American football, known within the U.S. simply as football, has the most participants of any sport at both high school and college levels.NFL Schedule – 2016
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The NFL is the preeminent professional football league in the United States. The NFL has 32 franchises divided into two conferences. After a 16-game regular season, each conference sends six teams to the NFL Playoffs, which eventually culminate in the league’s championship game, the Super Bowl.
Millions watch college football throughout the fall months, and some communities, particularly in rural areas, place great emphasis on their local high school football teams. The popularity of college and high school football in areas such as the Southern United States (Southeastern Conference) and the Great Plains (Big 12 Conference and Big Ten Conference) stems largely from the fact that these areas historically generally did not possess markets large enough for a professional team. Nonetheless, college football has a rich history in the United States, predating the NFL by decades, and fans and alumni are generally very passionate about their teams.
Tom Brady against the Washington Redskins on August 28, 2009.
During football season in the fall, fans have the opportunity to watch high school games on Fridays and Saturdays, college football on Saturdays, and NFL games on Sundays, the usual playing day of the professional teams. However, some colleges play games on Tuesday (the Mid-American Conference in particular played a national game Tuesday nights through the 2013 season) and Wednesday nights, while the NFL offers weekly games on Monday (since 1970) and Thursday (since 2006). As recently as 2013, one could find a nationally televised professional or college game on television any night between Labor Day and Thanksgiving weekend (as of 2014, the MAC’s Tuesday night games now only occur in November, to accommodate baseball season).
Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest annual sporting event held in the United States. The Super Bowl itself is always among the highest-rated programs of all-time in the Nielsen ratings.
Notable NFL players include Jim Kelly, Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, Dick Butkus, Joe Greene, Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Walter Payton, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Emmitt Smith, and Ray Lewis. Notable current NFL players include Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, and J. J. Watt.
Nationwide, the NFL obtains the highest television ratings among major sports. This situation began in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the establishment of the Super Bowl and merger of the existing professional leagues, the old NFL and the American Football League, into one NFL league. Since then, watching NFL games on television on Sunday afternoons has become a common routine for many Americans during the football season. Among the NFL teams which have become practically identified with their host cities are the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Green Bay Packers and the Washington Redskins.