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The Top 10 Differences Between the NFL and the CFL

I love sports and particularly enjoy watching NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB.

Dallas Cowboys vs Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL International Series) at Wembley Stadium, 2014.

Dallas Cowboys vs Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL International Series) at Wembley Stadium, 2014.

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), which plays Canadian football. This article will explain the main differences between how the game is played in each league.

10 Differences Between the NFL and CFL

  1. The NFL offers higher salaries.
  2. The CFL field is longer and wider.
  3. The CFL allows for teams to have 12 players on the field as opposed to 11 in the NFL.
  4. The CFL offers three downs per possession as opposed to the four downs allowed in the NFL.
  5. There are different rules regarding the play clock and timeouts.
  6. The CFL offers an additional method of scoring known as a single point.
  7. There are different rules regarding the overtime format.
  8. There is a difference in the in-season schedule and length.
  9. There is a difference in the location of the field goal post.
  10. The CFL does not have a fair catch rule.

What Is the CFL?

The Canadian Football League is the top professional football league in Canada. It was founded in 1958 from a merger between the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union and the Western Interprovincial Football Union. The league has a 21-week regular season that begins in June. The championship game, the Grey Cup, occurs in November.

The playing field in the CFL is slightly larger, and 12 men are allowed on each side. This has created a stronger emphasis on speed for offensive linemen in the CFL. Due to the larger field and the CFL only allowing three downs, the league sees a more pass-orientated game. A short running game is not effective in this league.

1. Player Salaries

In football, it's all about the money, and the NFL has lots of it.

  • As of the 2021 season, the average yearly salary for an NFL player was around $2.7 million USD.
  • In comparison, the average salary for a CFL player in 2021 was approximately $80,000 CAN. Players in the CFL often need to hold second jobs in the offseason to supplement their income from playing football.
  • The highest paid player in the NFL as of 2022 is Patrick Mahomes; his contract offers an average annual salary of $45 million.
  • The highest paid player in the CFL is Zach Collaros. His contract offers $550,000 for the 2022 season. This is quite a big discrepancy!

Sometimes, players will quit the CFL and try out for the NFL because of the money and fame that they offer their players.

2. Field Size

The dimensions of the fields vary between the two leagues.

  • An NFL field is 100 by 53 1/3 yards with a midfield line at 50 yards. A CFL field is 110 by 65 yards with the midfield line at 55 yards.
  • The end zones are different lengths as well. The CFL has an end zone that is 20 yards deep. The NFL end zones are only 10 yards deep. This means that the total length of the entire field in the NFL is 120 yards while the CFL field is 150 yards.

Since the field is bigger and there are fewer downs in the CFL, teams usually have a more passing-oriented offense than in the NFL. Offense in the NFL usually has a greater balance between passes and runs.

3. Number of Players on the Field

  • The total number of players on the field in the NFL is 22. There are 11 players on the field for each opposing team.
  • In the CFL, the total is 24. There are 12 players on each opposing side.
  • Both leagues require seven offensive players to be on the line of scrimmage. Because of this, the 12th player on the field in the CFL is typically a backfield position. This has led to the tight end position being commonly removed from the CFL in favor of having two slotbacks. (Here is an article to help you learn about football positions if necessary.)
  • On the defensive side, the CFL has two halfbacks and safety while the NFL has two safety positions called free safety and strong safety.

4. Number of Downs

The NFL offers four downs for a team to advance the ball 10 yards. The CFL only offers three downs. Supporters of the CFL say that this, along with other rule differences, creates a more exciting game to watch.

Three downs were actually the norm for football in the early days of the sport. Football was created in the 19th century and was very similar to the sport that inspired it, rugby. Downs were implemented to prevent the stalling of the possession of the ball. Three downs were the initial standard, but Americans added a fourth down in 1912. There were talks in Canada about adding the fourth down, but the start of World War I halted all professional games for two years. When games began to be played again, discussions on changing the rules did not continue.

The rules in the CFL actually creates a scenario where three downs can help balance a game more evenly between offense and defense. The CFL requires that the defensive team is one yard away from the line of scrimmage; in the NFL, the defense can get right on the line. This allows running plays to be more effective in the CFL since they have more space to react to the defense. This, combined with a larger field, can create an advantage for the offense. Having only three downs offers some leverage to the defense.

Cheerleaders at an Edmonton Eskimos-Montreal Alouettes game, Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Cheerleaders at an Edmonton Eskimos-Montreal Alouettes game, Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

5. Time Rules and Timeouts

  • In American football, each team has three timeouts per half. There is also a two-minute warning given at the end of each half.
  • In Canadian football, each team gets two timeouts per game. They can only use one timeout during the three-minute warning in the second half.
  • 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 for the next play to start and the offense has 20 seconds to snap the football.
  • Players in the NFL have 40 seconds to run an offensive play after the whistle.

