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On August 20, 1920, representatives from four independent professional football teams in Ohio—the Canton Bulldogs, the Cleveland Tigers, the Dayton Triangles and the Akron Pros— had a meeting and established guidelines for a league they called the American Professional Football Conference.
After the meeting, other professional teams were contacted and invited to a meeting in Canton, Ohio on Sept. 17. Nine other teams ended up joining the fledgling league. The name would be changed to National Football League in 1921.
Many football innovations can be traced to the 1932 season. At the time, standings were determined by winning percentage (with ties not factored in) and so the Portsmouth Spartans (6–1–4) and the Chicago Bears (6–1–6) ended up in a tie. It was decided that the two teams should participate in a playoff game to determine the champion. Extremely cold weather necessitated that the game be played indoors, at Chicago Stadium, rather than at Wrigley Field. This would be the first game that was played indoors, on Dec. 18.
The 1932 season was also the first time official statistics were kept. Because the field in Chicago Stadium was only 80-yards long and the walls were close to the sidelines, teams were allowed to move the ball toward the center of the field if a ball carrier went out of bounds or was tackled within 10 yards of the sideline. This was the first use of “hash marks” in pro football. The Bears won the game 9–0, after Bronco Nagurski threw a two-yard pass to Red Grange. The Spartans protested that the pass violated the existing rule, which stated that a pass had to be thrown from more than five yards behind the line of scrimmage, but the touchdown was not overturned.
Before the next season, hash marks were officially adopted, the forward pass was legalized if thrown from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage and the teams were officially divided into two divisions, with the winners scheduled to meet in a championship game.
Now there are 32 teams in the NFL. The teams are divided into either the AFC or NFC, and each of those conferences is broken up into four divisions. Each team plays a 16-game schedule and has one bye week when they don’t have to play. Games can be scheduled on Thursdays, Sundays or Mondays.
A total of 10 teams make the playoffs: the winner of each of the eight divisions, plus two Wild Card teams. The Wild Card weekend winners advance to the divisional playoffs. After that come the AFC Championship game and the NFC Championship game, and finally the Super Bowl.
The Lombardi Trophy, which is presented to the Super Bowl's winning team, is named for Vince Lombardi, the Hall of Famer who coached the Green Bay Packers from 1959 to 1967. Lombardi led the Packers to victory in the first two Super Bowls, in 1967 and 1968. After his sudden death from cancer in 1970, the trophy was named for him.