There’s nothing worse than being the person left out of the conversation. Sometimes it happens when there’s a book you haven’t read or a movie you haven’t seen that becomes the topic of discussion. Sometimes people from the same state, college, or corporation will bond over a shared experience you don’t have. Starting tonight until Feb. 7, the conversation you’re most likely to be left out of will be about football.
Regardless of what old, shitty songs and sappy movies with establishing shots of wheat fields may claim, football is America’s pastime. Two-thirds of Americans watch football on Sunday. Even if you would much rather go shopping, brunch, or do pretty much anything else than watch football, odds are you’ll end up watching a game or two this season.
For those of you out there who have a significant other who spends their Sundays glued to the television, for those of you whose friends gather round the television in oversize jerseys as a way to remember their hometown, and for those of you with families who spent the twilight of their weekend eating assorted smoked meats, here are 10 things non-football fans need to know before NFL Kickoff 2015.
We’ll also give you a bonus party talking point that you can use at parties in hopes of sounding like you know what you’re talking about. Let’s do it.
1. THIS IS WTF THOSE WORDS PEOPLE KEEP SAYING MEAN.
For those of you who don’t know a fumble from Favre, here are the basics:
Down – The offense get four downs (plays) to move the ball 10 yards. If it does, it gets to start again at first down, and so on, until it either scores or fails to move 10 yards and the other team gets the ball.
Defense – The defense tries to stop the offense from getting a first down. If the defense tackles the player with the ball, the down is over.
Touchdown – If the offense moves the ball all the way down the field and crosses the goal line, it is a touchdown. Touchdowns are worth 7 points.
Field Goal – If you run out of downs, your team’s kicker can attempt a field goal on fourth down. A field goal is kicking the ball through the goal posts at the back of the end zone, and it is worth three points.
Turnover – The defense can get the ball back from the offense, either by getting an interception (catching the ball) or recovering a fumble (knocking the ball out of their hands and picking it up).
Penalties – Teams that break the rules get penalties. Penalties include things like pass interference (manhandling a receiver before the ball has reached them), holding, and roughing the passer, which are all exactly what they sound like.
Bonus Football Party Talking Point: “That wasn’t a penalty.” – Fans of a team will always insist that a penalty wasn’t actually a penalty and that the referees are biased towards the other team. If you loudly complain that every penalty against the team wasn’t a penalty, that will probably be enough to pass for a fan.
2. THESE ARE THE BIG STARS.
If anyone asks you who your favorite player is, these are totally valid answers.
Aaron Rodgers (Quarterback, Green Bay Packers): Rodgers is arguably the league’s best player. He has never had any off-the-field arrests or public embarrassments, and he is dating actress Olivia Munn. He is probably the least controversial choice for your favorite player.
J.J. Watt (Defensive End, Houston Texans): Watt is the consensus best defensive player alive. Even if you don’t know the game, you probably know he is unbelievably good. He goes out of his way to let people know about his dedication to the game, including refusing to go to the club and bragging about his “no frills” log cabin where he spends the offseason. So, either you think he is Mr. Grit, or you think he’s overdoing it a little.
Peyton Manning (Quarterback, Denver Broncos) and Tom Brady (Quarterback, New England Patriots): These two wily veterans are past their prime, but their teams are still Super Bowl contenders as long as these guys are playing quarterback. You’ve probably seen Manning in Papa John’s commercials. He is revered as a guy who “does things the right way.” You’ve probably seen Tom Brady in Uggs commercials. He is married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen and every American man is secretly jealous of him.
Marshawn Lynch (Running Back, Seattle Seahawks): Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the NFL, but also beat his children with a switch and was suspended last season, so it isn’t exactly fashionable to call him your favorite player. Enter Lynch, who is a top-three ball carrier, loves Skittles, and hates talking to reporters.
Bonus Football Party Talking Point: “Sure, Andrew Luck is great, but [pick any of the quarterbacks mentioned above] has won the big one. Until Luck has a Super Bowl ring, I can’t put him on the same level.”
3. THESE TEAMS ARE GOOD.
The beginning of the season brings false hope to fans of all thirty-two teams. Here are the teams that actually have a chance to win it all.
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. New England Patriots
4. Indianapolis Colts
5. Denver Broncos
6. Dallas Cowboys
7. Baltimore Ravens
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
9. Philadelphia Eagles
These are the only teams with better than 30 to 1 odds in Vegas as of this writing. You are probably better off avoiding the Ravens, Steelers, Cowboys, and Eagles as well, because they have obvious flaws that could sink them (if anyone asks, just say they’re flawed and you can’t bear to talk about it). But, if you adopt a team other than these nine, you are statistically cruising for heartache.
Bonus Football Party Talking Point: “I really think it’s [any team on this list]’s year. They are simply the most complete team in the league.”
4. THESE TEAMS ARE TERRIBLE.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Tennessee Titans
3. Washington Redskins
4. Cleveland Browns
5. New York Jets
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7. Chicago Bears
8. Oakland Raiders
9. San Francisco 49ers
10. Buffalo Bills
Bonus Football Party Talking Point: “I just don’t know about [any team on this list]. They really need to change the culture there.”
