Difference Between NFL and AFL

There has always been a never-ending debate on what the most popular sport in the world is! And it undoubtedly comes down to Football.


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Most people consider football the best sport in the world. One big reason is people’s passion for this game, which no other game can match up to.

When talking about football, the most popular has to be American Football. It is very popular and has a huge fan base worldwide.

Otherwise known as Gridiron, it is specifically played in the United States and Canada. Along with numerous teams, it has different types of leagues too. NFL and AFL are two of them.

Key Takeaways

  1. The NFL, or National Football League, is the oldest and most popular professional football league in the United States.
  2. The AFL, or American Football League, was a rival league from 1960 to 1969 and merged with the NFL in 1970.
  3. The NFL and AFL differ in their histories, team locations, and game rules, but they share a similar style of play and cultural significance.


The National Football League (NFL) is America’s outdoor football league. It contains 32 teams, 16 teams are from NFC (National Football Conference), and 16 teams are from AFC (American Football Conference). It is a highly professional game. Arena Football League (AFL) is America’s indoor football league. In AFL, only one foot inbounds are required for passing.


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Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonNFLAFL
FieldField 160 feet in width, 100 yards in length85 feet in width and 50 yards in length for a faster, higher-scoring affair
Goalpost18 feet wide with a 10-foot high crossbar 9 feet wide with a 15-foot high crossbar
RosterAn unlimited roster. Of 11 men on the field with unlimited substitutions. An active as well as an inactive roster, i.e., 20 and 4, respectively. 8 men on the field with only one substitution during a quarter, with exceptions.
Scoring6-point touchdowns, 3-point field goals. No score for the defence. Quite the same as the Nfl, but 2 points as an extra point and 4 points as a field goal could be earned after a successful dropkick. Also, 2 points for defence.
Rebound netsNo rebound nets. Passing plays and kickoffs that bounce off the nets were considered.
PassingBoth feet inbounds. Only one foot inbounds are needed.
PuntingWimps go three-and-punt.Not allowed. You can go for it on fourth down.
Timing12-minute Halftime with exceptions, and the Overtime is 15 minutes of sudden death.
15-minute Halftime with exceptions, and the Overtime is 15 minutes, with at least one guaranteed possession for each team.

What is NFL?

The NFL, or the National Football League, is America’s most popular sports league founded on September 17, 1920. It comprises 32 teams; 16 from the National Football Conference (NFC) and 16 from the American Football Conference (AFC).

NFL has always had the highest number of fans around the world. Along with being the world’s highest professional level of American football, it is the wealthiest professional sports league by revenue and the sports league with the most valuable teams.

It generally has a 17-week regular season from early September to late December, with each team playing 16 games and having one bye week. After the end, 7 teams from each NFC and the AFC move forward to the playoffs, and then a single-elimination tournament is held.

The annual championship, or the Super Bowl, is usually held on the first Sunday in February. Historically, the NFL has been the most selective professional sports league regarding consumer licensing agreements.

Nike and Rebook are two famous brands the NFL has dealt with.


What is AFL?

The AFL, or the Arena Football League, was an American professional football league founded in 1987. After the NFL and the Canadian Football League (CFL), the AFL was the third longest-running league which ended in 2019.

The AFL is generally a game of faster pace and higher scoring, with rules encouraging offensive performance. The AFL had its developmental league, the af2, from 2000 to 2009.

The AFL played 22 continuous seasons from 1987-2008. However, internal issues led to the cancellation of its 2009 season, though the AF2 did play. Fortunately, in 2010, the AFL returned after the AFL and the af2 were dismissed, and a new corporation with teams from both leagues was established.

Again, on October 29, 2019, the league commissioner, Randall Boe, confirmed the discontinuation of operating teams for the 2020 season by the AFL. Four weeks later, on November 27, it was discovered that the league had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, resulting in dissolving AFL for the second time.

Main Differences Between NFL and AFL

  1. The NFL is outdoor American football, whereas the AFL stands for Indoor American football.
  2. The NFL is a game dominated by a strategy where the defence wins the championship, whereas, in the AFL, a faster pace and higher scores do the work.
  3. The field length is 160 yards in the NFL, with a 6-foot pointer border. In the AFL, the field length is 50 yards with a 48-inch high, foam-padded barrier.
  4. There is no score for defence in the NFL; the team has to play dead at the change of possession, whereas there are 2 points for defence in AFL.
  5. The NFL has an unlimited roster, but the AFL has an active and inactive roster.
  6. There is an unlimited number of substitutions possible in the NFL. But, in the AFL, players may only substitute once during a quarter, with exceptions.
  7. The Halftime is 12 minutes, with exceptions in the NFL, with 40 seconds between plays. But in the case of AFL, it is of 15 minutes with exceptions, along with 25 sec between plays.
Difference Between NFL and AFL
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