The Top 10 NFL vs. CFL Differences
Professional football fans in North America have a choice between two flavours. One is the National Football League (NFL) in the United States, and the other is the Canadian Football League (CFL), who play Canadian football. This article will explain the main differences between the games each league plays.
1. Player Salaries in the NFL vs. the CFL
In football, it's all about the money, and the NFL has lots of it.
- In the 2009 season, the average yearly salary for an NFL player was around $770,000 USD.
- In comparison, the average salary for a CFL player in 2009 was approximately $50,000 CAN. Often players in the CFL need to hold second jobs in the offseason to supplement their income from playing football.
- The highest paid players in the NFL make over $15 million USD per season.
- The highest paid player in the CFL, in contrast, could make over $150,000. Quite a big discrepancy!
Sometimes, players will quit the CFL and try out for the NFL because of the money and fame that the NFL offers their players.
2. NFL vs. CFL Field Size
The dimensions of the fields vary between the two leagues:
- From one goal line to the other, an NFL field is 100 yards with a midfield line at 50 yards. On the other hand, from goal line to goal line a CFL field is 110 yards, with the 55-yard line at midfield.
- The end zones are different lengths as well, with a CFL having a bigger end zone. The NFL end zones are 10 yards deep while the CFL's are 20 yards deep.
- The length of the entire field in the NFL is 120 yards in comparison with the CFL which is 150 yards.
- Another noticeable difference is the width of the field between the two leagues. In the NFL, the width of the field from sideline to sideline is 160 feet or 53 and 1/3 yards. The CFL's width is 65 yards.
Since the field is bigger and there are fewer downs in the CFL, teams usually have a more passing-oriented offensive than in the NFL. In NFL offense there is usually a greater balance between passes and runs
3. Number of Players on the Field in the NFL vs. the CFL
- The total number of players on the field in the NFL is 22. The offensive team has 11 players and the defensive team has 11 players.
- In the CFL, the total is 24, 12 on offense and 12 on defense.
- On the offensive side, the NFL has a tight end position. The CFL has no tight end position, but instead, there are two slotback positions.
- On the defensive side, the CFL has two halfbacks and a safety while the NFL has two safety positions called free safety and strong safety.
4. Number of Downs
- In the NFL, the offense has four downs to make a first down, score a touchdown or kick a field goal.
- In the CFL, the offense has three downs to make a first down, score a touchdown or kick a field goal.
5. Time Rules and Timeouts
- In American football, each team has three timeouts per half and at the players receive a two-minute warning.
- In Canadian football, each team only has one timeout per half and a three-minute warning.
- Both the two- and three-minute warnings automatically stop the clock after each play without charging a time out to either team.
Another difference is the play clock:
- In the CFL, after the play is over, the referee whistles the next play to start and the offensive has 20 seconds to snap the football.
- Players in the NFL have 40 seconds to run an offensive play after the whistle.
6. NFL Scoring vs. CFL Scoring
The scoring is the same in both leagues. A safety is two points, a field goal is three points, a touchdown wins six points, an kicked extra point is one point, and a conversion run is two points.
A notable exception is the single point, or rouge, which is only in the CFL. A single point is awarded to the kicking team when:
- The kicking team misses a field goal or punts the football and the receiving team catches the football and decides not to run out of their own end zone. The kicking team then receives one point.
- The kicking team misses a field goal or punts the football and the ball goes out of bounds in the end zone. The kicking team will receive one point.
7. Overtime Format in the NFL and the CFL
If the game is tied at the end of the fourth quarter, the teams will play an overtime quarter to decide who will win. Regular season and overtime season formats differ between the two leagues.
Regular Season Overtime Format:
- In the NFL, a coin is tossed and the winning team has a choice to receive or kick off the football to the opposition. The overtime format is sudden death—the first team who scores a safety, field goal or touchdown wins the game. After 15 minutes of play, if no team has scored any points, the football game ends in a tie.
- In the CFL, a coin toss determines who will have first possession of the football. The winning team decides to either take the first possession or the second possession in overtime. There is no kickoff in this overtime format. Instead, the ball is placed on the opposition's 35-yard line and offensive team will try to advance the football until they score or lose possession. If the defense scores a point, the game is over. Once the first team has had their possession of the football, the second team will get the football at the opposition's 35 yard line. The second team can either match the first team's score or beat their score. If the second team beats the score, they automatically win the game. If the game is still tied after the second team's possession, each team will have one more possession of the football to score. If after two possessions by both teams the score remains tied, the game ends in a tie.
Playoff Season Overtime Format:
- As of March 2010, the NFL playoff rules for overtimes starts with a coin toss to determine who will receive or kick the football. If the team who has the first offensive possession in overtime scores a touchdown, the game is over. However, if the first offensive team kicks a field goal, then the opposing team will get an offensive possession to match the field goal or to win a game with a touchdown of their own. If the second team kicks a field go to tie the game, then whoever scores next wins the game. If neither team scores during their possession, then the game goes to sudden death and the first team to score any points will win. If the defensive team scores any points in overtime, the game is over and the team that was on the defensive wins the game.
- In the CFL playoffs, it is the same format as above until one team scores and the other team does not. The team that scores is the winner.
8. Regular Season and Schedule in the NFL vs. the CFL
The NFL season and scheduling works like this:
- The NFL regular season begins in September and ends in late December or early January. Each team plays 16 regular season games. Playoffs begin the following week in January and the championship game—the Super Bowl—is played on the first Sunday in February.
- NFL games are primarily scheduled for Sundays and there is one Monday-night game every week during the regular season. There are Thursday and Saturday games as well. During American Thanksgiving in late November, several games are played.
In the CFL:
- The CFL regular season begins in July and ends in early November. Each team will play 18 regular season games. Playoffs begin the following week and the championship gamed—the Grey Cup—are played in the last Sunday in November.
- CFL games are scheduled throughout the week, but the majority of the games are played on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays. There may also be some games on Thursdays and Mondays. During Labour Day in September is a big day for Canadian fans to watch football, and many games are scheduled for this day.
9. Field Goal Post Location
Another difference between the two leagues is the location of the field goal posts.
- In the NFL, the field goal posts are located at the back of the end zone.
- The CFL has their field goal posts at the front of the end zone.
10. Fair Catches and Punt Returns
In the NFL, after the kicking team punts the football, the punt returner can do one of the following:
- Catch and run with the ball until he is tackled, pushed out of bounds or scores a touchdown.
- Wave his hand in the air to signal a fair catch, meaning the opposition can't tackle or make contact with the punter. They must let the punt returner catch the football after the punt, but the returner may not advance the football.
- Let the ball bounce into the field of play where the kicking team can touch the football, but possession still remains with the punt-return team, or the punt returner can let the football bounce out of bounds and possession is taken where the football goes out of bounds.
In the CFL, however:
- There is no fair-catch rule and the punting team must give a cushion of about five yards to allow the punt returner to either catch the football in mid-air, catch the football after it bounces, or pick up the football and run after the ball has stopped bouncing. If the kicking team does not allow the five-yard cushion, the punt return team will be assigned a 10-yard penalty.
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