6. Scoring

The scoring is essentially the same in both leagues. A safety is two points, a field goal is three points, a touchdown is six points, a 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 does not return the ball out of their end zone. The kicking team then receives one point.
  • The kicking team misses a field goal or punts the football and the ball goes through the end zone and out of bounds without being touched.
A game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Edmonton Eskimos.

A game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Edmonton Eskimos.

7. Overtime Format

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 game ends in a tie.
  • In the CFL, a coin toss determines who will have the 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 the 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:

  • In the NFL, 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 either 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 defense wins the game.
  • In the CFL playoffs, it is the same format as above. A winner is declared when one team has more points after an equal number of possessions.

8. Regular Season and Schedule

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 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 June and ends in early November. Each team will play 18 regular-season games. Playoffs occur during November and the championship game—the Grey Cup—is played on 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. 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 its field goal posts at the front of the end zone.

The difference in location is due to the size differences of the field. The distance for a kicker would be similar between the two leagues, but the field goal needs to be at the front of the end zone in the CFL since the length of the field is larger.

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.
A regulation CFL football.

A regulation CFL football.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about the two leagues.

Are CFL footballs bigger than NFL footballs?

Prior to 2017, the footballs used in the CFL were slightly larger at their maximum size than the ones used in the NFL at their minimum size. A regulation CFL football was 11 to 11 1/4 inches in length, 20 7/8 to 21 1/8 inches in short circumference, and 27 3/4 to 28 1/4 inches in long circumference.

In 2018, the CFL announced that the league would change the dimensions of their footballs to make them identical to those used in the NFL. This would bring the minimum for short circumference to 21 inches and the minimum for long circumference to 28 inches.

Has an NFL team ever played a CFL team?

Between 1941 and 1961, 10 games occurred between CFL teams and teams from the NFL and AFL (These two leagues would merge in 1966 to form the NFL as we know it today). These games typically took place in August or early September. These were preseason warmups for the NFL teams. For the CFL teams, these were exhibition games occurring in the middle of their season. A CFL team would only win on two occasions; both times were actually the first and last interleague games. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Columbus Bullies in 1941 and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated the Buffalo Bills in 1961.

What is a rouge?

A rouge, also known as a single or a single point, is a method of scoring that involves kicking the ball into the end zone. This method is exclusive to Canadian football. A single point is awarded when the ball is kicked into the end zone by any legal means and the receiving team does not return the ball out of the end zone. A rouge is not awarded through a successful or failed conversion or a successful field goal.

© 2010 sportyfunster


RIchard on June 12, 2020:

The penalty for no yards is never yards...If the kick is caught in the air its a 15 yard penalty...if the kick bounces its a 5 yard penalty

in 2017 the highest pay was around 500.000. not 109,000

Volcanoman on November 25, 2019:

An addendum to the overtime rules in the CFL. Touchdowns must be followed by a 2-point conversion attempt, unless there is no convert necessary because the team that had first possession got a field goal or less.

If Team A gets first possession and gets a touchdown but fails on the convert, Team B can only tie the game on the touchdown, and only win the game with a 2-point convert of their own. In removing the need for 1-point conversions (which are almost always successful), these rules streamline overtime proceedings.

Another importa t difference on November 23, 2019:

Another important rule difference is the out-of-bounds catch rule. In the CFL the receiver needs to have one foot on the ground in-bounds after catching the ball. The NFL requires two feet on the ground in-bounds after the catch.

Dude on September 21, 2019:

There are a few mistakes in this article. While the average salary is correct the highest paid players are always quarterbacks. Most starting QBs in the league make well over $500 000/season.

When it comes to the no yards rule, the punting team cannot come to within 5 yards of the ball until it has been touched by the returner. This 5 yard cushion is often referred to as a “halo”. If the ball is caught in the air and any player from the coverage team is inside that “halo” a 15 yard penalty would be added on at the end of the return. If the ball hits the ground and a player from the coverage team is inside the “halo” when the returner touches the ball a 5 yard penalty would be tacked on to the end of the return.

The origin of the sport is another misunderstood and misrepresented story. In the late 1800s universities in the US and Canada played a game the was more of a mix of rugby and soccer. When, in 1874, Harvard was looking to play a game against another university, they extended an invited to a team from McGill University. The Canadian (McGill University) game had evolved by this point and was being played with a rugby like oblong ball while Harvard was still playing the rugby/ soccer with a round ball. Long story short, they agreed to play two games. One using Harvards rules and another using McGills rules. Essentially the Harvard team preferred McGills variation of the game and brought it home to America. So a more accurate statement would be that “American Football” is actually the evolution of a game created in Canada.

