NFL Jargon: Acronyms, Nicknames and Words to Wonder About

The NFL is one for acronyms and nicknames. With OTAs, uprights, the Fins, Gang Green and pig-skins its hard to keep track of what, exactly, is going on. Here’s a few things to remember when watching or talking about football:

OTAs: This is an acronym for “Organized Team Activities”. These are like the pre-season to the pre-season. They are not mandatory, usually last from late April and into May, and the most you get out of them is a good look at rookies and free-agents and something to talk about if someone’s having issues with their contract. Not terribly exciting, but for the hard-core football fan, it sort of kicks off the football season.

mini-camp: exactly like it sounds. It’s another event before the start of training camp in the end of May, but usually only lasts three days. These are usually mandatory, but no where near as intensive as training camp.

uprights: the goal-post. Usually when a kicker hits a field goal right in the middle it is called “splitting the uprights”.

Here are a few (of the many) team nicknames:

AFC East
New England Patriots: The Pats, Flying Elvi (named for the patriots logo, which resembles a flying Elvis head), Patsies

Miami Dolphins: The Fins or The Fish (“The Fish” is also a nickname for the Marlins, so it is less used than the other)

New York Jets: Jersey B (they play in New Jersey along with the Giants), Gang Green, and the Jest (when they play poorly).

Buffalo Bills: no nicknames but interesting trivia, they are the only team to play their home games in the state of New York.

AFC South
Indianapolis Colts: The Dolts. Not as widely used now that the Colts are pretty good, but still funny

Tennessee Titans: The Flaming Thumbtacks (just look at the logo), also the Oilers or the Tenn. Traitors, but only for people who are angry that the Houston Oilers are now the Tennessee Titans.

Houston Texans: the Texans are really too new to have a nickname. Trivia: they are the only major sports team in the US to not play in the playoffs.

Jacksonville Jaguars: the Jags. Again, they are pretty new. For more information on how a team could be “new” look up “expansion teams”.

AFC North
Pittsburg Steelers: The Black and Gold (self-explanatory), their field, Heinz Field, is also nicknamed the Ketchup Bottle for obvious reasons.

Baltimore Ravens: The Crows. Not terribly creative but still true.

Cleveland Browns: the Dawgs. A corner in the 80s nicknamed his team this to help motivate them and it stuck.

Cincinnati Bengels: the Bungles (when things are going badly) and Cincy (for the city)

AFC West
San Diego Chargers: The Bolts (for the lightening bolt design on their helmets)

Denver Broncos: no nicknames

Kansas City Chiefs: KC (again, the city), and the Chefs (this has something to do with a Snickers commercial…not sure why)

Oakland Raiders: the Silver and Black (team colors), Da Raidahs (for the way Chris Berman pronounces the team’s name)

NFC East
Washington Redskins: The DeadSkins (when they play poorly), The Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons (due to the stink made occasionally by the name “Redskins”, this is an overly politically correct nickname) and the Skins

Dallas Cowboys:The Boys and America’s Team (given by the media in the 90s)

New York Giants: G-Men, Jersey A (being the other New York team that plays in New Jersey), and Big Blue (uniform color)

Philadelphia Eagles: surprisingly, no nicknames for this team.

NFC South
New Orleans Saints:the Aint’s (when playing poorly), the Sinners (play on the idea of Saints/Sinners)

Atlanta Falcons: the Dirty Birds (the team nicknamed themselves this on their way to a Superbowl appearance)

Carolina Panthers: Cardiac Cats (in 2003 the Panthers made a living off of fourth quarter comebacks)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: the Bucs

NFC North
MInnesota Vikings: the Vikes, occasionally the Purple People Eaters

Green Bay Packers: The Pack, their fans are sometimes called “Cheese Heads” because of the cheese head hats frequent at games

Chicago Bears: Da Bears

Detroit Lions: Detroilet (a combo of Detroit and toilet), the Lie-Downs (instead of Lions when they are playing poorly)

NFC West
Arizona: The Cards (short for Cardinals)

Seattle: Seagulls (another play on the team’s name for when things are not going well)

San Francisco: The ‘Niners (short for Forty-Niners)

St. Louis: Lambs or Goats (when playing poorly)

Now you are all introduced to team nicknames, here are a few more words to familiarize yourself with:

line of scrimmage: invisible line across the field where the ball is placed before being snapped. If a defensive player crosses that “line” they can be called “offsides” for a five yard penalty. Note: this is only in the Pros, in college, if the player gets back across before the ball is snapped a penalty is not called.

false start: if an offensive player moves before the ball is snapped, a penalty is called

hold: (or holding) An illegal action where one player keeps another from advancing by grabbing him and holding him back. This happens on nearly every play but is only called when it is in front of a ref or blatantly obvious.

