HOME
        TheInfoList






This chart of the 2019 season standings displays an application of the NFL scheduling formula. The Chiefs in 2019 (highlighted in green) finished in first place in the AFC West. Thus, in 2020, the Chiefs will play two games against each of its division rivals (highlighted in light blue), one game against each team in the AFC East and NFC South (highlighted in yellow), and one game each against the first-place finishers in the AFC North and AFC South (highlighted in orange).

Currently, the thirteen opponents each team faces over the 16-game regular season schedule are set using a pre-determined formula:[74] The league runs a seventeen-week, 256-game regular season. Since 2001, the season has begun the week after Labor Day (first Monday in September) and concluded the week after Christmas.[75] The opening game of the season is normally a home game on a Thursday for the league's defending champion.[76]

Most NFL games are played on Sundays, with a Monday night game typically held at least once a week and Thursday night games occurring on most weeks as well.[76] NFL games are not normally played on Fridays or Saturdays until late in the regular season, as federal law prohibits professional football leagues from competing with college or high school football. Because high school and college teams typically play games on Friday and Saturday, respectively, the NFL cannot hold games on those days until the Friday before the third Saturday in December. While Saturday games late in the season are common, the league rarely holds Friday games, the most recent one being on Christmas Day in 2009.[77] NFL games are rarely scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday, and those days have only been used three times since 1948: in 2010, when a Sunday game was rescheduled to Tuesday due to a blizzard, in 2012, when the Kickoff game was moved from Thursday to Wednesday to avoid conflict with the Democratic National Convention,[78][79] and in 2020, when a game was postponed from Sunday to Tuesday due to players testing positive for COVID-19.

NFL regular season matchups are determined according to a scheduling formula. Within a division, all four teams play fourteen out of their sixteen games against common opponents – two games (home and away) are played against the other three teams in the division, while one game is held against all the members of a division from the NFC and a division from the AFC as determined by a rotating cycle (three years for the conference the team is in, and four years in the conference they are not in). The other two games are intraconference games, determined by the standings of the previous year – for example, if a team finishes first in its division, it will play two other first-place teams in its conference, while a team that finishes last would play two other last-place teams in the conference.[80] In total, each team plays sixteen games and has one bye week, where they do not play any games.[81]

Although a team's home and away opponents are known by the end of the previous year's regular season, the exact dates and times for NFL games are not determined until much later because the league has to account for, among other things, the Major League Baseball postseason and local events that could pose a scheduling conflict with NFL games. During the 2010 season, over 500,000 potential schedules were created by computers, 5,000 of which were considered "playable schedules" and were reviewed by the NFL's scheduling team. After arriving at what they felt was the best schedule out of the group, nearly 50 more potential schedules were developed to try to ensure that the chosen schedule would be the best possible one.[82]

Postseason

The seeding bracket for the NFL playoffs through the 2019 season

Following the conclusion of the regular season, the NFL Playoffs, a fourteen-team single-elimination tournament, is then held. Seven teams are selected from each conference: the winners of each of the four divisions as well as three wild card teams (the three remaining teams with the best overall record). These teams are seeded according to overall record, with the division champions always ranking higher than any of the wild card teams.[83] The top team (seeded one) from each conference are awarded a bye week, while the remaining six teams (seeded 2–7) from each conference compete in the first round of the playoffs, the Wild Card round, with the second seed competing against the seventh, the third seed competing against the sixth seed and the fourth seed competing against the fifth seed. The winners of the Wild Card round advance to the Divisional Round, which matches the lower seeded team against the first seed and the higher seeded team against the second seed. The winners of those games then compete in the Conference Championships, with the higher remaining seed hosting the lower remaining seed. The AFC and NFC champions then compete in the Super Bowl to determine the league champion.

The only other postseason event hosted by the NFL is the Pro Bowl, the league's all-star game. Since 2009, the Pro Bowl has been held the week before the Super Bowl; in previous years, the game was held the week following the Super Bowl, but in an effort to boost ratings, the game was moved to the week before.[84] Because of this, players from the teams participating in the Super Bowl are exempt from participating in the game. The Pro Bowl is not considered as competitive as a regular-season game because the biggest concern of teams is to avoid injuries to the players.[85]

Trophies and awards

Team trophies

The National Football League has used three different trophies to honor its champion over its existence. The first trophy, the Brunswick-Balke Collender Cup, was donated to the NFL (then APFA) in 1920 by the Brunswick-Balke Collender Corporation. The trophy, the appearance of which is only known by its description as a "silver loving cup", was intended to be a traveling trophy and not to become permanent until a team had won at least three titles. The league awarded it to the Akron Pros, champions of the inaugural 1920 season; however, the trophy was discontinued and its current whereabouts are unknown.[86]