Mike on May 17, 2019:

Go Bengals!

Peyton on March 30, 2019:

The NFL overtime rules on this are wrong, a few years ago it was changed to a modified sudden death. If a team kicks a field goal on the first possession, the other team gets a chance with the ball. If the first team with the ball scores a touchdown, the game is over and the other team does not get the ball. Also the NFL only uses a 10 minute overtime instead of 15 minutes.

The last one about punts for the CFL is mostly right, but there is an obscure rule about one player on the punting team can pick up the ball, with out the receiving team touching the ball. He has to line up behind the punter though. I'm not sure if this same rule works for kickoffs too. I may have this backwards between kick off and punting, but I think it applies to punting.

stas on November 26, 2018:

you did a great job

Football Fan on June 20, 2018:

Question, say a runner fumbles the ball and a team mate steps out of bounds and come back into to recover the ball, do the ball remain with the team that fumbles or do the ball go to the other team

Demetri21 on May 26, 2017:


Demetri21 on May 24, 2017:

Worst job ever done

bubba in Calgary on October 07, 2016:

It's a well known fact, that many football fans are oblivious to. Back in the 1940' to early 1960's, the cfl payed higher wages to the athletes. So quite often the more talented players would gravitate to the cfl, as the money was their motivator. Of course, starting in th 60's and 70's, this situation reversed, as TV contracts, and corporate sponsorship in the USA made the NFL a much bigger money game and players began to make much more in the southern of the two leagues. But it is a fact, that once upon a time, the cfl did pay its athletes more money then the NFL.

Yush3nk0 on August 27, 2015:

The leagues are different, some players will excel in one league while others will excel in other. My opinion is that football is a boring sport to watch but the cfl is a lot less boring than the nfl. I was watching a ravens game while waiting for sportscentre to come on and it took half an hour to play 3 minutes like come on nfl get your shit together.

dinodan on July 21, 2015:

The NFL Is Having Its Steroid Moment

shaboobala on March 07, 2015:

Nfl has the bigger faster players. Cfl is different. Second choice american players. That is the truth. Love the intensity of the nfl. Love the unpredictability of the cfl. In the cfl with 2 minutes left the score can change 4 times. The nfl is a great brand. Big stadiums lowd rowdy fans fun to go watch live. Cfl is a fun game as well. Not as loud or rowdy but awesome to watch live. Not taking anything away from the athletes in the cfl because you have to be in great shape to play in that league. 18 game season plus playoffs. The players just arent as big or fast. Still tenacious and driven.

Tyler on February 18, 2015:

There are many grammatical errors in this article. However, I believe that it is still very interesting.

Brandon Hart from The Game on February 02, 2015:

I find it interesting that NFL players get paid more than our military. NFL runs around with a ball trying to not get tackled, while our military is running around with 100 lbs of equipment and trying not to be killed, but we still pay the NFL more...

Sharky on January 10, 2015:

Created the greatest arestlci, you have.

Ajay on January 10, 2015:

All I can see are feminists saynig that feminism is about equality, then claim that the acts of discrimination or examples of discriminatory laws that have been passed by feminists were the responsibility of radical feminists and that they aren't one of those. However, every last one of the feminists involved in the acts of discrimination and the discriminatory laws, claimed the EXACT SAME THING. In many cases the people that claim equality (even on here) will then go on to justify discrimination.How can I come to the conclusion that OVERALL feminism is not a radical hate movement if the RESULTS of the feminist movement are the acts of discrimination and the discriminatory laws?If they are different then surely someone can tell me why them seem to ACT in the same manner and can tell me how we can tell them apart.So, how do we tell the difference between a true feminist and a radical feminist if they make the exact same claims?Minvera: So judging them by whether they take the action of claiming that the wage gap is real would be a good way to go right? Someone's a radical feminist And dogtown, as far as I can tell the third wave feminists are second wave feminists that don't want to be saddled with the bad reputation and lack of credibility of the second wave feminists, so denounce them, then go off campaigning for the exact same things. They are exemplary examples of why I can't tell the difference.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on December 01, 2014:

Very interesting article. I was aware of a lot of the differences, but the salary difference is one aspect I wasn't sure about.

Great read!

Lollollollol on October 13, 2014:


Clemente Deleon-Catts on September 09, 2014:

They need to bring CFL back south of the border! This time not to compete with NFL teams in big metro markets, but in midsize markets such as Hartford-Springfield CT/MA. Dutchess county, NY Wilmington, DE. Pensacola,FL. Lubbock,TX. Santa Barbara, CA. Augusta-Aiken, GA-SC. etc The CFL would do good in the mid size metro areas because of the population and still not a far drive from a major metro area. The NFL and CFL are like games but different it is like saying lets compare Poughkeepsie to NYC and that is hard to do! I enjoy both games.

