The NFL has been vastly popular in the United States of America for many decades. The Super Bowl a headline act of the US’ sporting ensemble, the NFL draws enormous crowds and draws media attention in a way that MLB and NHL can only dream of.

In the UK, however, it hasn’t always been a big deal. With games in London over the last few years, though, that has changed drastically.

The NFL has grown into something rather more significant on this side of the Atlantic. British fan bases have been formed, rivalries established, and the prospect of a London-based franchise is growing ever closer.

What’s the big deal with the NFL? Its fans are not just loyal, many are fanatical. Why has it become so incredibly popular? Here are five reasons…


Sheer Unpredictability

Some of the greatest Super Bowl wins have emphasised the NFL’s unpredictability. The short season and the one-game playoff format means predicting the season is near-impossible, even when the seemingly unstoppable New England Patriots are involved.

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A bad few weeks can derail any teams’ season. The 16-game regular season gives little team to recover from a blip, and teams can ride a hot wave of form into the postseason.

Once the playoffs are underway, anything can happen. Even if, like the Philadelphia Eagles a couple of years ago, your first choice quarterback is out with an injury.

Like any sport, there are favourites and underdogs come opening day. The NFL though, more often than others, sees those preseason tags forgotten. Anything is possible in the NFL with a bit of fortune and timely good performances.


Teams Change Quickly

In part because of the salary cap structure and draft, teams don’t have depth like many football fans are used to in the Premier League. As a result, one or two big injuries can alter a team’s future, which adds to that aforementioned unpredictability.

The recent saddening retirement of Andrew Luck is a good example of this. With Luck, the Indianapolis Colts were legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

Without him, a playoff berth is improbable. There’s been a similar situation with the Cleveland Browns, who flipped from laughing stock in 2017 to semi-competitive in 2018. The Browns are 14/1 to win the 2020 Super Bowl – the same odds as the Los Angeles Chargers.

Long periods of dominance (let’s just ignore the freaky New England Patriots for now) are rare. There’s a fluctuation that not all sports have, which enhances sport’s most valuable commodity: unpredictability.


Star Power

The other side-affect of limited depth is that star players are even more valuable.

While Manchester City have plenty of capable deputies if Kevin De Bruyne is injured, there’s no fill in for Aaron Rodgers - arguably the best NFL quarterback - and there’s no Odell Beckham Jr replacement that can fill the void effectively.

Fitness and form for those players who take up a huge portion of the salary cap are vital. Green Bay are nothing when Rodgers is injured, and an out of sorts Beckham will see the Browns’ chances of success this season reduced.

While American Football by its very nature is about the unit, it still allows individuals to flourish. It has that mix of the team machine and individual achievement that makes sport fascinating.


Draft Impact

An alien concept to many soccer fans, the draft system used in American sports is a great way to level the playing field.

With the worst team in the previous season receiving the highest pick and the best team receiving the lowest pick, this is another means that the NFL uses to avoid perennial failure.

Of course, franchises still need to get their decisions right, and perhaps get a bit lucky on draft night, but the idea behind the system makes sense.

The NFL Draft is a spectacle itself, giving the best of college athletes the chance to earn immediate riches and the opportunity to break into the National Football League.

A brilliant draft or two can set a franchise up for long-term success, while misjudgements can haunt a franchise for years to come, particularly if they waste high picks.

Kyler Murray leads some interesting rookies to follow in 2019. Will he prove to be the right pick for the Arizona Cardinals?


Super Bowl

There’s nothing quite like the Super Bowl. The Champions League final is the sporting event that comes closest, but the other trophies on offer in soccer make that a slightly different thing.

In the US, the series format of the NHL, MLB and NBA playoffs mean that their seasons do not always end in such dramatic fashion.

Even when the games aren’t especially remarkable, they are tense beyond belief. Super Bowl LIII was widely mocked, but despite its low-scoring nature, it is was noticeably stressful for all involved.

The season was on the line for the Rams and Patriots, losing the game was failure, and they had months to wait before they could start to make it right.

The Super Bowl has grown into a major event in the UK. Parties are held, and it has become a gateway into NFL fandom for many.


*Credit for the main photo belongs to David Zalubowski / AP Photo*

Sam is a sports tipster, specialising in the Premier League and Champions League.

He covers most sports, including cricket and Formula One. Sam particularly enjoys those on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean – notably MLB and NBA.

Watching, writing and talking about sports betting takes up most of his time, whether that is for a day out at T20 Finals Day or a long night of basketball.

Having been writing for several years, Sam has been working with 888Sport since 2016, contributing multiple articles per week to the blog.