A second trophy, the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy, was issued by the NFL from 1934 to 1967. The trophy's namesake, Ed Thorp, was a referee in the league and a friend to many early league owners; upon his death in 1934, the league created the trophy to honor him. In addition to the main trophy, which would be in the possession of the current league champion, the league issued a smaller replica trophy to each champion, who would maintain permanent control over it. The current location of the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy, long thought to be lost,[87] is believed to be possessed by the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.[88]

The current trophy of the NFL is the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The Super Bowl trophy was officially renamed in 1970 after Vince Lombardi, who as head coach led the Green Bay Packers to victories in the first two Super Bowls. Unlike the previous trophies, a new Vince Lombardi Trophy is issued to each year's champion, who maintains permanent control of it. Lombardi Trophies are made by Tiffany & Co. out of sterling silver and are worth anywhere from US$25,000 to US$300,000.[89] Additionally, each player on the winning team as well as coaches and personnel are awarded Super Bowl rings to commemorate their victory. The winning team chooses the company that makes the rings; each ring design varies, with the NFL mandating certain ring specifications (which have a degree of room for deviation), in addition to requiring the Super Bowl logo be on at least one side of the ring.[90] The losing team are also awarded rings, which must be no more than half as valuable as the winners' rings, but those are almost never worn.[91]

The conference champions receive trophies for their achievement. The champions of the NFC receive the George Halas Trophy,[92] named after Chicago Bears founder George Halas, who is also considered as one of the co-founders of the NFL. The AFC champions receive the Lamar Hunt Trophy,[93] named after Lamar Hunt, the founder of the Kansas City Chiefs and the principal founder of the American Football League. Players on the winning team also receive a conference championship ring.[94][95]

Player and coach awards

The NFL recognizes a number of awards for its players and coaches at its annual NFL Honors presentation. The most prestigious award is the AP Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.[96] Other major awards include the AP Offensive Player of the Year, AP Defensive Player of the Year, AP Comeback Player of the Year, and the AP Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards.[97] Another prestigious award is the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which recognizes a player's off-field work in addition to his on-field performance.[98] The NFL Coach of the Year award is the highest coaching award.[99] The NFL also gives out weekly awards such as the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week[100] and the Pepsi MAX NFL Rookie of the Week awards.[101]

Media coverage

In the United States, the National Football League has television contracts with four networks: CBS, ESPN, Fox, and NBC. Collectively, these contracts cover every regular season and postseason game. In general, CBS televises afternoon games in which the away team is an AFC team, and Fox carries afternoon games in which the away team belongs to the NFC. These afternoon games are not carried on all affiliates, as multiple games are being played at once; each network affiliate is assigned one game per time slot, according to a complicated set of rules.[102] Since 2011, the league has reserved the right to give Sunday games that, under the contract, would normally air on one network to the other network (known as "flexible scheduling").[103] The only way to legally watch a regionally televised game not being carried on the local network affiliates is to purchase NFL Sunday Ticket, the league's out-of-market sports package, which is only available to subscribers to the DirecTV satellite service. The league also provides RedZone, an omnibus telecast that cuts to the most relevant plays in each game, live as they happen.

In addition to the regional games, the league also has packages of telecasts, mostly in prime time, that are carried nationwide. NBC broadcasts the primetime Sunday Night Football package', which includes the Thursday NFL Kickoff game that starts the regular season and a primetime Thanksgiving Day game. ESPN carries all Monday Night Football games.[102] The NFL's own network, NFL Network, broadcasts a series titled Thursday Night Football, which was originally exclusive to the network, but which in recent years has had several games simulcast on CBS (since 2014) and NBC (since 2016) (except the Thanksgiving and kickoff games, which remain exclusive to NBC).[104] For the 2017 season, the NFL Network will broadcast 18 regular season games under its Thursday Night Football brand, 16 Thursday-evening contests (10 of which are simulcast on either NBC or CBS) as well as one of the NFL International Series games on a Sunday morning and one of the 2017 Christmas afternoon games. In addition, 10 of the Thursday night games will be streamed live on Amazon Prime. In 2017, the NFL games occupied the top three rates for a 30-second advertisement: $699,602 for Sunday Night Football, $550,709 for Thursday Night Football (NBC), and $549,791 for Thursday Night Football (CBS).[105]

The Super Bowl television rights are rotated on a three-year basis between CBS, Fox, and NBC.[102] In 2011, all four stations signed new nine-year contracts with the NFL, each running until 2022; CBS, Fox, and NBC are estimated by Forbes to pay a combined total of US$3 billion a year, while ESPN will pay US$1.9 billion a year.[106] The league also has deals with Spanish-language broadcasters NBC Universo, Fox Deportes, and ESPN Deportes, which air Spanish language dubs of their respective English-language sister networks' games.[107][108] The league's contracts do not cover preseason games, which individual teams are free to sell to local stations directly; a minority of preseason games are distributed among the league's national television partners.