Ray on August 11, 2014:

Not Harvard -Yale

Ray on August 11, 2014:

Hey Mike

Right from

"Each offensive team has 40 seconds from the end of a given play until they must snap of the ball for the start of the next play, otherwise they will be penalized."

I know it upsets NFL people but the Americans found Canadian football rules too hard so they added an extra down to have four. Also their size of field is only because they didn't have enough room between buildings at Harvard where it was first played.

This is right from the North American football almanac.

Ray on August 09, 2014:

CFL is just as good if not a better game than the NFL.

NFL game has been taking on a remarkably similar look to the CFL game in recent years and are a pass happy league. This is probably because there is a lot of CFL influence in the NFL; I'll just mention Polian and Ackles to start.

As for the exhibition games between the NFL and CFL, yes the CFL is on the losing side of the record but the CFL rep was always one of the worst teams in the CFL and the NFL rep had a winning record. Hardly a fair representation: Last winner was CFL though. When the Bears played the CFL George Halas said the CFL was legit.

Anyways I'm a football fan and enjoy both games but am always amazed how negative the CFL colour men are vs the colour men of NFL broadcasts; but if you're a billion dollar league it doesn't bode well to have your colour men dressing down game, which of course is your meal ticket. I guess Canadians are just too hard on themselves (as usual).

Mike on June 28, 2014:

The playclock for American football is 24 seconds not 40!

Pam on December 04, 2013:

I'm a woman let me just settle these arguments...the CFL is wack! Couldn't hold my attention for two seconds...that is all, good night :)

joe on November 09, 2013:

my concern is people running into the field goal post trying to get into the end zone.

Flynn on October 14, 2013:

That was terrible the nfl could demolish the cfl in any challenge. Bottom line cfl would lose using there best players vs nfl's worst players

Anderson Maro on October 07, 2013:

Arena football is where it's at. Players from both leagues have come together and excelled as teammates and rivals.

Leather Head on December 02, 2012:

also the ball is bigger in the Cfl. Not as easy to drill it at a receiver. Bounces weirder too. Last but not least, in the cfl the ground is frozen 1/3 the season, good for real balls.

Crlycoated on November 18, 2012:

Oops - Correction - I meant that the CFL had faster games because they don't have constant time outs like the NFL.

Crlycoated on November 18, 2012:

I'm American but prefer to watch the CFL. The games are faster in time because there are constant time outs. Seems like the NFL are always in a time out. Plus, in my opinion, the CFL play a more fair game - not as much "trying to kill or maim an opponent player" as in the NFL.

Greg Maychak on September 08, 2012:

Salaries have nothing to do with the quality of the player or league? It depends on what the market will bear, the value of the owners and revenues. The NFL is a huge buisness that makes millions, maybe billions where the CFL is a more modest league that has learned to budget having an economic formula that works. That makes for a sustainable league and competitive product on the field. The CFL gives Canadians an option to play professional football and yes 24 Canadians are now on NFL rosters mostly O Lineman. We have had a number of NFL and outstanding american college players not do that well in the CFLas the game is much different. ie Vince Feragamo struggled on a larger field with only 3 downs. There are many CFL players who could never play south but there are some IF given the opportunity could play at that level. No question overall the american game has bigger, faster, stronger players but the margin of difference in ability and skill level is slight. The Ticats had 3 players tryout for the NFL this year. Justin Hickman, Marcus Thigpen and Justin Medlock all made the 48 player rosters and even though they were excellent players in the CFL they in no way dominated and if they had one might say the NFL is far superior but it's not; That saying there is not a big difference in the calibre of the players. The difference lies in the salaries, size and scope of the game and yes the HYPE! The Grey Cup celebrating it's 100th is almost always a classic! Generally high scoring, close and very exciting where the Super Bowl over the years, (excluding the most recent championships) have been low scoring, one sided and for all the hype and talk rarely meets that expectation! Lets hope both leagues thrive and that the NFL never moves a franchise north as it would be a huge loss in communities like Regina where CFL football is KING! Pro Football north or south of the border is great entertainment with incredible athletes so lets just leave it alone and not compare as both games provide a great product for it's fans and yes us Canadians love the NFL too as we are football fans and appreciate both games knowing your game is great too!

Evan on February 03, 2012:

@NFL - It's happened on numerous occasions ahaha. Gotta keep your head up if you're running up the middle into the end zone :P

Steve K on January 04, 2012:

You missed one of the biggest differences of all - the size of the BALL!

NFL on December 27, 2011:

What if someone in CFl hit/pushed someone to the pole while playing football. OR just hit it that would be funney

NFL on December 27, 2011:

There both the same thing just in different ways.LIKE.......

