Let’s face it, there is a lot more to remember in American football than in other team sports. It’s a mash-up of other sports, like soccer and rugby, after all, so all the weird terms bring some confusion. Is a huddle like a goal or a scrum? Is a play a team or a quarter? What even is the red zone? It doesn’t look outlined on the field? If you’re interested in following NFL teams, you should brush up on your terms to understand exactly what is happening on the field. There’s no point in listening to the announcers if you don’t understand what they’re saying.



Everyone knows a huddle. If you’ve so much as glanced at a rousing sports movie or even a teen comedy, you’ve seen a huddle. It’s the place where secrets are swapped, or, in this case, where strategy is discussed. Lock arms, bend over, start whispering, and maybe clap when you come out of it to show you’re pumped to get started.


American football doesn’t simply have games, it has plays. And the plays are the equivalent of a chapter in a book. The play kicks off, the action happens, it results in a score, or not, and the play is ended. Time to set up for the next one.


The kickoff is another way to put the ball into play. It means a free kick, as in a kick that the opposing team can’t block, and it’s used after every touchdown and successful field goal in the first and third quarters of the game. This is where you can put those NFL odds to use.


To understand the snap, you need to know the hike. See, when a bunch of players bend over in front of one who’s really ready for something, and suddenly he yells “Hike”. The ball flies between the legs of the bent over player and caught by the player yelling. So, once you’ve got that, you’ll understand that the snap is when the ball is “hiked”, and it means that the ball is in play and the play has started.


Opposite of up. Or in the NFL, when the play is completed. It’s the time between when the ball is put into play and when it is “dead”.

Red Zone

The red zone is the area from the 20-line to the opposing team’s goal line. It’s an unofficial line and holding an opposing team’s player to a field goal (or a kick that’s worth three points, typically attempted from 40 yards of the goal post) is considered a “moral victory” for the defense. Why moral victories matter in a competitive sport is beyond us.

End zone

The end zone is what we’re all here for. It’s the 10-yard-long stretch at the very end of the field and it’s where you can score a touchdown, but only if you enter the end zone with the football. You’re aiming to get the touchdown before getting tackled by the defense or you lose the chance, and the other team gets a safety.


A fairly important one. Important enough that even newbies to the sport will understand. The touchdown is the score. It’s the “goal”, the “dunk”, the “checkered flag”. A touchdown is worth six points and means that the player with the ball has crossed the opponent’s goal line or catches it while in the other team’s end zone (the area the opposition has to defend, and your team has to infiltrate).

Basically, if you hear “touchdown” start cheering. Unless of course, it’s for the opposing team. We’ve all been there.