Overview of NFL Teams

Take a look at how many teams there are currently in the NFL and observe the structure of the NFL playoffs. The current and past performance of these teams is important to understand when betting on the NFL.

The National Football League is just about to conclude its 100th year as a professional sport. Over the years, the popularity of the sport has increased significantly. 

At the start, the NFL was not the fan-favorite it is today. However, with the weekly format of big games, the advancements in television viewing and the worldwide appeal of the NFL Super Bowl, professional football soon replaced Major League Baseball as America’s favorite sport a few decades ago.

The league has an amazing history which eventually evolved into its current number of conferences and teams. The performance of some NFL teams boosted the sport’s popularity and great performances have brought championships to fans everywhere.

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Current Number of NFL Teams

The significant growth in popularity of the NFL post-merger allowed for the addition of several teams in the late 1970s and again in the following decades. 

The cities of Seattle and Tampa Bay were granted NFL franchises in 1976 and a team was added to each conference. 

The cities of Charlotte and Jacksonville were granted NFL franchises in 1995 and again a team was added to each conference. 

There are currently 32 NFL teams with even team counts of 16 teams in each of the conferences.  

The National Conference and the American Conference each have 16 teams for an NFL total of 32 teams. The teams are grouped into 4 divisions in each conference. The conferences are split into 4 geographical divisions: East, West, North, and South. They are organized in a way that has preserved some of the great team rivalries.

Listed below are the Conference Team Listings for the 2020 NFL Season.

American Football Conference – AFC

East North South West
Buffalo Bills Baltimore Ravens Houston Texans Denver Broncos
Miami Dolphins Cincinnati Bengals Indianapolis Colts Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots Cleveland Browns Jacksonville Jaguars Las Vegas Raiders**
New York Jets Pittsburgh Steelers Tennessee Titans Los Angeles Chargers

**- The Oakland Raiders will relocate to Las Vegas to start the 2020 season.

National Football Conference – NFC

East North South West
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons Arizona Cardinals
New York Giants Detroit Lions Carolina Panthers Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints San Francisco 49ers
Washington Redskins Minnesota Vikings Tampa Bay Buccaneers Seattle Seahawks

The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers compete in the same division and have for nearly 100 years. 

The NFC North holds the NFL’s longest-running rivalry and is a great sports tradition. 

Other NFL rivalries include:

  • Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins
  • NY Giants and Philadelphia Eagles

These are older NFL teams and long-standing rivalries that compete today in the NFC East Conference. 

The big AFL rivalries would include the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, and they currently compete in the AFC West. This rivalry will continue when the Raiders move to Las Vegas in 2020, and the exciting competition for the Western division lead will continue as well.

The NFL Playoffs

The NFL playoffs are a series of single-elimination games within each conference, leading to the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is the NFL world championship that features the champions of the AFC and NFC. 

The NFL playoffs are limited to 6 teams within each conference. Each of the 4 division champions, plus 2 wild-card teams. The seeding and determination of the 2 wild card teams are dependent on the season’s win/loss standings. In the event of ties, wins within the division/conference and any head-to-head games are used to determine the final seeding in the playoff rounds.

Wild Card Teams

A wild-card team is one of 2 teams that has either the 1st or 2nd best record among the teams that did not win their respective divisions in the conference. Wild card teams may have a better win/loss record than teams that won the division titles in the conference. The wild card games expand the playoff structure and give good teams in competitive divisions a playoff opportunity.

Byes

The playoffs begin in early January and the top 2 division leaders in each conference receive a “bye”. A bye means a week of rest, while the first round is played to determine their future opponent. 

The best 2 division champs in each conference play their first playoff game in their home stadium, in addition to the week of rest.

Superbowl Matchup

The first round of playoffs matches the lowest-rated wild-card team, against the division champ with the 3rd best record. The same week is a game that matches the highest-rated wild-card against the division champ with the 4th best record. These 2 wild-card games are played in each conference. A total of 4 playoff games start the NFL playoffs to determine the Super Bowl match-up.

A team’s win-loss standings at the conclusion of the regular season is important for gaining this week of rest and home-field advantage. The team with the best regular-season record will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  

Home Field Advantage

Home field advantage has been an important factor in winning the conference and earning a trip to the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl location is predetermined, years prior. While it is possible a team could play the Super Bowl in its home stadium, this has yet to happen. The Super Bowl has always been a predetermined neutral site.

NFL Team Performance

The playoffs lead to a champion, and an assessment of an NFL team’s performance - in a historical context - means looking at championships. 

In a sports betting context, performance refers to the performance against the spread. However, it is important to understand the great championship teams and NFL team dynasties that have evolved over the decades. 

NFL Championship Teams

Great Championship games mean a match-up of great teams that also set a direction for the NFL. These teams have created a great sports tradition for all of the cities and fans involved. Performance refers to great Super Bowl wins and great championship teams.