NFL it harder to make a touchdown in CFl it easy because it much bigger

CFl it harder because field is bigger NFL field is smaller

I like NFL of course because I am American but there both the same


mike on December 05, 2011:

I really find it hard to believe that Joe Theismann said the CFL is better than the NFL. I don't believe it is, although as Ricky Williams said, I believe the respective talent levels are comparable. I base that on a comment that the foremost authority on the two Leagues made. Bud Grant was the second leading receiver in the NFL in l952, jumped to Canada in l953 and became the second leading receiver in Canada. He went on to coach successfully in both Leagues and is still involved in the game. His l982 quote: given the opportunity, almost anyone who plays in the CFL could play in the NFL". Grant didn'y say so, but there are a few Canadian stiffs on each CFL club who are just around to complete the Canadian-American ratio and have no business on a football field. As for CFL players going to the NFL and getting cut, let's remember a few simple facts of life. CFLers go as free agents - they are seeded behind the regulars, behind the backups, behind the practice roster players, behind the draft choices, and behind any players that arrived in trade. The NFL club has no investment in these guys and cutting them is easy. Often the ex CFLers don't even receive the opportunity to show what they can do. Any player needs playing time to get into a rhythym and gain some confidence.

does it matter on November 23, 2011:

don't forget that the CFL football is larger than an NFL football.

DFC on November 21, 2011:

some heavy arguing on here...i'd rather watch hockey....canadians like the cfl and americans like the nfl...good enough

Josh on November 20, 2011:

I love my CFL just as much as the next canadian but everyone knows you guys pick first and we get the rest. If NFL versed CFL in a championship game we would need half a city worth of paramedics for the CFL TEAM lol..

tom on November 20, 2011:

I live in the states but have watched the CFL and they are great. I think that the NFL is hyped up a bit but they are also very good players. It is too bad that both leagues cant figure out a way to play each other. Play both champion teams twice a year. One time with NFL rules, and the next time with CFL rules. Maybe join the 2 together and then have a Super Bowl/GREY CUP GAME.

Josh on November 20, 2011:

Sorry that's 18.2 million on a 4 year contract, and his name was rocket ismail. He was, at the time, the highest paid football player period (CFL orNFL/ 1991).

Josh on November 20, 2011:

Those figures on CFL salary caps are incorrect.

The average CFL player makes 85,000$ CAN based on an average 4.2 million dollar salary cap per team and around 48 players. The highest paid CFL player had a contract worth 18.2 million per year, or about 4.55 million per season (keep in mind canadian money is worth more than american money these days). There are a handful of players in the CFL that make a million per season aswell.

chris on October 26, 2011:


M on September 24, 2011:

While the salaries of the players in the CFL aren't as low as you say they are, many players do still have jobs in the off season. Gene Makowsky who plays for the Roughriders (for over 16 years) still works as a substitute teacher. A lot of the players are also involved in politics or even farming, not just because they're not paid a lot. I mean 42,000 a year may not be millions but it's still a pretty comfortable living.

Momo_NFLhitsHARDER on August 27, 2011:

@lions - its only ignorance because you like undersized mediocre talent...... some people think two-hand touch is better they must be smart huh??? I SAID ITS NOT FOR SOME PEOPLE .. and you still call me ignorant??!! That's ignorance if you ask me, i made a neutral statement and then voice what i actually think .. grow up

Lions on August 26, 2011:

@Momo love your ignorance.

Momo on August 26, 2011:

WRs get a running start?? WTF I'm watching right now. CFL just isn't for some people, they are very different. i had a couple friends over the other night watching a CFL game and they thought I was lying when I said, "NO, It's not NCAA.." friend said,"I never heard of those schools??!" .. SMH Canada Its not for me, but i guess if you like watching the mediocre-talent league, it's for you.

Stephen Kurtz on August 06, 2011:

How could the writer leave out 3 downs versus 4 downs? The CFL is more unpredictable than the NFL because its rules allow for all in the backfield to be in motion. And in the CFL quarterbacks must know how to run; in the NFL they're too valuable to allow them to run and get flattened. Drop back passers don't exist in Canada and the wider field encourages them to roll out. So...take the NFL for science and take the CFL for fun. I think most prefer fun. Take the NFL for size and take the CFL for movement. Take the NFL for Jerry Jones's stadium and take the CFL for smaller stadiums that place the fan much closer to the field.