Through the 2014 season, the NFL had a blackout policy in which games were 'blacked out' on local television in the home team's area if the home stadium was not sold out. Clubs could elect to set this requirement at only 85%, but they would have to give more ticket revenue to the visiting team; teams could also request a specific exemption from the NFL for the game. The vast majority of NFL games were not blacked out; only 6% of games were blacked out during the 2011 season,[109] and only two games were blacked out in 2013 and none in 2014.[110] The NFL announced in March 2015 that it would suspend its blackout policy for at least the 2015 season.[110] According to Nielsen, the NFL regular season since 2012 was watched by at least 200 million individuals, accounting for 80% of all television households in the United States and 69% of all potential viewers in the United States. NFL regular season games accounted for 31 out of the top 32 most-watched programs in the fall season and an NFL game ranked as the most-watched television show in all 17 weeks of the regular season. At the local level, NFL games were the highest-ranked shows in NFL markets 92% of the time.[111] Super Bowls account for the 22 most-watched programs (based on total audience) in US history, including a record 167 million people that watched Super Bowl XLVIII, the conclusion to the 2013 season.[112]

In addition to radio networks run by each NFL team, select NFL games are broadcast nationally by Westwood One (known as Dial Global for the 2012 season). These games are broadcast on over 500 networks, giving all NFL markets access to each primetime game. The NFL's deal with Westwood One was extended in 2012 and will run through 2017.[113]

Some broadcasting innovations have either been introduced or popularized during NFL telecasts. Among them, the Skycam camera system was used for the first time in a live telecast, at a 1984 preseason NFL game in San Diego between the Chargers and 49ers, and televised by CBS.[114] Commentator John Madden famously used a telestrator during games between the early 1980s to the mid-2000s, boosting the device's popularity.[115]

The NFL, as a one-time experiment, distributed the October 25, 2015 International Series game from Wembley Stadium in London between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. The game was live streamed on the Internet exclusively via Yahoo!, except for over-the-air broadcasts on the local CBS-TV affiliates in the Buffalo and Jacksonville markets.[116][117][118]

In 2015, the NFL began sponsoring a series of public service announcements to bring attention to domestic abuse and sexual assault in response to what was seen as poor handling of incidents of violence by players.[119]

Draft

Each April (excluding 2014 when it took place in May), the NFL holds a draft of college players. The draft consists of seven rounds, with each of the 32 clubs getting one pick in each round.[120] The draft order for non-playoff teams is determined by regular-season record; among playoff teams, teams are first ranked by the furthest round of the playoffs they reached, and then are ranked by regular-season record. For example, any team that reached the divisional round will be given a higher pick than any team that reached the conference championships, but will be given a lower pick than any team that did not make the divisional round. The Super Bowl champion always drafts last, and the losing team from the Super Bowl always drafts next-to-last.[121] All potential draftees must be at least three years removed from high school in order to be eligible for the draft.[122] Underclassmen that have met that criterion to be eligible for the draft must write an application to the NFL by January 15 renouncing their remaining college eligibility.[123] Clubs can trade away picks for future draft picks, but cannot trade the rights to players they have selected in previous drafts.[124]

Bengals' quarterback Joe Burrow, the first overall draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft

Aside from the 7 picks each club gets, compensatory draft picks are given to teams that have lost more compensatory free agents than they have gained. These are spread out from rounds 3 to 7, and a total of 32 are given.[125] Clubs are required to make their selection within a certain period of time, the exact time depending on which round the pick is made in. If they fail to do so on time, the clubs behind them can begin to select their players in order, but they do not lose the pick outright. This happened in the 2003 draft, when the Minnesota Vikings failed to make their selection on time. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers were able to make their picks before the Vikings were able to use theirs.[126] Selected players are only allowed to negotiate contracts with the team that picked them, but if they choose not to sign they become eligible for the next year's draft.[127] Under the current collective bargaining contract, all contracts to drafted players must be four-year deals with a club option for a fifth. Contracts themselves are limited to a certain amount of money, depending on the exact draft pick the player was selected with.[128] Players who were draft eligible but not picked in the draft are free to sign with any club.[120]

