AP Photo/Gene Puskar
When Bradbury Robinson of St. Louis University threw an oval-shaped ball to teammate Jack Schneider in 1906, he not only completed the first forward pass in history, he created an American sensation. A century later, football is the largest spectator sport in the United States, with the Super Bowl drawing in excess of 90 million television viewers annually. As one would expect, there are quality football Web sites in every nook of cyberspace, offering everything from rules and regulations to team and player information for nearly every conceivable level of competition. For a Spanish-language version of the Guide, click here
Information on the National Football League (NFL) is about as plentiful as sun in the Sahara. Not only are there a number of sites offering the latest football league, team, and player news, but you'll also find commentary, statistics, audio/video, blogs, and NFL merchandise with a simple click of the mouse.
- Because of the vast array of quality sites and information relating to football, it is best to try to determine what specifically you are searching for before beginning your online adventure. Utilize the menu bars and internal site search engines to their fullest extent in order to save time (and possibly frustration).
- Local newspaper and television news sites are often great sources for exclusive material and in-depth NFL team and player analysis.
For general information ...
is the official site of the National Football League and contains a wealth of information and statistics on the pro game. In addition to wire reports from across the league, the site also contains rules and regulations, audio and video links, standings, rosters, depth charts (for fantasy football addicts), and even a link to the individual Web sites of every NFL team.
is hard to beat if you're looking for a really good overall site with a broad array of commentary. In addition to all the usual stuff (scoreboards, standings, schedules, and the audio and video) one might expect from a major network news site, CBS SportsLine also allows for user input, from customized headlines to team and player stats. And there are a number of options for fantasy football fans-including free scoring and stats.
(in conjunction with CNN) has a site that features the same crisp writing and super photos that sports fans have come to expect from the magazine. Although a little more tedious to navigate than other major sites, SI.com offers some of the best in-depth features and player statistics.
, like most of the network television sites, features exclusive commentary, team and player stats, scores, audio and video, as well as current standings and the latest trade rumors. The site also has a very good and totally free fantasy football game that includes a free draft guide.
weighs in with possibly the most comprehensive NFL site on the Net. Free and premium audio/video, team and player statistics, as well as the latest league headlines from across the country can all be found on the ESPN Web site. Comprehensive? How about seven columnists devoted to fantasy football alone. The site also features an active message board as well as content for Spanish-speaking fans through ESPN Deportes.
makes the list simply because it presents a good collection of sites already mentioned here (along with some others).
Although most of the major pro football sites offer at least a rudimentary look at the numbers, some of the very best sources for hardcore football statistics are smaller sites, run by devoted fans or sports betting sites.
- Like beauty, the value of statistical information is in the eyes of the beholder. For football fans interested in the history of the game, traditional stats are likely to be more meaningful and more appreciated. For those who enjoy going "beyond the numbers," sites offering unique rankings or team "power" ratings may be more helpful. And fantasy football fans are probably best served by sticking to those sites that produce numbers and analysis based on a scoring system that is at least similar to the one their particular league employs.
- The above notwithstanding, don't be afraid to cull information from different, seemingly divergent sources. Remember, in sports, things are constantly changing-whether it's rules, style of play, or the athletes themselves. Sometimes the best statistical perspective is also the broadest.
For NFL team and player statistics ...
Pro Football Reference
is a great Web site for those interested in the statistics and history of the game. This site offers team and players stats, including game-by-game logs, from 1960 to the present, and standings and scores starting from 1920. In addition, Pro Football Reference has a handy menu bar that allows users to browse by player, by team and by year as well as a "Leaderboard" section that displays yearly statistical leaders. This site is especially helpful to those attempting to find stats for a retired player or coach.
is similar to Pro Football Reference, only with more statistical categories for both teams and individuals. The information also tends to be a bit more complete than Pro Football Reference (although it's a little bit more cumbersome to access).
might well be the best statistical site devoted to sports betting in the world. In addition to the usual array of team and individual offensive and defensive numbers, Covers also features a vast array of unique and unusual data, such as team power rankings, performance against the spread, time of possessions stats, and much more.
The Gold Sheet
is another sports handicapping site that offers a ton of great information. One of the best features of this site is its archive section, which can be accessed via the "Past Scores & Ratings" link on the left-side menu bar. Here you'll find each team's straight-up (SU) record and against-the-spread (ATS) mark since 1993.
