After the furor of the Super Bowl, American football usually takes a well-earned and much-needed seven-month break. However, in 2019, this hiatus only lasted around a week due to the advent of the Alliance of American Football league.
Set up by NFL executive Bill Polian and television producer Charlie Ebersol, the league is being billed as a developmental project and stepping stone of sorts for players who want to get back into the big time. The inaugural season consists of ten games and comes to a head in the form of a Championship game on April 27. In case you didn't have a clue what went on in the opening round of fixtures, below is a quick round up of the league format and rules which should bring you right up to speed.
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The league already contains a good few recognizable names from the NFL in terms of coaching. While the substantive on-field football will look similar to what you enjoy on fall Sundays, the league has made a few changes. These are designed to speed up the game but maintain the attention of hardcore fans who aren't used to being camped out in front of their television sets in the offseason. All in all, it is estimated that the changes listed below could shave off around 30 minutes off the typical three-hour running time of an NFL game.
Television timeouts have been done away with along fewer full-screen commercial breaks and a 35-second play clock (as opposed to the 40-second play clock imposed by the NFL). In addition to this, there are no extra points (each touchdown will be followed by an attempt at a two-point convert) and no kickoffs (each team starts with possession at their 25-yard line). If that's not enough, overtime consists of each team only getting the ball once and there's even a new, ninth member of the officiating crew known as a Skyjudge, who will use real-time technology to correct any obvious errors concerning player safety and pass interference when there's less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Where Can You Watch It?
Those who fancy a flutter on the AAF via online sportsbooks such as MoPlay will need to keep an eye on the ever-changing schedule of the league. After being broadcast on CBS the opening night last Saturday, AAF games will predominantly live on the CBS Sports Network, the B/R Live streaming service and NFL Network. It's worth pointing out that TNT will also broadcast two games throughout the season - Salt Lake Lions v Birmingham Iron on February 16 and then one of the two playoff games which take place after the regulation season is over. The Championship game on April 27 will then be shown on CBS.
It's fair to say that most people were impressed with the quality of football on show. Moreover, it appears that the imposed changes are at the very least interesting - in time, the AAF could be perhaps used in the future as a dummy run for any proposed alterations to the NFL. With a viewership of around three million and an average of 20,000 fans in person, the early signs are encouraging but attendances will ultimately decide the fate of the AAF. Nevertheless, for an opening weekend, there are certainly more positives than negatives.