Matt on August 04, 2011:

they only have 8 teams? that's crazy. shouldn't be called a league lol

Steve on July 15, 2011:

Terribly written article, cfl players make more than that, cfl is a much better league, just wish the bombers wouldn't finish in last place all the time

Pedro on June 22, 2011:

I'm a huge CFL fan, and it is an amazing league, I find it a lot more exciting then NFL, I mean sure NFL is Americans game, and CFL is Canada's, the CFL I think has better rules, and is more exciting, I know a lot of NFL fans think CFL is less skill and not heard much, well let them watch a few games, see the skill and how it isn't that bad, the only difference is NFL players are payed a lot more than CFL players, but I have to agree the CFL players are still making more than they say, it's too bad CFL Is underrated, it's a great league with skill, the NFL is just richer, players just want to be more famous, that's why it's too bad CFL players go up ands tryout, I don't mind NFL, but people should recognize CFL in States, I could tell them all about the CFL all day long, they just got to recognize it

Riders in 2011 on June 15, 2011:

First off you cannot compare two types of football that are not the same.

reason for more "skilled" players in the NFL compared to the CFL is simply money. NFL 32 teams in a market place of 200 million people, CFL 8 teams in a market place of maybe 10 million people. This means the NFL can pay higher salaries, sell more merch and have higher ticket sales because of demand. CFL not so much. I can go to a game in Calgary and pay $16 to sit on the field now that's general admission in one section and its first come first serve for seating but that's just a point. I have heard games in Toronto go for $10 a seat. No demand, Regina however ticket prices for upper deck are $53. higher demand. I cannot say which game is better because non are, it is a completely different structure, the rule books are different, players are of different size and skill. You get a lot smaller players in the CFL but there are still small players in the NFL. Look at Walker with New England. He is 5'9" at 195lbs. That is about as small as the get in the NFL. But the reason they have to keep those boys big in that league is the size of man chasing them down the field. Its simple you put a big guy and run him hard into a little guy 99% of the time little guy gonna lose. CFL does have its downfalls and one is marketing. NFL market goes year round, CFL goes just 5 Months a year.

No one league however is tougher than the other. CFL stats are just the same as NFL and most US born players in the CFL have played College in the USA and were stars that stood out. I believe tho the CFL is more understanding to players and can find talent in them that the NFL seems to oversee because of size, what position they played in college so on and so forth. Darren Durrant, running back college, star quarter back in the CFL. Payton Manning quarter back college, star quarter back NFL. NFL your trying out for a single position, CFL hey you don't work well here but lets try you here. Boyd in Toronto hold records in NCAA. Why didn't he play in the NFL couldn't adapt? bad day in training camp?

And how can you have a interleague contest when the leagues don't match up for rules? Give me a break that's like saying hey, NFL should play NCAA. It doesn't work. However if they were to play again I am sure there would be surprising results.

In talking with people from the USA who actually have watched a game of CFL they seem to be fairly impressed by the skill, energy, and all around fun the CFL can offer while watching a game. And if the CFL was really as bad as it is made out to be why are having our 99th grey cup this year? 99 years is a long time for unskilled league to be around.

NFL fans will always say its a harder league, and the CFL fans will always say that its a harder league.

And CFL players are not playing here to make the NFL one day, they are playing for the love of football. NFL players are playing for money and fame. Some CFL players that go down to the states just do it so they can have a bigger paycheck and why not who are you to say that oh well if I work here but I can work here for 2, 3, 4 times as much money I wouldn't go.

Zombie on June 13, 2011:

The 150,000 mentioned in the article is way off the mark. The highest paid CFL player currently makes a little over 350,000. A couple years ago, Casey Printers made 500,000 but he was grossely overpaid. About 20 years ago, some players made over a million. The average salary is about 100,000. Teams dress 42 players each game and the salary cap is at about 4.2 millions.

Blue bombers fan on April 27, 2011:

Unfortunately there is a big salary difference as some major quarterbacks make in the range if 1 million , like Tracy Ham , Anthony Calvillo, Doug Flutie. The person who wrote this article is also right salary for non starters and special team player make between 30 to 50 thousand. I know three different players that played in the cfl and all three had jobs outside football. The fact of the matter is the size of both leagues. The bigger you are the more revenue you make. CFL and NFL are 2 different games. Its like playing chess and speed chess. As I am both an NFL and CFL I honestly say take a watch of the CFL games if nothing else it gives you football to watch on days there isn't a NFL game to watch. Go Bombers time for a Grey Cup run. Chargers it's time to step up because you can't possibly be still rebuilding its been 7 yrs

Scott on February 22, 2011:


Many CFL players have jobs in the offseason. A lot of them are teachers, trainers, etc. Most players do not make 250-450 k a year because there is a cap of 4 million (ish). I am guessing it is more like 75-100k. Ray made 450K a year until his contract was restructured this year and it is believed to be around 320k. Anthony Calvillo, possibly the best player in the CFL is believed to make 375K.

BT on February 09, 2011:

As a Canadian, even I understand that without a doubt the NFL's talent is a level up on the CFL. There is just a larger pool from which to draw on. And neither game is more difficult than the other. What ever you are used to is easier. Adapting to a new game is the issue.

