Let’s talk about the league. The National Football League has 32 teams. That means there are 32 different cities/areas represented, 32 head coaches, and 32 different logos that you can get on adorable Victoria’s Secret PINK apparel.
Maybe all you care about is the PINK apparel, and that’s perfectly fine, but for those of you who have an interest in how to keep track of these teams, keep reading. Knowing the conference and division of a team will help a lot of things make sense, like who can play in a Super Bowl or why everyone in your town hates a certain team.
It helps to start at the beginning. As Julie Andrews said, it’s a very good place to start.
The NFL started, more or less in the early 1920s, and was composed of 10 different teams. The rules were different, the players weren’t as jacked, and the game was most definitely not generating billions in revenue.
The league became more organized, the game gained popularity, and by 1960, a second football league, the American Football League, was created. (There were other attempts to create leagues before this, but the 1960 AFL created by pissed-off people who had difficulty buying into the original NFL, was the only one that really seemed to work.)
Competition got fierce between the two leagues. We’re talking Beyonce-fierce. The leagues finally decided to stop screwing each other over (stealing players and such) and merge in 1966, completing that transition to one league in 1970. The Super Bowl was invented during that transition, with the regular season winners of the NFL playing the regular season winners of the AFL.
OK, that’s enough history for now. Let’s talk about conferences.
The original NFL teams became the National Football Conference (NFC) and the original AFC teams became the American Football Conference (AFC). The winners of each conference still play each other in the Super Bowl today.
The system for determining who makes the playoffs is an article in itself, but let’s save that for another day.
Stay with me now. We’ve established that there are 2 conferences. Each conference has 16 teams. To make scheduling a hell of a lot easier and facilitate the playoff system, each conference is divided into 4 divisions: North, East, South, and West.
That means there are 4 teams in the AFC North, 4 teams in the NFC North, 4 teams in the AFC East, 4 teams in the NFC East…yada, yada, yada.
Here’s your cheat sheet:
For the most part, teams are in the part of the country reflected in their division name. Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit are all in the northern area of the country, so it makes sense that they are in the NFC North.
The naming-convention isn’t perfect, though. For example, the Dallas Cowboys are in the NFC East (with Philadelphia, New York and Washington DC teams) and the St. Louis Rams are in the NFC West (with Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona teams). Last time I checked, Dallas was not on the east coast…
How do you remember if a team is AFC or NFC? Great question! My secret was to start watching more football. The AFC and NFC are usually on different networks. Different networks have different announcers. You watch enough games and you start to know that if Troy Aikman and Joe Buck are talking, they are on FOX, which means the host team is probably going to be NFC. On the other hand, if Jim Nantz and Phils Simms are chatting it up, the game is on CBS and likely a game with an AFC host team.
Probably lost some of you there throwing around the names football commentators. My bad. Let’s put it another way – If you see commercials for New Girl, American Idol, or 24, there’s a good chance the home team is NFC. If you see commercials for The Big Bang Theory, NCIS, or the Good Wife, you’ve probably got an AFC home team. This method isn’t flawless, especially if you are watching Sunday night football (NBC) or Monday night football (ESPN), but it’s a start. Zooey Deschannel = NFC. Shemar Moore = AFC. How easy is that?!
So there you have it – 32 teams split into 2 conferences, with 4 divisions in each conference.
This is important to know because it determines:
– Which teams can play each other in a Super Bowl
– The logic behind the regular season schedule and the playoff schedule
– Why there are rivalries between certain teams (if they are in the same division, they play each other twice during the regular season and can keep one another from going to the Super Bowl)
Go forth and have confidence in your knowledge of the anatomy of the NFL!