Back in the 1980s, if you were out and about on a Sunday during football season, you could tell a fan from mile away. He or she was the one walking through the mall with the giant headphones hooked up to a monstrous AM/FM Walkman, which was not so discretely bulging from the pocket of their jeans.

Times have changed, and as the final four NFL playoff teams prepare to take to the gridiron this coming Sunday, fans not lucky enough to be in front of the big screen will likely be following the action via their smartphones instead of that antiquated portable radio.

While smartphones and all their possibilities are great, it’s really the apps that enable real-time scores, injury updates, betting lines and even live video on the go this NFL season. Here’s a look at how all you football fans can follow the action, even when your spouse decides that gametime on Sunday is the best time to go shopping for new lampshades.

Team-branded Apps

All of the 32 teams that compose the National Football League (NFL) have some form of app, whether it be an app officially registered via the team or by some fanatic sports fan. After looking at the available options at the App Store and Android Market for the four remaining teams in the playoffs – Jets, Packers, Steelers, Bears – there’s something out there for just about everyone. As a Green Bay fan, I recently downloaded the “Official Green Bay Packers app,” which offers schedules, standings, news, roster, as well as video and audio content. There are also third-party team apps out there that do the same thing. Whatever your flavor, finding an app that’s dedicated to your favorite team is a good way to stay informed between games.

ESPN ScoreCenter

Available for both Android and iPhone, ESPN ScoreCenter is a free app that offers all the information you’ll need come kickoff (you know, while you’re out buying that new lampshade). ScoreCenter is an easy-to-use, customizable app that allows fans to follow the action in real-time. Pick any game and you’ll get real-time stats, play-by-play, video and audio excerpts from all the games (not just football). ScoreCenter also links directly to ESPN’s Gamecast, which uses an animated football field to represent every play as it happens. You could do worse than ScoreCenter and the price is right.

NFL Mobile from Verizon Wireless

I haven’t tried this one because I’m not a Verizon subscriber, but the promo video for NFL Mobile looks impressive. Verizon’s splash page for this service promises live games on your mobile every Thursday and Sunday nights, as well as NFL RedZone, which allows users to see every touchdown in a game. NFL Mobile also offers audio play-by-play, as well as real-time stats, scores, highlights and additional audio and video content.

Verizon partnered with the NFL Network on this one, so it’s by far the most complete real-time solution for the mobile fan. NFL Mobile is free and available on just under 20 select high-end smartphones on Verizon. A $10 per month V Cast subscription is required to view video content and everything you view comes out of your monthly data bucket.

NFL Pro Tweets

If you’re a football fan, you’ve heard about all the hubbub over players tweeting before games. Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, among others, have been fined recently for violating the NFL’s policy that forbids players from tweeting immediately before or during games. Still, the between-game banter can often be as enlightening as the stats, and NFL Pro Tweet, which is a free app for the iPhone “presented by the NFL Players Association,” allows users to keep track of all the chatter from their favorite players. I particularly liked this week’s tweet from the Packer’s injured running back Ryan Grant that read: “1st n last tweet. Pack Fans might want 2 start booking flights 4 feb. Not looking ahead but u c we just have better players than other teams.”

Bet Tracker Pro

I’m not advocating gambling here, but if you do happen to have a friendly wager based on Vegas odds, Bet Tracker Pro can help you keep track of where you’re at on the spreads and points for any game. Top in-app purchases include subscriptions for betting within the app. Bet Tracker Pro is available for free at the App Store.

Official SuperBowl XLV App

This year’s official Super Bowl app (there’s one every year) is brought to you by the North Texas Host to Super Bowl XLV Committee. It’s free and available at the App Store. If you are following a team this late in the season, chances are you’re not going to forget when kickoff takes place, but should you be the aloof type, this app provides a Super Bowl countdown, as well as everything you need to know if you’re attending the game. It’s not really a must-have app, but for those fanatics out there, it just might be.

If the aforementioned apps aren’t enough to keep you on top of the games this Sunday while you’re out buying lampshades, then you probably need to play sick and stay home to watch the game. Super Bowl XLV kickoff happens on Feb. 6 – and may the best team win, so long as it’s the Green Bay Packers.