Strap on your helmet, lace up your cleats, and get ready to take the field - football season is here! Nickelodeon’s bringing the game to you each and every week, all season long, with every big play, superstar performance, and more SLIME than you can fit in the team water cooler. But first, let’s back up and cover the basics on how the game is played. Down, set, HIKE!
In American Football, each team sends 11 players onto the field at a time. The team with the ball is on offense. They’re trying to score, a LOT. The team without the ball? They’re on defense. They’re trying to keep the offense from scoring. If every defense had their way, they’d shut the offense out every single game! Speaking of games, each football game has four quarters, which are 15 minutes each. Plus, there’s a break at halftime after the second quarter ends. Nice to get a breather!
A football field is 100 yards long, or 3600 inches long, or roughly 600 6-inch sponges long. At either end of that 100 yards are two ‘endzones,’ which is where the team on offense is trying to go by either running or passing the ball. The line on which the ball is placed is called the Line of Scrimmage, or LoS. Teams must line up on either side of the LoS, and are not allowed to cross it until the ball is snapped from the center to the quarterback.
The offense has 4 chances – called ‘downs’ – to advance 10 yards each possession. If they make it 10 yards, they get a new set of downs to get their next 10 yards. If the offense does NOT gain 10 yards, the opponent gets the ball and now the teams switch: the team that was on offense sends out their defense, the team that was on defense sends out their offense.
Games are all about one thing: having a blast! But just in case you also want to keep score, here’s how it works: If the offense moves the ball all the way to the endzone, they score a touchdown! Touchdowns are worth 6 points.
After a touchdown, the scoring team has two options to add more points. They can either send out their kicker, who can try to kick the ball through upright goalposts for 1 extra point. OR, they can run one more play and try to get the ball to the endzone again, which is called a 2-point conversion. In total, a touchdown can ultimately be worth 6, 7, or 8 points, depending on how the extra point or 2-point conversion shakes out.
If the offense does NOT get all the way to the endzone but gets close, they can try to kick a field goal worth 3 points! Field goals are kicked through the goalposts like an extra point, but can be from much greater distances. Fun fact: the NFL record for longest field goal is 66 yards! Justin Tucker kicked it for the Baltimore Ravens just last year, during the 2021 season.
One of the rarer ways to score is called a ‘safety,’ which is worth 2 points. Safeties can occur in numerous ways, but the most usual safeties happen when an offensive ballcarrier is tackled in their own endzone.
And just like that, you’re a football expert! Check out our positional breakdowns for a closer look at what each player on the field does, and you’ll be running plays in no time.
Plus, there's more football every week on the latest season of NFL Slimetime on Nickelodeon!