CFLman on January 22, 2011:


Time after time, ex NFLers that come for the first time to a CFL training camp are astonished by the speed and the talent they found. Many have said that they see no difference between NFL and CFL training camps. After his season in Canada, Ricky Williams said that the talent in the CFL is comparable to the talent found in the NFL (The Miami Herald 2006). At first, Williams though it would be easy. He was amazed and very surprised by the speed of the CFL game. Jerrett Payton in his first Montreal Alouette’s training camp said he never experienced such speed before. Remember, Payton played previously in the NFL and in the NFLE. Doug Flutie had stated repeatedly to both Canadian and US media that the CFL is a more exciting game to watch and to play. As many other former CFLers and NFLers, he believed the CFL is very much under-rated.

In “The complete Idiot’s Guide to football 2nd edition” Joe Thiesmann also an ex CFLer and an ex NFLer wrote “the CFL is a better league than the NFL”. A former CFLer and NFLer Jean-Philippe Darche said on French Canadian T.V. “the biggest difference between the NFL and CFL are the big stars, but there are only 2 or 3 per team. Most players are interchangeable between both leagues”.

Logic says a league with smaller and players that are less heavy, is a faster league. As an example, many linebackers in the CFL used to be defensive backs. In both leagues Cameron Wake is judged as a very fast player in the position he played. In the CFL Wake was too heavy to be a linebacker. He played defensive end with great success. In the NFL Wake was too small to play defensive end. He plays as a linebacker with equal success. We are talking about two different games.

There is no separation between down lineman making athleticism secondary to size in line play in the NFL. In the CFL the yard from scrimmage permits more techniques which need more rapidity. You do not see 340 pounds or more linemen in the CFL. With so many punts returning in the CFL, small and fast ball carriers will have a field day every time. CFL offence linemen run and move a lot more. Often, CFL QBs get out of their protective pockets to run or to throw a pass. The CFL ball carriers are often smaller, with the size of the field; they are move free too improvise, changing directions whenever they want. These are some of the reasons why the average defensive ends in the CFL are 50 pounds less than the NFL.

With 20 sec. in the CFL, compared to 40 sec in the NFL, there are more plays in the CFL and much more running. We all know, CFL is a passing league. The CFL field is 53% bigger than the NFL and only two additional players. Often receivers just coming from the NFL, experienced leg pains in the CFL. In terms of faster pace and endurance, the CFL is much more demanding. For the most part, considering the rules and size of the field, CFL and NFL teams are seeking a different style of athlete.


It makes much more sense to believe American professional football players that played in both leagues (like Dong Flutie, Joe Thiesmann and many more) than a NFL fan who never physically experienced the true reality of the CFL and the NFL.

Also, logic says that a large field with different rules, more plays, only two time outs and only 20 seconds for recovery demand’s a faster, more versatile and enduring type of football player. In the NFL, there are huge bodies on a relatively small field, so they need bigger and stronger players. The NFL requires players who can play a highly structured game. The players are more specialized.

Both leagues have very athletic players. Some can play in both leagues, many more can’t. But there is no DNA proof that small football players that are ignored by the NFL, because of their size, are not as good as or even better than a NFL player with the ideal size. Now, lots of those small and very fast players are in the CFL. To stop them, teams are obliged to get players according their skills. Otherwise the score would be 80 to 70 in every game.

Buffalo, NY on January 18, 2011:

@Beezer Umm ok a larger field does not equate to a higher level of difficulty. If anything its the opposite. Making more money isn't the main objective. The NFL has more fans, it's a bigger league, has more teams and a higher diffuculty of play. Why do you think so many players that cant make it in the NFL will go to the CFL? and players that are in the CFL are hoping to make it in the NFL but usually dont. And when they do they are usually riding the bench because they aren't conditioned enough to keep up with the speed or physical aspect of the game.

Beezer on January 08, 2011:

Duh!! Larger field, less downs to get 10 yards for a first down; any logical thinking person can figure out that the CFL is a tougher game. Face it, the players want to go to the NFL because they can make more money to play an easier game...jeeze, that's a no brainer!! By the way, I'm a true football fan and appreciate both the NFL and the CFL so that is my impartial opinion.

Manny on December 27, 2010:

I have played both types of games NFL more explosive power is needed because everything is faster when the play is going on as for game speed such as play clock more endurance is needed for cfl because the plays are closer together less time in between I would say for the the people who love the big plays it goes to the cfl but the people who love the whole physical nature of the game it is the NFL by far

TjCurrie on December 17, 2010:


Those are misconceptions. Big time. Patrick Willis is a Linebacker for the 49ers and runs a 4.3 40. He's atleast as any LB from the CFL. Add in his strength and power, nobody in the CFL can match his overall ability and talent. Chad Johnson is as fast as any CFL receiver, aqnd Chris Johnson is faster than any CFL RB you could throw out there. Even if you want to go back, Eric Dickerson was a track star. Yes he was big but he could runb like the wind. The NFL players are fast. The game speed is much faster and more intense. The only thing that makes the game slower is the play clock. But the action on the field is quicker and the players close in faster. It takes more of everything to play in the NFL; size, strength, talent, speed, etc etc.