5. THESE TEAMS ARE PAINFULLY MEDIOCRE.
1. Miami Dolphins
2. Minnesota Vikings
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. Atlanta Falcons
5. Kansas City Chiefs
6. New Orleans Saints
7. San Diego Chargers
8. Cincinnati Bengals
9. Detroit Lions
10. Houston Texans
11. New York Giants
12. Carolina Panthers
13. St. Louis Rams
Bonus Football Party Talking Point: “You know, I feel like [any team on this list] is one piece away from making a serious run at the playoffs. Next year is going to be their year.”
6. THESE ARE THE BIGGEST RIVALRIES.
Below are the teams in alphabetic order with their greatest rival.
The Arizona Cardinals hate The San Francisco 49ers.
The Atlanta Falcons hate the New Orleans Saints.
The Baltimore Ravens hate the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Buffalo Bills hate the New York Jets.
The Carolina Panthers hate the Atlanta Falcons.
The Chicago Bears hate the Green Bay Packers.
The Cincinnati Bengals hate the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Cleveland Browns hate the Baltimore Ravens.
The Dallas Cowboys hate the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Denver Broncos hate the San Diego Chargers.
The Detroit Lions hate the Chicago Bears.
The Green Bay Packers hate the Chicago Bears.
The Houston Texans hate the Indianapolis Colts.
The Indianapolis Colts hate the New England Patriots.
The Jacksonville Jaguars hate the Tennessee Titans.
The Kansas City Chiefs hate the Denver Broncos.
The Minnesota Vikings hate the Green Bay Packers.
The New England Patriots hate the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Jets.
The New Orleans Saints hate the Atlanta Falcons.
The New York Giants hate the Philadelphia Eagles.
The New York Jets hate the New England Patriots.
The Oakland Raiders hate the Denver Broncos.
The Philadelphia Eagles hate the New York Giants.
The Pittsburgh Steelers hate the Baltimore Ravens.
The San Diego Chargers hate the Denver Broncos.
The San Francisco 49ers hate the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seattle Seahawks hate the San Francisco 49ers.
The St. Louis Rams hate the San Francisco 49ers.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hate the Carolina Panthers.
The Tennessee Titans hate the Houston Texans.
The Washington Redskins hate the Dallas Cowboys.
7. PEOPLE LOVE TO OBSESS ABOUT ROOKIE QUARTERBACKS.
Quarterbacks, as the leaders of their teams and the most high-profile players, are the most scrutinized picks. Jameis Winston went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the first pick and Marcus Mariota was the second player selected by the Tennessee Titans. Every step these two make will be judged under a microscope as commentators rush to declare them successes or busts.
Bonus Football Party Talking Point: [One of the these rookie QBs] is way better than [the other one] because [one of the following]:
What do these statements mean? Nothing. And that is exactly why they are so useful. These phrases are meaningless, but everyone uses them, so if you drop them into conversation, you will probably get a thoughtful nod of acceptance in return.
8. “DEFLATEGATE” IS RIDICULOUS, AND BASICALLY OVER.
After the New England Patriots dismantled the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game (the game before the Super Bowl) last season, it came out that the Patriots may have been playing with deflated footballs. Deflated footballs are widely thought to give an advantage to an offense, allowing the quarterback more control. Investigator Ted Wells found that it was “more than probable” that the balls were deflated by locker room personnel and that quarterback Tom Brady knew about it.
Widely disliked commissioner Roger Goodell handed down a fine of $1 million and docked the Patriots two drafts picks. He also announced a four-game suspension for Brady. The fine and draft picks don’t mean much to the Patriots, as owner Robert Kraft’s net worth is $4.3 billion and coach Bill Belichick is known for drafting well with all of his seven draft picks. The sticking point was Brady’s four-game suspension, which was overturned by a federal judge last week.
After months of media coverage, public tensions between the league and the Patriots, and thousands of idiotic Internet comments on both sides, Deflategate has amounted to nothing.
Bonus Football Party Talking Point: (Outside New England) “The Patriots are still cheaters. No judge can change that.” (In New England) “I always knew Brady didn’t do anything wrong.”
9. FANTASY FOOTBALL IS STUPID, BUT EVERYONE CARES ABOUT IT.
When you see your friends rooting for a player that isn’t on their team, that player is likely on their fantasy team. You will have friends who care more about their fantasy team than the players on their actual team. You might have friends who care more about their fantasy team than what’s going on in their actual lives.
Here are the top 12 fantasy players. Since there are generally 12 teams in a fantasy league, these are the players that will make or break your friends’ make-believe game based on a sport in which they have no impact.
1. Adrian Peterson
2. Le’Veon Bell
3. Jamaal Charles
4. Eddie Lacy
5. Marshawn Lynch
6. Antonio Brown
7. Jeremy Hill
8. Odell Beckham Jr.
9. Matt Forte
10. Demaryius Thomas
11. Rob Gronkowski
12. Julio Jones
Bonus Football Party Talking Point: “I think [player on this list] just has the most upside.” – What does upside mean? Nothing. Don’t worry about it.
10. WHY DO PEOPLE CARE SO MUCH ABOUT FOOTBALL?
It’s hard to nail down a reason, but the fact remains that Americans love football. Here’s hoping we’ve given you enough information to pretend like you love it too.