Step one in avoiding the awkward moment where you're forced to admit you don't follow football to a room full of Saints fans is understanding the game. Trust me, it sounds boring to me too. Just try to remember how cool you will be afterward.
Football works like this: There are two 11-man teams. One will start as the offense and one the defense. The game starts with a kickoff by special teams to the offense, who will then catch or retrieve the ball to get it as far up the 100-yard field as possible. The offense only gets four tries (they're called "downs") to get 10 yards. If they make it, they get to start back at one (yes, that was a Brian McKnight reference). If the offense doesn't either a) keep renewing their downs or b) score, they must give up possession. On the 4th down, the offense can either choose to go for it or punt the ball to the other team, giving them better field position. And then the whole thing starts over going in the other direction. Geaux Team!
Words to sound like you know what you're talking about
Audible: If Drew gets up to the line and has some kind of psychic premonition that he's about to be blitzed, he'll call an audible. It basically just means a last-minute change in the play. I call most of mine at 1 a.m. on Friday night.
Blitz: Contrary to my above statement, this has nothing to do with drinking. It means that the defense is calling for extra manpower (like a safety) to take down the QB. It was also a popular video game in 1998.
Conference: The NFC (National Football Conference) and AFC (American Football Conference) play each other in the Super Bowl. It's kind of like the East v. West. The Saints are in the NFC.
Down: Each play is a down. I call them tries. But don't use that in public.
Drive: A drive is the amount of elapsed time that the offense has possession. I have no idea why this matters.
Field Goal: There are two instances where a team would kick a field goal. The first is if they're within 50ish yards on their 4th down. This kind is worth three points. The offense also gets to kick a field goal after a touchdown. This kind is worth one point.
Fumble: When the offense drops the ball in the middle of a possession. It's a live ball once it's dropped, so either team can pick it up.
Holding: It's what it sounds like: holding the ball illegally.
Offside: When a player crosses the line of scrimmage before the play starts.
Red Zone: The last 20 yards up to the end zone (a.k.a. touchdown territory).
Safety: When the offense gets sacked in the end zone they are defending. This is real bad. It means the other team gets two points and the ball.
Snap: A "snap" initiates the start of the play. First, the center counts bananas, then he says "hike" and throws the ball backwards between his legs to the QB. Just like that, we've got a live one. Oh, snap.
Special Teams: The players on the field during a kicking situation. A punter is an example of a special teams player.
Touchback: When the defense starts the play by kicking the ball past the end zone. Since the offense isn't able to return it, they have to start the play (or drive) on their own 20 yard line.
Turnover: When the offense loses possession of the ball to the defense. This can happen when the offense runs out of downs, throws an interception, or loses a fumble.
Two-Point Conversion: After a touchdown, the offense will usually kick a field goal, which is worth one point. Or, they can get ambitious and go for the two-point conversion, which means they have one try to score another touchdown from the five-yard line.
Zone Defense: It just means that every defender is in charge of a certain area.
QB: We'll warm up with an easy one. The QB is the team leader, the guy that makes all the calls. After the huddle, he'll get the ball from the center, hand it off to the running back, throw it to a receiver, or run. Go, Drew, go!
Center: The guy who snaps the ball to the quarterback backward between his legs.
Running Back: A running back is a player that runs the ball. You might hear them referred to as halfbacks, tailbacks, or rushers.
Fullback: The fullback is a defensive player who is in charge of blocking the running back. These guys are bigger and run less.
Wide Receiver: Your wide receiver is in charge of getting the defense out of the way and catching long-range passes, preferably in the end zone. These are guys like Marques Colston and Lance Moore.
Tight End: An offensive player who not only blocks the defense but sometimes act as a receiver.
Offensive Linemen: Guards and offensive tackles. They are in charge of protecting the QB and blocking for the running backs.
Defensive Linemen: Defensive Ends and defensive tackles. They are in charge of getting to the QB or stopping the run.
Linebackers: Linebackers are behind the defensive line, but in front of the safeties.
Safety: The last in the line of defense, hence the name safety.
Cornerbacks: Usually line up on the outside of linebackers, opposite of receivers. They are fast.
And in Conclusion
If you made it this far without stopping to wash your hair or feed your cat, congratulations! You've made your first real commitment to this year's upcoming football season. Warning: Excessive tailgating will absolutely cause you to forget everything you have learned here today, which is perfectly acceptable.