And just because the CFL is a little older, doesn't make it better. That has no barring on which game is better.

If you want to like the CFL over the NFL that's fine. But be correct with your conclusions. The NFL players are not slower. Just because the players are bigger on average, that doesn't make them slower. Anytime you hear guys who have played in both leagues, they say that the NFL is a tougher game and the game speed and intensity trumps the CFL.

CFLman on December 10, 2010:

The origine of American football comes from Montreal Canada. The oldest football teams are from Canada. The CFL is more an open game, based on speed and lots of actions. The NFL is a much slower pace, with stronger and heavier player. Two different types of players with different types of football. To me, the best football is played in the CFL.

TjCurrie on December 01, 2010:

Its not harder to play in the CFL. That's ridiculous. Ricky Williams is a poor example aswell. The guy was getting 10 carries a game and broke his arm part way through the season. Not to mention he hadn't played ball for awhile and he, like most NFLers that head north, don't really give a crap about where they are. Their only objective is to wait until the NFL comes calling again.

For every NFLer that doesn't make it in the CFL, there's 100 CFLers that cant make it in the NFL. Ricky Ray couldn't even make 3rd stringer with the Jets, Mr. MVP Casey Printers rode the bench with the Chiefs, All Stars like Rashad Jeanty, Juran Bolden ( one of my faves ) go to the NFL and are average at best. The list goes on and on.

The NFL is far tougher to play in. The players are faster despite what CFL fans like to think, they hit harder, you have less space and time to make plays, harder playbook to learn, more physically demanding, more studying, etc etc. Any player who's been in both knows the NFL is tougher. You hear them. Even Warren Moon says he needed more of a challenge.

The two leagues had I believe it was 7 exhibition games ON A CANADIAN FIELD in the late 50s and the NFL won 6 of the 7, demolishing the CFL in total score. It would be even more of a beating nowadays since the CFL could atleast compete for the most part for players back then. Not so anymore.

Im Canadian and I follow both. But NFL IS king.

bob on November 28, 2010:

uh no the highest cfl salary is 1.5 million and the average is a little bit higher, it is much harder to play in the cfl every nfl player that comes in the league struggles. Ricky Williams was benched in the cfl because the "star" couldn't even run 5 yards a game. you have less downs and a larger field to play with.

Allen Ford on November 06, 2010:


I can honestly say as a 42-year old who has lived his entire life in Canada this is the first time I have ever, ever, ever seen the single-point referred to as the 'rouge.'

Ron on November 06, 2010:

You spelled American wrong.

JW on October 11, 2010:

Im not sure where you got your facts, but CFL players make a lot more money than that. 400-500 thousand would be the top end. all skilled players make in the neighborhood of 100-150 thousand. Starting quarterbacks all make around and above 250000.

ThirtyFour on August 22, 2010:

A few corrections. Highest paid CFL player in 2009 Ricky Ray at $460.000. In 2010 Casey Printers signed for $500,000. Highest ever Raghib Ismail $18.2 million over 4 years. The other way to score a single point (not listed) is if a kickoff goes into the endzone and is not brought out. However if it goes through the back of the endzone untouched no point is scored. A "no yards" penalty (not giving 5 yards on a punt) is 15 yards when caught in the air, and 5 yards when it hits the ground.

sportyfunster (author) from Canada on June 10, 2010:

Gemineye, thanks for the comment. CFL is starting up the 2010 regular season starting Jul 1, 2010 and agree with you, it is all about passing in the CFL.

Gemineye on June 09, 2010:

I have watched some CFL on TV before, and honestly, I thought it was a lot of fun to watch. Definitely a pass happy league, which is always exciting for fans to watch! Good Hub

sportyfunster (author) from Canada on June 03, 2010:

chpabe, thanks for the comment. Glad this article will help you with your paper. Good luck. Cheers.

chpabe on June 02, 2010:

Great article will really help me with my paper in LA!!!!!! just 10 days to go

sportyfunster (author) from Canada on May 03, 2010:

Thanks for the comments, much appreciated.

visionquest on April 09, 2010:

Fantastic article - comparison of the fields, everything - top notch.

Easily one of the best articles I've ever read explaining the difference between the two leagues.

billyaustindillon on April 08, 2010:

Good summary - I have never really been sure of what the difference was with the CFL