The National Football Association (NFL) is the top tier level of American football in North America. The franchise is comprised of 32 teams, and unlike the NBA and the NHL, every single one of them is located in the United States. Founded on August 26, 1920, as the American Professional Football Conference (APFC) and then modifying its name to the American Professional Football Association (APFA) a month later, the NFL became known as its current name at the start of the 1922 campaign.
At the start of the 1970 season, the NFL merged with rival organisation American Football League (AFL) – finally completing a process that had started on June 8, 1966.
The NFL is divided into two conferences: the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). Each of these two conferences is further subdivided into four divisions: East, West, North, and South, with four teams making up each group.
Each year, every team has a chance to compete for the opportunity to play in the post-season playoffs and clinch the coveted Super Bowl title. As of 2001, the regular season commences on the first Monday in September and ends in late December to early January. Each team plays 16 matches over the 17-week season, meaning that there is one match per week with one bye week (during which the players get a break from live action).
Unlike other leagues like the NBA and the NHL, NFL teams do not play every single team in the competition twice. That is because the schedule is arranged by a specific scheduling formula, so a team could actually avoid playing an opponent even in its own conference for a few years.
Once the regular season is completed, the playoffs begin shortly after in January. Unlike the NHL and NBA, who use a “best of seven” format to advance to the next round, the NFL uses a “single elimination” method. Moreover, only 14 teams are selected – unlike the 16 in other North American leagues – which is comprised of the winners of each division (East, West, North, and South) plus three “wild cards”, who are the three teams with the strongest performance over the course of the season who were not crowned winners of their division.
Each conference will get seven teams in total, and every team is seeded (ranked) to determine who plays who during the playoffs until two teams remain – one from each conference to battle for the Super Bowl trophy.
The Green Bay Packers, who were founded in 1921, are the franchise’s most successful side, clinching the national title both before and after the introduction of the Super Bowl in 1967. The oldest teams still featuring in the NFL are the Chicago Bears (formerly known as the Decatur Staleys) and the Arizona Cardinals (formerly known as the Chicago Cardinals before their move to Arizona in 1988); they are the only teams to have featured in every single season of the NFL since its creation in 1920.
In recent years, the NFL has started to play some of its matches abroad in an attempt to boost the league’s reach outside the United States, under the banner “NFL International Series”. The two locations for these games are in London and Mexico, with the NFL London Games starting in 2007, followed by the NFL Mexico Games in Mexico City, which began operations in 2016.
In the USA, regular season and post-season matches are broadcast nationally and regionally on TV, radio, and via live-streaming online and on OTT platforms. Spanish-language options are also available throughout the United States for viewers. On-demand options to watch NFL matches are available via OTT platforms as well as via digital services on most TV subscriptions.
Meanwhile, in Canada, live streaming and radio broadcasts in English and French are available for users, as well as regional and national TV broadcasts covering the regular season and the playoffs. On-demand options are available to watch via digital services with most TV provider subscriptions and OTT services.
NFL Network, a specialty network sponsored by the league, also provides exclusive coverage for fans in the United States. This same network is available to fans in select countries (such as the UK, Canada, and Germany) via local providers. This service offers live streaming as well as on-demand viewing of matches and highlights.
In the UK and elsewhere internationally, fans can enjoy live streaming of NFL matches and TV coverage through local providers, especially in countries like Germany where American football has been growing in popularity over the years.