One of the greatest championship teams that changed the direction of the NFL was the 1969 New York Jets. The Jets were the AFL champion facing the heavily favored Baltimore Colts of the NFL. The Jets won what is now referred to as Super Bowl III and this win in large part solidified the merger between the two leagues in 1970. Despite the fact that this team has never been to a Super Bowl since this is an example of an outstanding and very significant NFL single-season performance.

The 1985 Chicago Bears team is another example of a single season outstanding performance. This team was so defensively dominant, that the concept “defense wins championships,” was loudly reinforced. After this Super Bowl win by a defense-focused team, coaching, recruiting and blitz schemes changed significantly across the league.

NFL Team Dynasties

An NFL team dynasty refers to a team with multiple Super Bowl wins to include several consecutive wins. 

Most recently, this would clearly define the New England Patriots as the overall best in NFL Performance. The Patriots have won 6 Super Bowls in the last 10 years, a performance standard that is unmatched by any other team. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers have also won 6 Super Bowls but over the span of several decades. 

Other teams with multiple wins and a long-standing level of great NFL performances would include the Miami Dolphins in the 1970s, the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s, the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s. 

Other Great Performances

While not a winning performance in the pure sense, the Buffalo Bills of the early 1990s were AFC Champions 4 years in a row. No other NFL team has reached the Super Bowl 4 years in a row. 

Sadly, each of the 4 appearances resulted in a loss for the Bills, but still a very significant achievement. 

This is an original AFL team that has a great loyal fan base, despite the Super disappointment. It is the amazing fans that make the NFL the great league it is today.

These are considered the best performing teams over the long NFL history and have helped define the league and its great traditions.

The Origins of the NFL

In the year 1920, the first professional football league was formed. The league was originally known as the American Professional Football Association and primarily included teams from the industrial regions of the upper Midwest and Northeast, with teams in smaller cities. 

These included teams from Akron, Ohio, the Akron Pros that would become the league champions in the first year. 

Canton, Ohio, the home of the current NFL Hall of Fame had a team in this historic first season. Other noteworthy teams were two clubs from Illinois, the Decatur Staleys and Chicago Cardinals.

The Decatur team later moved to Chicago and became the Chicago Bears team we know as part of the NFL today. 

The Chicago Cardinals moved to various cities over the years, most notably to St. Louis, and later became the current NFL’s Arizona Cardinals franchise. 

Other larger cities, such as Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo, had teams in this inaugural season for professional football, but these are not the same organizations that later became current NFL franchises for these cities.

In 1921, the Green Bay Packers joined the league, the same year the Staleys moved to Chicago and became the Bears. This started what is considered the longest NFL city/team rivalry that continues today since both teams are currently in the NFL’s NFC North Division and play each other twice in the regular season.

The NFL, the AFL, and the Merger 

The NFL slowly gained popularity over the years despite many of the original teams folding from financial pressure. In 1960, the newly formed American Football League began and operated as a successful league rival to the long-established NFL. 

Part of the survival success of the new league was due to the advancement of television. The first televised game was in 1939, a time when many homes followed sports on the radio. The first televised professional football game only reached about 500 sets. 

By the 1960s the majority of households had television sets and many now had a color TV. The advancements in broadcasting, along with the boom in advertising revenues, but the Sunday NFL games in a great position to expand viewership and the viability of the professional leagues.

By 1969, it was already clear the AFL was a competitive league. A merger into a single league would be the best solution for owners and the growing fan base. When the AFL’s New York Jets won the AFL vs. NFL Championship Game, later to be known as the Super Bowl, the merger was already a certainty. This historic first world championship for an AFL team made it clear the leagues were on par in talent. 

The merger of the two leagues was completed in 1970 and the merger set the foundation for the NFL conferences and division structure we have today.

To balance the teams in each of the newly formed conferences, long-standing NFL teams: the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts, and Pittsburgh Steelers moved into what became the American Football Conference of the NFL. The old NFL teams remained in the National Football Conference. There was now a single professional football league with television contracts from all three major television networks. 

In 1970, ABC sports began televising Monday Night Football which also helped expand public interest in professional football. At this point, it was clear the NFL was the number one sports organization in the US.

NFL and Television

The NFL and its teams owe its success in popularity largely to television. As advancements in television technology, color television, and coverage of regional and national games expanded, so did the popularity of the NFL. Popularity and television combine to drive advertising revenues that fuel the NFL teams. This attracts world-class athletes, training facilities, medical and retirement benefits for players, huge stadiums and thus jobs to the local economy.

The amount of money spent on recent Super Bowl advertising likely exceeds the GNP of a small country. 

The limited number of NFL games result in a big game each week. 

Instant replays, plays of the week, bloopers, and all the media around the NFL has helped to expand the popularity of the game as well as increase ad revenue. This revenue has, in turn, allowed the league to expand into new cities and even world-wide game sites. There are even NFL games played each year in Mexico and London.  

Television revenue is shared among all NFL teams. This allows small towns like Green Bay to stay financially competitive these many years. The expansion of television coverage and associated advertising revenue has allowed the NFL to expand to its current number of teams.

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Sacha

6 February 2020
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