The National Football League (NFL) is the highest level of professional American football in the United States, and is considered the top professional American football league in the world. It was formed by eleven teams in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association, with the league changing its name to the National Football League in 1922. The league currently consists of thirty-two teams from the United States. The league is divided evenly into two conferences – the American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC), and each conference has four divisions that have four teams each, for a total of 16 teams in each conference. The NFL is an unincorporated 501(c)(6) association, a federal nonprofit designation, comprising its 32 teams.
The regular season is a seventeen-week schedule during which each team plays sixteen games and has one bye week. The season currently starts on the Thursday night in the first full week of September and runs weekly to late December or early January. At the end of each regular season, six teams from each conference (at least one from each division) play in the NFL playoffs, a twelve-team single-elimination tournament that culminates with the championship game, known as the Super Bowl. This game is held at a pre-selected site which is usually a city that hosts an NFL team.
The NFL is the most attended domestic sports league in the world by average attendance per game, with 66,960 fans per game in 2010–11. Although not as frequently as the other major professional sports leagues in the United States, the NFL still is not immune to labor disputes, such as the players' strikes of 1982 and 1987, and more recently a lockout in 2011, though the latest did not result in the cancellation of any regular-season games.
The Heidi Game or Heidi Bowl was an American football game played on November 17, 1968. The home team, the Oakland Raiders, defeated the New York Jets, 43–32. The game is remembered for its exciting finish, as Oakland scored two touchdowns in the final minute to overcome a 32–29 New York lead. The Heidi Game obtained its name because the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) controversially broke away from the game with the Jets still winning to air the television film Heidi at 7 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone. In the late 1960s, few professional football games took longer than two and a half hours to play, and the Jets–Raiders three-hour time slot was thought to be adequate. A high-scoring contest, together with a number of injuries and penalties for the two bitter American Football League rivals, caused the game to run long. NBC executives had ordered that Heidi must begin on time, but given the exciting game, they decided to postpone the start of the film and continue football coverage. As 7 p.m. approached, many members of the public called NBC to inquire about the schedule, to complain or opine, jamming NBC's switchboards, and the change could not be communicated. Heidi began as scheduled, preempting the final moments of the game and the two Oakland touchdowns in the eastern half of the country, to the outrage of viewers. The Heidi Game led to a change in the way professional football is shown on network television; games are shown to their conclusion before evening programming begins. To ensure that network personnel could communicate under similar circumstances, special telephones (dubbed "Heidi phones") were installed, with a connection to a different telephone exchange from other network phones. In 1997, the Heidi Game was voted the most memorable regular season game in pro football history.
Peyton Williams Manning (born March 24, 1976) is an American football quarterback for the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (NFL). He played for the Indianapolis Colts for fourteen seasons from 1998 to 2011. He is the son of former NFL quarterback Archie Manning and an elder brother of New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Manning played college football at the University of Tennessee, leading the Volunteers to the 1997 SEC Championship in his senior season. He was chosen by the Indianapolis Colts with the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. From 1998 to 2010, he led the Colts to seven AFC South division championships, two AFC championships, and to a Super Bowl championship (Super Bowl XLI). He has won a record four league most valuable player awards, was the most valuable player of Super Bowl XLI, has been named to eleven Pro Bowls, has eleven 4,000-yard passing seasons (including a record six straight), and is the Indianapolis Colts' all-time leader in passing yards (54,828) and touchdown passes (399). In 2009, he was named the best player in the NFL and Fox Sports along with Sports Illustrated named him the NFL player of the decade of the 2000s. In May 2011, he underwent neck surgery to alleviate neck pain and arm weakness he dealt with during the previous few seasons before signing a five-year, $90 million contract extension with the Colts in July 2011. Manning had hoped to play in the 2011 season, but in September 2011, he underwent a much more serious second surgery: a level one cervical fusion procedure. Manning had never missed an NFL game in his career, but was forced to miss the entire 2011 season. He was released by the Colts on March 7, 2012, and after an almost two-week period where he visited with and worked out for several NFL teams, he signed with the Denver Broncos on March 20, 2012. Manning's pre-snap routine is one of the most recognizable and parodied routines in sports. The Indianapolis Colts' almost exclusive use of the hurry-up offense led to Manning using an array of gestures and verbal commands to call the play at the line of scrimmage rather than in the huddle.