The Sports Network
is a sports data provider for news organizations such as Reuters, The New York Times, CBS/Viacom and, yes, even Google. In addition to audio news on each NFL team, the Web site also includes an NFL Database, which allows users to view past team match-ups under a variety of different conditions.
is to football what Bill James' Baseball Abstract is to baseball, albeit on a smaller scale. Using DVOA, or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, along with other proprietary methods, the site administrators attempt to go beyond the usual numbers and assess players by judging their actual worth to their teams. Both free and premium packages are available.
is another site that takes a different perspective on statistics. Although there are no individual player stats available, the site does present a nine-year study of each team's trends in an attempt to predict future success (or failure).
For NFL fantasy football information and statistics ...
Fantasy Football Today
is a wonderful site that features some of the best free fantasy football information on the World Wide Web. From regularly updated rankings and projections, to stats, articles, and fan forums-Fantasy Football Today has it all.
offers a variety of different premium package options as well as a free membership, which includes trade assessor and average draft position tools, message board access, daily player news/updates, and weekly radio show podcasts.
is a fantastic site for general fantasy football information. In addition to depth charts, rankings, cheat sheets, and a regular podcast, the site also has links to other outstanding resources.
Football player biographies usually fall into one of two categories: informational or statistical. But the best sites will feature both. Check out each player's team site, as well as those listed below.
- Biographical information on current NCAA and NFL players is plentiful, and most search engine queries are fruitful, providing decent sources of information.
- Try to be precise in your keyword searches for past and present players, especially if you are looking for information on a specific event. For example, if you are interested in Adam "Pacman" Jones' (growing) criminal record, a search using "pacman jones criminal record" is a good way to start. In general, the most effective way to conduct an Internet search is to think of it as an inverted funnel, whereby one starts with a narrow scope of inquiry that grows broader as needs dictate.
- In instances where a player has a common name, like John Smith, for example, try adding more information to your search, i.e., "John Smith Baylor college football player."
For NFL player bios ...
is a Web site sanctioned by the NFL Players Association. Although not every player's bio is available, the ones that are feature a tremendous amount of information, including journal entries and an e-mail link. Unfortunately, however, portions of the site are not updated regularly-the statistics and year-by-year recapitulations only go through 2005.
's Players link, while devoid of commentary, is excellent in terms of statistical information. The "Situational Stats" section is especially worth a peek.
For NCAA player bios ...
offers photos, statistics, player ratings, notes, and even video highlights for particular college athletes.
At one time, free NFL audio/video game feeds were plentiful; now, they're about as common as "free" music from Napster. NFL.com offers a premium package, as do some of the other major network sites, but for those with tighter budgets, your best bet will be some of the graphical play-by-play scoreboards that simulate game action in near real time. Use this section to learn about how to watch and listen to football action.
- The NFL Field Pass, which offers the radio broadcasts for all 32 NFL teams, is relatively inexpensive but make sure your computer is up to snuff before you part with your hard-earned dough or ill-gotten booty. The various system requirements can be found in the Field Pass Q & A section.
- Make sure, if you do opt to buy a video or audio package, that you stay active at your keyboard or adjust the time of your computer's "sleep" mode to account for longer down times. This will prevent a potential "Heidi Bowl" scenario where your computer shuts off in the final, nail-biting moments of a ballgame.
- Podcasts tend to come and go faster than Ryan Leaf's career in the NFL, so try not to get too attached. On the other hand, the "podplosion" that occurred a few years ago caused many major media sites to join the pod parade, which has led to some truly outstanding offerings. ESPN, for example, now has a great catalog of free audio content.
- When perusing podcast directories, like TPSRadio.net, the sports sections of PodcastAlley.com, or Podcastpickle.com, be aware that most of them use listener votes as the prime criterion in assessing a podcast's popularity, a system that is easily manipulated. Hence, you will often see "popular" shows that haven't released new content in months or even years.
- Another option is to find the flagship radio station for the team in question and visit that station's Web site to learn if they offer live streaming audio.
For NFL game audio/video ...
NFL Field Pass
will not break most bank accounts and provides fans with the home team radio feed for every NFL game.
For NFL podcasts ...
crushes the competition when it comes to podcast diversity and quality. With top-notch production values and the kind of irreverent, personality-driven journalism that has defined the Bristol, Connecticut company since its inception, ESPN offers a full menu of sports and NFL programming.
offers a vast array of NFL podcasts, but determining what's game and what's lame can be difficult. Unfortunately, as noted above, the voting systems on most podcast directories are serious flawed-so, generally, it's a case of listen and learn.
also features a variety of NFL podcasts. However, the site is quite tedious to navigate, as there are no show summaries to aid in the selection process.
Blogs are a great source of information on football and the NFL, and are usually monitored more closely than forums; hence, less irrelevant posts. Many teams now operate their own blogs, often using past and present team members or coaches to post comments.
