The National Football League (NFL)

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The National Football League is the largest professional American football league in the world. Formed in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association, it consisted of 11 teams and later changed it’s name, in 1922, to the National Football League.


The NFL consists of 32 clubs. Each club is allowed a maximum of fifty-three players on their roster, but they may only dress forty-five to play each week during the regular season.


Unlike Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, the league has no full-time teams in Canada largely because of the historical existence of the Canadian Football League, although the Buffalo Bills play one game per year (outside of the CFL season) in Toronto. Most teams are in the Eastern United States; sixteen teams are in the Eastern Time Zone and ten others in the Central Time Zone.


Most major metropolitan areas in the United States have an NFL franchise, although Los Angeles, the second-largest metropolitan area in the country, has not hosted an NFL team since 1994.


It is divided evenly into two Conferences; The Amercian Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC).


In each conference, the #3 and #6 seeded teams, and the #4 and #5 seeds, face each other during the first round of the playoffs, dubbed the Wild Card Playoffs (the league in recent years has also used the term Wild Card Weekend). The #1 and #2 seeds from each conference receive a bye in the first round, which entitles these teams to automatically advance to the second round, the Divisional Playoff games, to face the winning teams from the first round. In round two, the highest surviving seed (#1) always plays the lowest surviving seed in their conference. And in any given playoff game, whoever has the higher seed gets the home field advantage (i.e. the game is held at the higher seed’s home field).


The two surviving teams from the Divisional Playoff games meet in Conference Championship games, with the winners of those contests going on to face one another in the Super Bowl in a game located at a neutral venue that is either indoors or in a warm-weather locale. The designated “home team” alternates year to year between the conferences. In Super Bowl XLIV, the AFC Champion will be the “home” team.


Each season is a seventeen week schedule during which each team has one bye week and plays sixteen games, Teams play all three other teams in their division twice. They also play each team from another division in their conference and each team from a division in the opposite conference. The final two games come against the teams in the other two divisions in their conference who finished in the same place from the previous season. The season currently starts on the Thursday night in the first full week of September (the Thursday after Labor Day) and runs weekly to late December or early January.


At the end of each regular season, six teams from each conference play in the NFL playoffs, a twelve-team single-elimination tournament that culminates with the championship game, known as the Super Bowl. This game is held at a pre-selected site which is usually a city that hosts an NFL team. Commercials during the Super Bowl tend to be quite popular among the general public. Selected all-star players from both the AFC and NFC meet in the Pro Bowl, held in Honolulu, Hawaii; up to and including 2009, this game took place the weekend after the Super Bowl. In 2010, it will take place the week prior to the Super Bowl, in Miami Gardens, Florida.


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