1970 NFL season
|Duration||September 18, 1970 – December 20, 1970|
|Start date||December 26, 1970|
|AFC Champions||Baltimore Colts|
|NFC Champions||Dallas Cowboys|
|Super Bowl V|
|Date||January 17, 1971|
|Site||Miami Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida|
|Date||January 24, 1971|
|Site||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum|
|National Football League seasons
The merger forced a realignment between the combined league's clubs. Because there were 16 NFL teams and 10 AFL teams, three teams needed to transfer to balance the two new conferences at 13 teams each. The Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to join all ten AFL teams to form the American Football Conference (AFC). The remaining NFL teams formed the National Football Conference (NFC). Replacing the old Eastern and Western conferences (although divisions from those conferences still existed but were renamed to suit the realignment), the new conferences, AFC and NFC, function similar to Major League Baseball's American and National leagues, and each of those two were divided into three divisions: East, Central, and West. The two Eastern divisions had five teams; the other four divisions had four teams each. The realignment discussions were so contentious that at one point team names were pulled out of a glass jar.
The format agreed on was as follows:
This arrangement would keep most of the pre-merger NFL teams in the NFC conference and the AFL teams in the AFC. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Baltimore were placed in the AFC in order to balance it out, while the NFC equalized the competitive strength of its East and West divisions rather than sorting out teams just geographically.
Prior to 1966, the NFL had two seven-team divisions:
Atlanta was added as an expansion franchise in 1966 and placed in the Eastern Division. Every team had a bye week during the 1966 season.
When New Orleans was awarded an expansion franchise for 1967, the NFL divided its teams into two eight-team conferences, with two four-team divisions in each conference as follows:
The Giants and Saints swapped divisions in 1968, and then returned to the 1967 alignment in 1969.
Meanwhile, the AFL for its 10-year existence had:
Division alignment in 1970 was largely intended to preserve the pre-merger setups, keeping traditional rivals in the same division. Plans were also made to add two expansion teams, but this would not take place until 1976, seven years after the merger.
The 26-team league began to use an eight-team playoff format, four from each conference, that included the three division winners and a wild card team, the second-place team with the best record. The season concluded with the Colts defeating the Dallas Cowboys 16–13 in Super Bowl V, the first Super Bowl played for the NFL Championship. The game was held at the Orange Bowl in Miami, and was the first Super Bowl played on artificial turf.
To televise their games, the combined league retained the services of CBS and NBC, who were previously the primary broadcasters of the NFL and the AFL, respectively. It was then decided that CBS would televise all NFC teams (including playoff games) while NBC all AFC teams. For interconference games, CBS would broadcast them if the visiting team was from the NFC and NBC would carry them when the visitors were from the AFC. The two networks also divided up the Super Bowl on a yearly rotation.
Meanwhile, with the debut of Monday Night Football on ABC September 21, 1970, the league became the first professional sports league in the United States to have a regular series of nationally-televised games in prime-time. Interestingly, both teams that advanced to the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Colts and the Dallas Cowboys, had suffered humiliating defeats on Monday Night Football during the season.
The Chicago Bears' first home game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles was played at Northwestern University's Dyche Stadium as part of an experiment. Before the season, the league demanded that the Bears find a new home field because the seating capacity of their then-current home, Wrigley Field, was too small (after the merger, all stadiums were required to seat at least 50,000). Ultimately, a deal to make Dyche Stadium the Bears' new home fell through and the team moved to Soldier Field in 1971 where they remain to the present day, save for a temporary relocation in 2002 to the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium.
On November 8, New Orleans Saints placekicker Tom Dempsey kicked a 63-yard field goal (still the NFL record as of the 2013 NFL season) as the Saints beat the Detroit Lions 19–17. The record is now shared with Jason Elam (Denver Broncos) who tied it in 1998, Sebastian Janikowski (Oakland Raiders) who tied it in 2011, and David Akers (San Francisco 49ers), who tied it in 2012.
Major rule changes
- The NFL rules became the standardized rules for the merged league, which included dropping the AFL's two-point conversion. This would not be reinstated until 1994.
- The stadium's scoreboard clock became the official game clock, an AFL innovation.
- Rules were added to place last names on the back of players' jerseys. The AFL had had names on jerseys; the pre-merger NFL teams had not.
Starting in 1970, and until 2002, there were three divisions (Eastern, Central and Western) in each conference. The winners of each division, and a fourth "wild card" team based on the best non-division winner, qualified for the playoffs. The tiebreaker rules were changed to start with head-to-head competition, followed by division records, common opponents records, and conference play.
