’s job (acronyms always make you appear knowledgeable) is to call tactics in the huddle and generally decide the pattern of play, whether he chooses to throw to a wide receiver (rapid wingers who catch the ball up the field), hand off to a running back (tricky, agile players who can skip past defenders) or run the ball himself.
And that’s before we even get to defensive ends, linebackers and other players who defend their end zone…but we’ll save that for next time.
For the time being, whoop along, enjoy the touchdowns and dispute whether the quarterback should be handing off his to running backs or going direct to the wide receivers, while casually informing everyone that if the Packers are losing late on, they should opt for a field goal from the 45 yard line.
Nobody will know any better.
NFL Wembley is showing live at Topgolf on all screens on Saturday 24th September.