- Like podcasts, blogs tend to come and go. So, if you find one you really like, be sure to comment on the stories and tell your friends about it. The more people that visit the site and voice their opinions, the more likely it is for the blog to continue.
- Those interested in team-specific blogs should consult the Web site of that team, which can be found on the home page of NFL.com. Others should peruse the following sites.
- Wikipedia's "External Links" sections, found at the bottom of each team's entry, can be great for finding official and unofficial blogs and discussion forums for your favorite NFL and college teams.
For NFL blogs ...
, although technically not a blog, is simply one of the best Internet sites around for brazen and insightful NFL commentary. The site also includes team pages that provide links to town newspapers, local message boards and related Web sites.
drifts into the blogosphere courtesy of onetime Internet giant, America Online, and features frequent, quality posts (though they don't often receive many responses).
The Sporting News
has a very active and engaging blog section though in reality it looks more like a forum. Community members can choose a favorite team to become part of the "Fan Roster" (boastings of thousands of diehard supporters for every team) and post comments on nearly any football topic they choose.
has near-daily updates from a true fantasy football nut, Gregg Rosenthal. Rosenthal tackles all of the silly questions that make fantasy football so much fun-like whom you should make your number-three running back, or who should be your top benchwarmer.
The Professional Cheerleader Blog
offers a serious look at the world of professional cheerleading and sports dance teams. And, after all, what would football be without cheerleaders? Probably the same as celebrity news without Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan-perhaps better, perhaps worse, but not the same.
NFL and college football merchandise is everywhere: sporting good stores, department stores, street corners (you might want to avoid the latter, especially if they offer to throw in a discounted Rolex with your purchase). If you'd like to make your purchase online, the following resources will be extremely helpful.
- Although finding a good deal is an American tradition, remember that licensed products (such as NFL jerseys and hats) will typically cost more than unlicensed ones. So, if you are someone who insists on authenticity, beware of extreme discounts. Sticking to official NFL or NCAA-sanctioned outlet stores and/or Web sites is your safest bet.
- If you don't care whether the products and apparel you're looking to buy are licensed or not, peruse your favorite online retailer or auction site.
For NFL merchandise ...
The NFL Shop
is the best option for those seeking convenient shopping and NFL-approved merchandise. One can view items by team, sex of customer, or even buy a gift card and let somebody else do the shopping. Perhaps most important of all, it has a 1-800 number to call should human assistance be needed.
is an excellent option for confirmed bargain hunters. Under the category "Sports Mem, Cards & Fan Shop," you will find football merchandise in abundance. Of course, you'll need to do your homework to make sure that you are dealing with a reputable merchant, but the opportunity to attain rare or unique items often makes it worth the trouble.
For NCAA merchandise ...
The NCAASports.com Store
is the only official retail outlet for NCAA products and features a very nice "storefront," which makes shopping a breeze-even for guys. The site also has a liberal return policy, which you can view by clicking the "Return Policy" menu tab on the store's home page.
boats the "largest selection of college and pro merchandise in the world." If you can't find what you're looking for at Collegegear.com, it probably doesn't exist. With 26 product categories consisting of everything from SnuggleBall Blankets to Laptop Backpacks, customers can, quite literally, support their favorite team from cradle to grave.
Like finding NFL and NCAA merchandise, finding an NFL or NCAA ticket vendor is like finding a needle in a needle stack (assuming there is such a thing). Once again, your best bet is through official league or team sites. In this section, we'll provide you with a few options, including how to buy from other fans.
- Go to the home team Web site to get an idea of the stadium layout and seating arrangements before you purchase your tickets. That way, you'll have a better idea of what you're buying.
- Don't forget auction sites and newspaper sites when searching for cheap tickets. The closer to game time, the more likely you will be able to find a bargain (or be sitting at home for the coin toss).
For NFL tickets ...
provides access to the ticket centers of all 32 NFL teams along with a phone number to call for more information.
For NCAA tickets ...
provides a very straightforward way of procuring tickets for your team or sport of choice.
For both college and pro football tickets ...
presents an easy way to search for and buy both college and/or pro football tickets. Buyers can browse by team name or event and the Web site has a 1-800 number to call as well.
is a ticketing site run by eBay where fans can buy and sell tickets. There are no guarantees, but it's easy to do a search to find out if someone has posted a listing for the NFL or NCAA game you want to see.
Prior to the 1950s, college football was the preeminent source of football fun in America. The names are legendary. Walter Camp, Knute Rockne, Jim Thorpe, Bronko Nagurski, Red Grange, and John William Heisman (for whom the Heisman Trophy was named) are just a few of the celebrated players that figured prominently in the growth of American football. And, just as with the pro game, there are a number of great sites offering information and data on NCAA football.
