Interesting Football Terms That Will Make You Feel & Sound Smart About the NFL


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Every sport has its terminology; if you aren’t familiar with it, you’ll be unable to keep up with the conversations. To avoid this, you need to learn some football terms of the sport so you can know what’s happening. 

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If you find your friends in the middle of an NFL conversation, you’ll pretty much be able to blend in. We’ve compiled a list of words you need to know to boost your football knowledge.

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Line of Scrimmage

Spotcovery-Interesting Football Terms That Will Make You Feel & Sound Smart About the NFL
From an American football game between the Tennessee Titans (in navy blue) and the Houston Texans (in white). Source: Wikimedia licensed by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

This is one of the most common football terms you should know. A line of scrimmage is an imaginary line that runs parallel to the goalpost and from one sideline to the other, where the offensive and defensive linemen are. Both can’t cross until the next play begins.   


A penalty is given when one of the teams has violated the rules of the game via a foul. The referees assess that play and if they find a fault, they’ll award a yardage penalty and loss of down. To indicate that a penalty has been given, an official will show a yellow flag.

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Spotcovery-Interesting Football Terms That Will Make You Feel & Sound Smart About the NFL
The opening game of the 2013 NFL season, was contested between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos. Source: Wikimedia licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

An interception occurs when a defensive player catches a ball that was intended to go to another offensive player. This leads to a change in possession and hence, the direction of play.


Fumble is another word to add to your football terms list. This happens when a player who has the football drops it or the opposing team kicks it out of their possession, without being tackled to the ground. This can lead to a turnover.

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Field Goal

Spotcovery-Interesting Football Terms That Will Make You Feel & Sound Smart About the NFL
The Los Angeles Rams host the Arizona Cardinals at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood> Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-4.0

NFL kickers are responsible for field goals. If the ball travels over the crossbar, the team earns three points. A field goal is taken when a team is in its last of the available four downs or when it believes it won’t be able to make a touchdown.

End Zone

The end of each side of the field where players attempt to reach to score a touchdown is the end zone. To do that, a player can catch the ball as it lands inside the zone or can carry it into the zone.

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Extra Points

Spotcovery-Interesting Football Terms That Will Make You Feel & Sound Smart About the NFL
Washington playing against the Saints. Source: Wikimedia licensed  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

When a team scores a touchdown, it gets an opportunity to take a field goal. If they score it, an additional point is awarded to them.


You can’t talk about the NFL without using the term down. This is when the ball is in play until the game stops. A down can be initiated in multiple ways: 

  • At kickoff
  • By a punter
  • A snap at the center position on the field. 

Each offense gets four downs that allow them to move 10 yards from where the game started. During play, they are referred to as second, third and fourth downs. 

If it successfully does this, it keeps possession and still has four downs to work with. If they can’t make the 10 yards, the opponent gets ball possession.

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Learn American Football in 5 Minutes. Video Credit: Samuel Gras

The backfield is divided into offense and defense. The offensive backfield is behind the offensive line, where the quarterback and the running back position themselves. The defensive backfield is behind the defensive line where the defensive backs and linebackers are positioned.

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Spotcovery-Interesting Football Terms That Will Make You Feel & Sound Smart About the NFL
NFL players on the field. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-2.0

This is a key tactic executed in NFL games. It’s when four or more defenders run to attack the opposing quarterback to take the ball possession or tackle them.

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Offensive Line

These are the players whose role is protecting the quarterback and creating space for running backs. The offensive line consists of the guards, the center and the tackles. 


What and Where is the Pocket? Video Credit: Linda Rey

A pocket is created by the offensive line to protect the quarterback from getting blocked by the opposing defensive line.

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Red Zone

The red zone is the section an offense has to get into the score a touchdown. This is between the opposing defense’s 20-yard line to the goal line.

Special Teams

Special Teams in football explained. Video Credit: USA Football

The special teams consist of players who are on the field during specific moments of the game such as kickoffs, field goals, punts and extra points. These players are: 

  • Kicker
  • Punter
  • Holder
  • Long Snapper
  • Kick Returner
  • Punt Returner
  • Gunner
  • Personal Protector

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Spotcovery-Interesting Football Terms That Will Make You Feel & Sound Smart About the NFL
A player scoring a touchdown. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-2.0

One of the most common football terms among religious NFL viewers and casual fans is touchdown. When a player crosses the opponent’s end zone carrying the ball or catches it, he has scored a touchdown, earning the team six points.

Two-Point Conversion

After a touchdown, a team can choose to execute a field goal for one extra point or opt for a two-point conversion. If they choose this, they have to carry or catch the ball over the opponent’s goal line for two extra points.


A turnover happens when a defensive player gets the ball from an offensive player through interception or on a fumble play.

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An offensive player can progress in the field with the ball in his hands. This is what Rush is. 


Adding to our football terms list is the sack. A sack occurs when a defensive player tackles a quarterback when he’s in possession of the ball behind the line of scrimmage, causing a loss of yardage.


Encroachment sounds more like land issues. But here, it’s when a defensive player enters into the neutral zone before the ball is snapped.


Spotcovery-Interesting Football Terms That Will Make You Feel & Sound Smart About the NFL
Washington Redskin players in a huddle. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-2.0

When players gather in a circle to plan for the next play, away from the opposing team.

Hash Marks

Another one of the footballer terms you should know it the hash marks. The Hash marks are the lines in the middle of the field. The ball will always be placed between these marks before every play, depending on where a tackle happened before the play stopped. 

Fair Catch

A fair catch is when a kick returner raises one of his hands above the head to signal he won’t run with the ball. When he does this, the opponent can’t tackle him and if they do, the kick returner’s team gets a penalty. 

The NFL football terms may seem too much to remember, but if you interact with them regularly, they’ll stick. Don’t feel like you have to cram them. Watching the game and listening to people when they talk is an effective technique. 

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