The NFL operates several other drafts in addition to the NFL draft. The league holds a supplemental draft annually. Clubs submit emails to the league stating the player they wish to select and the round they will do so, and the team with the highest bid wins the rights to that player. The exact order is determined by a lottery held before the draft, and a successful bid for a player will result in the team forfeiting the rights to its pick in the equivalent round of the next NFL draft.[129] Players are only eligible for the supplemental draft after being granted a petition for special eligibility.[130] The league holds expansion drafts, the most recent happening in 2002 when the Houston Texans began play as an expansion team.[131] Other drafts held by the league include an allocation draft in 1950 to allocate players from several teams that played in the dissolved All-America Football Conference[132] and a supplemental draft in 1984 to give NFL teams the rights to players who had been eligible for the main draft but had not been drafted because they had signed contracts with the United States Football League or Canadian Football League.[133]

Like the other major sports leagues in the United States, the NFL maintains protocol for a disaster draft. In the event of a 'near disaster' (less than 15 players killed or disabled) that caused the club to lose a quarterback, they could draft one from a team with at least three quarterbacks. In the event of a 'disaster' (15 or more players killed or disabled) that results in a club's season being canceled, a restocking draft would be held. Neither of these protocols has ever had to be implemented.[134]

Free agency

Free agents in the National Football League are divided into restricted free agents, who have three accrued seasons and whose current contract has expired, and unrestricted free agents, who have four or more accrued seasons and whose contract has expired. An accrued season is defined as "six or more regular-season games on a club's active/inactive, reserved/injured or reserve/physically unable to perform lists".[135] Restricted free agents are allowed to negotiate with other clubs besides their former club, but the former club has the right to match any offer. If they choose not to, they are compensated with draft picks. Unrestricted free agents are free to sign with any club, and no compensation is owed if they sign with a different club.[135]

Clubs are given one franchise tag to offer to any unrestricted free agent. The franchise tag is a one-year deal that pays the player 120% of his previous contract or no less than the average of the f

The NFL preseason begins with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, played at Fawcett Stadium in Canton.[70] Each NFL team is required to schedule four preseason games, two of which must be at its designated home stadium, but the teams involved in the Hall of Fame game, as well as any teams that played in an American Bowl game, play five preseason games.[71] Preseason games are exhibition matches and do not count towards regular-season totals.[72] Because the preseason does not count towards standings, teams generally do not focus on winning games; instead, they are used by coaches to evaluate their teams and by players to show their performance, both to their current team and to other teams if they get cut.[35] The quality of preseason games has been criticized by some fans, who dislike having to pay full price for exhibition games,[73] as well as by some players and coaches, who dislike the risk of injury the games have, while others have felt the preseason is a necessary part of the NFL season.[35][73]

Regular season

[74] The league runs a seventeen-week, 256-game regular season. Since 2001, the season has begun the week after Labor Day (first Monday in September) and concluded the week after Christmas.[75] The opening game of the season is normally a home game on a Thursday for the league's defending champion.[76]

Most NFL games are played on Sundays, with a Monday night game typically held at least once a week and Thursday night games occurring on most weeks as well.[76] NFL games are not normally played on Fridays or Saturdays until late in the regular season, as federal law prohibits professional football leagues from competing with college or high school football. Because high school and college teams typically play games on Friday and Saturday, respectively, the NFL cannot hold games on those days until the Friday before the third Saturday in December. While Saturday games late in the season are common, the league rarely holds Friday games, the most recent one being on Christmas Day in 2009.[77] NFL games are rarely scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday, and those days have only been used three times since 1948: in 2010, when a Sunday game was rescheduled to Tuesday due to a blizzard, in 2012, when the Kickoff game was moved from Thursday to Wednesday to avoid conflict with the Democratic National Convention,[78][79] and in 2020, when a game was postponed from Sunday to Tuesday due to players testing positive for COVID-19.

NFL regular season matchups are determined according to a scheduling formula. Within a division, all four teams play fourteen out of their sixteen games against common opponents – two games (home and away) are played against the other three teams in the division, while one game is held against all the members of a division from the NFC and a division from the AFC as determined by a rotating cycle (three years for the conference the team is in, and four years in the conference they are not in). The other two games are intraconference games, determined by the standings of the previous year – for example, if a team finishes first in its division, it will play two other first-place teams in its conference, while a team that finishes last would play two other last-place teams in the conference.[80] In total, each team plays sixteen games and has one bye week, where they do not play any games.[81]

Although a team's home and away opponents are known by the end of the previous year's regular season, the exact dates and times for NFL games are not determined until much later because the league has to account for, among other things, the Major League Baseball postseason and local events that could pose a scheduling conflict with NFL games. During the 2010 season, over 500,000 potential schedules were created by computers, 5,000 of which were considered "playable schedules" and were reviewed by the NFL's scheduling team. After arriving at what they felt was the best schedule out of the group, nearly 50 more potential schedules were developed to try to ensure that the chosen schedule would be the best possible one.[82]

Postseason