- Because of the sheer number of college teams and the extensive history of the sport, searching newspaper and library archives-either online or off-may be the most productive way to research your team's history. Utilizing sites that offer links to references, such as (some) Wikipedia entries, should also help to cut down on your research time. Check this entry on Notre Dame as an example.
- Sometimes searching by conference or division can be beneficial in reducing your research time.
For general college football information ...
is the official site of college football, featuring news, headlines, audio/video, statistics, and pretty much everything else one needs for a good overview of the college game. The information is also well organized, with tabs on the Home page for each division (I-III) making for easier navigation.
's college football section is extensive and jammed with great commentary, audio/video clips, rankings, and statistics on all the Division I-A and I-AA teams.
At least for Division I-A and Division I-AA squads, finding college football individual and team stats is relatively simple and can be accomplished by visiting many of the same online sites referenced in the pro section. For unique NCAA stat sites, facts and figures on the more obscure schools, try the Web sites listed below.
- Due to the voluminous number of college teams, players and coaches, some of the data available, such as information on NCAA record holders, comes in the form of PDF files. In order to read these files, you will need to download a free version of Adobe Reader.
- With college sports in particular, team power ratings and the polls can be useful in giving perspective to the numbers. Remember also that college overtime rules often skew certain team and individual scoring statistics.
For college team and player statistics ...
is the best source for college football statistics. Not only are stats available for all divisions, there are archived numbers dating back to 1999-as well as defensive stats, coaching records, and single game highs.
is the site for you if you're interested in game logs. Easy browsing and great organization are other pluses.
weighs in with a great online calculator to compare teams as well as individual players.
Luckily, many college football teams still have free audio and video of their games available to the Internet-browsing public. There are also a number of good blogs and podcasts available.
- In addition to checking out the game audio/video sites below, college football fans should also browse the school Web sites of each of the teams competing in the game they wish to hear or watch, as many schools have their own audio/video links.
- Those interested in team-specific blogs and podcasts should likewise consult the Web site of that school.
For NCAA audio/video, blogs, and podcasts ...
is not unduly expensive and it does allow access to over 100 top schools. The downside? A lot of annoying pop-ups and unwanted video snippets and advertising.
is the only NCAA-sanctioned blog and podcast site. It offers several useful links in addition to a weekly podcast by NCAA President Myles Brand entitled "Mondays with Myles."
College Football Resource
is an outstanding tool for those looking for quality NCAA football blogs, podcasts, and forums. But be aware: Some of the links may be inactive or outdated.
NFL and NCAA football are, obviously, just the tip of the gridiron iceberg. There are peewee football leagues, junior high school leagues, high school leagues, and even arena football and semi-pro competition.
- Typically, the further one strays from the pro and major college games, the harder it is to find good, reliable information. Nonetheless, there are a lot of great sites waiting to help-it's just a matter of finding them. A good source for primary school leagues is to consult one's elementary school or state high school athletic association site or sites such as HighSchoolSports.net, which offers the schedules, scores, and team rosters of each participating school and athletic program.
- Because several well-known NFL stars, such as Kurt Warner, began their careers playing in lower level professional leagues, it might be worth searching a variety of pro and amateur sites when looking for specific player information.
For other football leagues ...
is the official home of the Arena Football League (AFL). The Web site includes team rosters, standings, individual and team stats as well as video clips and news headlines from across the league.
is the Canadian equivalent of NFL.com, offering a wealth of information on the Canadian Football League, including schedules, standing, stats, and audio/video snippets.
offers information on high school athletic programs across the country. Like most sites dedicated to high school sports, however, it relies on updates from school faculty members; so the timeliness and accuracy vary from locale to locale.
Pop Warner Little Scholars
(PWLS), named after the NCAA coaching great Glen "Pop" Warner, provides youth football and cheer & dance programs for participants from ages 5-16. The Web site details the history of the organization, gives a program overview, and furnishes a calendar and application form.
American Youth Football & Cheer
(AYF), like PWLS, claims to be "the largest youth football & cheer organization in the country." Whatever the case may be, membership does appear to have its privileges, as AYF associates receive everything from free Web sites to discounted insurance rates.
NFL Youth Football
is a National Football League-sponsored youth program that follows seven guiding principles: 1) Make it fun; 2) Limit standing around; 3) Everyone plays; 4) Teach every position to every participant; 5) Emphasize the fundamentals; 6) Incorporate a progression of skill development for every participant; 7) Yell encouragement, whisper constructive criticism. The league also offers flag football and the punt, pass, and kick competition.
Most Recent Guides