The New York Giants lost their last regular-season game. Had they won that game, they would have tied for first place in the NFC East division and taken the division championship on a tie-breaker; then, the tie-breakers would have led to a coin toss between Dallas and Detroit for the NFC wild card. Because of this close call regarding possible use of coin toss, future tie-breakers would be expanded to have more competitive aspects.
National Football Conference
|1||DALLAS||1–0–0||3 teams||1–0–0||3 teams||1–0–0||4 teams||1–0–0|
|2||DALLAS||2–0–0||3 teams||2–0–0||2 teams||2–0–0||3 teams||2–0–0|
|3||ST. LOUIS*||2–1–0||DETROIT||3–0–0||LOS ANGELES||3–0–0||6 teams||2–1–0|
|4||ST. LOUIS*||3–1–0||DETROIT*||3–1–0||SAN FRANCISCO*||3–1–0||4 teams||3–1–0|
|5||ST. LOUIS||4–1–0||DETROIT*||4–1–0||LOS ANGELES||4–1–0||MINNESOTA||4–1–0|
|6||ST. LOUIS*||4–2–0||DETROIT*||5–1–0||SAN FRANCISCO||4–1–1||MINNESOTA||5–1–0|
|7||ST. LOUIS*||5–2–0||MINNESOTA||6–1–0||SAN FRANCISCO||5–1–1||3 teams||5–2–0|
|8||ST. LOUIS||6–2–0||MINNESOTA||7–1–0||SAN FRANCISCO||6–1–1||LOS ANGELES||5–2–1|
|9||ST. LOUIS||7–2–0||MINNESOTA||8–1–0||SAN FRANCISCO||7–1–1||N.Y. GIANTS||6–3–0|
|10||ST. LOUIS||7–2–1||MINNESOTA||9–1–0||SAN FRANCISCO||7–2–1||LOS ANGELES||6–3–1|
|11||ST. LOUIS||8–2–1||MINNESOTA||9–2–0||LOS ANGELES*||7–3–1||SAN FRANCISCO||7–3–1|
|12||ST. LOUIS||8–3–1||MINNESOTA||10–2–0||LOS ANGELES*||8–3–1||SAN FRANCISCO||8–3–1|
|13||N.Y. GIANTS*||9–4–0||MINNESOTA||11–2–0||SAN FRANCISCO||9–3–1||DALLAS*||9–4–0|
American Football Conference
|1||2 teams||1–0–0||3 teams||1–0–0||DENVER||1–0–0||3 teams||1–0–0|
|2||4 teams||1–1–0||3 teams||1–1–0||DENVER||2–0–0||6 teams||1–1–0|
|3||BALTIMORE*||2–1–0||2 teams||2–1–0||DENVER||3–0–0||2 teams||2–1–0|
W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against
wild card berth, – clinched division title– clinched
Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings
|New York Jets||4||10||0||.286||255||286|
|Kansas City Chiefs||7||5||2||.583||272||244|
|San Diego Chargers||5||6||3||.455||282||278|
|New York Giants||9||5||0||.643||301||270|
|St. Louis Cardinals||8||5||1||.615||325||228|
|Green Bay Packers||6||8||0||.429||196||293|
|y-San Francisco 49ers||10||3||1||.769||352||267|
|Los Angeles Rams||9||4||1||.692||325||202|
|New Orleans Saints||2||11||1||.154||172||347|
- Green Bay finished ahead of Chicago in the NFC Central based on better division record (2–4 to Bears' 1–5).
- Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation.
|Divisional Playoffs||Conf. Championship Games||Super Bowl V|
|December 27 – Oakland Coliseum|
|January 3 – Memorial Stadium|
|December 26 – Memorial Stadium|
|January 17 – Miami Orange Bowl|
|December 26 – Cotton Bowl|
|January 3 – Kezar Stadium|
|December 27 – Metropolitan Stadium|
|San Francisco 49ers||10|
|San Francisco 49ers||17|
|Most Valuable Player||John Brodie, Quarterback, San Francisco|
|Coach of the Year||Dick Nolan, San Francisco|
|Offensive Rookie of the Year||Dennis Shaw, Quarterback, Buffalo|
|Defensive Rookie of the Year||Bruce Taylor, Cornerback, San Francisco|
- NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
- NFL History 1961–1970 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
- 1970 season in details
- Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)