red zone: twenty yards in front of the end zone. In this area, the team is likely to score a touchdown and if not, almost certainly a field goal.

pass interference: illegal hindering of a player to catch a forward pass. This means swiping at a receivers arms to knock them out of the way of the ball or the receiver knocking a defender’s hands away from intercepting a forward pass. Occasionally pass interference will not be called, and you’ll hear the announcers talk about “incidental contact”. Pass interference is usually intentional, occasionally a defender or receiver will run into the other accidentally and prevent the catch, this is incidental contact. Not intentional and not a penalty.

no huddle offense: usually used in late game situations when there is little time left in the game or half, a team will not huddle before each play. This also speeds up the game and prevents defenses from getting set and making substitutions.

blind side: the direction a player is not facing. For example, a quarter back who throws with his right hand will be facing away from the left. HIs left side will typically be his blind side, but it depends on the quarterback and where he is passing.

Now you have sufficient knowledge of football’s acronyms and nicknames, you are ready to impress your friends and can understand the game just a bit better.

Generation Gap: A Boston Fan’s Psyche


Since 2001 there has been a steady shift in the mentality of a Boston fan. Well, the young ones, anyway. It really took off in 2004 after the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.

I watch most games with my Dad, he’s been a fan his entire life and he’s the reason I love the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox, and Bruins as much as I do. But as fans go, we are very different. 

Lets look situation-ally first: Red Sox game, no score, bases loaded, one out, and Papi’s up.

My first thoughts: “grand slam, runs will score on a double, sac fly would score at least one, so would a single or a walk”. These are the first things that float trough my mind. 

My Dad, on the other hand, is the pre-2001 vintage. His first thoughts: “Here comes the double play! They leave more men on base than anybody.”

We all know about Red Sox fans in the pre-2004 era. If one thing goes wrong they curl up in a ball, and get ready for the “inevitable”. And lets face it, a lot has gone wrong in his 50+ years of following Boston teams. The Patriots were awful for a long time, the Celtics were good in the early days, but then turned into a joke in the 90s, the Bruins have been up and down, and the Sox…well, we’ll just say they had some heart-wrenching losses in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. 

If you consider what he’s seen, its understandable that he is, as I call him, a “Negative Nancy”. But I’ve noticed a similar issue with many of the older Boston fans. In April they were ready to throw in the towel, despite the fact that a baseball season had just started. 

Why does this happen?

I’ve decided its all about heartbreak. I have been following Boston sports since I was old enough to understand. Lets assume the age of understanding is about five, so that’s 1991.

So in 19 years, I have seen the Patriots go to five Super-bowls, win three, lose one they had no chance in, and only one heartbreaking loss that still haunts me. I cannot, and will not look at footage from that day.

I have seen the Red Sox win two World Series, and make it to the playoffs almost a dozen times. I only have one heartbreak: 2003. 

The Celtics were a joke in the 90s, and most of the 21st century, until the creation of the Big Three. Now they are pushing for banner 18. Last year was tough, but without Garnett, I did not expect too much. 

So in my experience, the heartbreaks are much rarer, and the teams have played better. How many other cities can say their NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL teams have all been to the playoffs in the past three years? Not many. Three, to be exact: Boston, NY/NJ, and Arizona. And if we were not grouping the New York/New Jersey teams together, there would only be two. 

If you look at it like that, it’s pretty darn amazing, especially since Boston has two championships in that span. But I look at things optimistically. I have a saying in my house, and I have applied it to every sport I watch. I don’t give up until the buzzer sounds or the last out is made. I refuse to admit defeat until the clock runs out, sometimes a little irrationally, but I have seen some terrific comebacks in my time. 

That’s what separates the young fans from the old. The young fans feel the losses, and remember all the heartbreaks, but they also remember the joys, the triumphs, and some pretty amazing plays. 

The older generation, the “Negative Nancys” have not recovered from the heartbreaks. They vividly remember ’67, ’75, ’86, and all the other close-but-no-cigar moments. To them this whole winning thing is new and they aren’t sure how long it will last, so they steel themselves against the inevitable. 

So while the older generation is just waiting for the other shoe to drop, the younger generation is living in the moment. The older generation expects every walk allowed by a Sox pitcher to score, and expected the Bruins to go down after being up 3-0. 

After watching game five of the Celtics-Orlando series, my dad said “They’re done, just like the Bruins.” A sentiment echoed by his friends, and the older fans I know. The young were more hopeful. Going home for game six, we knew the Celtics would win. 

Does that mean the younger generation has more faith than our fathers, and grandfathers? No. Less pessimism? Definitely.  

I gloated for a few days about how optimism always wins in the end. And who knows, maybe the next generation of Boston fans will be another batch of “Negative Nancys.” Maybe they will be irrational optimists, or maybe they’ll just be normal. That would be a switch, wouldn’t it?