1976 NFL season

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1976 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 12 – December 12, 1976
Playoffs
Start date December 18, 1976
AFC Champions Oakland Raiders
NFC Champions Minnesota Vikings
Super Bowl XI
Date January 9, 1977
Site Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
Champions Oakland Raiders
Pro Bowl
Date January 17, 1977
Site Kingdome, Seattle
National Football League seasons
 < 1975 1977 > 

The 1976 NFL season was the 57th regular season of the National Football League. The league expanded to 28 teams with the addition of the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This fulfilled one of the conditions agreed to in 1966 for the 1970 AFL-NFL Merger, which called for the league to expand to 28 teams by 1970 or soon thereafter.

For this season only, the Seahawks played in the NFC West while the Buccaneers played in the AFC West. The Seahawks would return to the NFC West with the realignment prior to the 2002 season. The Buccaneers would set a record of futility, becoming the first NFL team to finish a season 0–14. The Buccaneers would go on to lose their first 26 games as a franchise before finally winning against the New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Cardinals to finish the 1977 season.

The season ended with Super Bowl XI when the Oakland Raiders defeated the Minnesota Vikings.

Major rule changes[edit]

  • Two 30-seconds clocks, one on each end of the field, will be used for all games. They will be visible to both players and fans to note the official time between the ready-for-play signal and the snap of the ball.
  • If the defensive team commits a foul during a failed extra point attempt, the try is replayed and the offensive team has the option to either have the distance penalty assessed on the next try or the ensuing kickoff.
  • If the defensive team commits a foul during a successful extra point attempt, the penalty will be assessed on the ensuing kickoff.
  • Players cannot grasp the facemask of an opponent. The penalty for an incidental grasp of the facemask is 5 yards. The penalty for twisting, turning, or pulling the facemask is 15 yards. A player can be ejected from the game if the foul is judged to be vicious and/or flagrant.
  • A defender is prohibited from running or diving into, or throwing his body against or on a ballcarrier who falls or slips to the ground untouched and makes no attempt to advance, before or after the ball is dead. This is sometimes called as the "Ben Davidson Rule" after the Raiders defender who almost seriously injured quarterback Len Dawson after the Chiefs passer fell to the ground and made no attempt to advance during a 1970 game.

Division races[edit]

The two expansion clubs, Tampa Bay and Seattle, were "swing" teams that didn't participate in regular conference play. Every other NFL team played a home-and-away series against the other members in its division, three interconference games, and the remainder of their 14 game schedule against other conference teams. As a member of the AFC in 1976, Tampa Bay played the other 13 members of the conference, while Seattle did the same in the NFC. The 14th game, played in Week Six, was Seattle's 13–10 win at Tampa.

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.

National Football Conference[edit]

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 3 teams 1–0–0 Chicago, Minnesota 1–0–0 Los Angeles, San Francisco 1–0–0 4 teams 1–0–0
2 3 teams 2–0–0 Chicago 2–0–0 Los Angeles 1–0–1 2 teams 2–0–0
3 Dallas, Washington 3–0–0 Minnesota 2–0–1 Los Angeles 2–0–1 Dallas, Washington 3–0–0
4 Dallas 4–0–0 Minnesota 3–0–1 Los Angeles 3–0–1 St. Louis* 3–1–0
5 Dallas 5–0–0 Minnesota 4–0–1 San Francisco 4–1–0 St. Louis 4–1–0
6 St. Louis* 5–1–0 Minnesota 5–0–1 San Francisco 5–1–0 Dallas 5–1–0
7 Dallas 6–1–0 Minnesota 6–0–1 San Francisco 6–1–0 Los Angeles 5–1–1
8 Dallas 7–1–0 Minnesota 6–1–1 Los Angeles 6–1–1 St. Louis* 6–2–0
9 Dallas 8–1–0 Minnesota 7–1–1 Los Angeles 6–2–1 St. Louis 7–2–0
10 Dallas 9–1–0 Minnesota 8–1–1 Los Angeles 6–3–1 St. Louis 8–2–0
11 Dallas 9–2–0 Minnesota 9–1–1 Los Angeles 7–3–1 St. Louis 8–3–0
12 Dallas 10–2–0 Minnesota 9–2–1 Los Angeles 8–3–1 Washington* 8–4–0
13 Dallas 11–2–0 Minnesota 10–2–1 Los Angeles 9–3–1 Washington* 9–4–0
14 DALLAS 11–3–0 MINNESOTA 11–2–1 LOS ANGELES 10–3–1 WASHINGTON* 10–4–0

American Football Conference[edit]

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 Baltimore, Miami 1–0–0 3 teams 1–0–0 Oakland, San Diego 1–0–0 4 teams 1–0–0
2 Baltimore 2–0–0 Houston 2–0–0 Denver, Oakland 2–0–0 2 teams 2–0–0
3 Miami* 2–1–0 Houston* 2–1–0 Oakland, San Diego 3–0–0 5 teams 2–1–0
4 Baltimore* 3–1–0 Cincinnati* 3–1–0 Denver, Oakland 3–1–0 3 teams* 3–1–0
5 Baltimore 4–1–0 Cincinnati* 4–1–0 Oakland 4–1–0 Houston 4–1–0
6 Baltimore 5–1–0 Cincinnati* 4–2–0 Oakland 5–1–0 New England* 4–2–0
7 Baltimore 6–1–0 Cincinnati 5–2–0 Oakland 6–1–0 New England 5–2–0
8 Baltimore 7–1–0 Cincinnati 6–2–0 Oakland 7–1–0 New England 5–3–0
9 Baltimore 8–1–0 Cincinnati 7–2–0 Oakland 8–1–0 New England 6–3–0
10 Baltimore 8–2–0 Cincinnati 8–2–0 Oakland 9–1–0 New England 7–3–0
11 Baltimore 9–2–0 Cincinnati 9–2–0 Oakland 10–1–0 New England 8–3–0
12 Baltimore 10–2–0 Cincinnati 9–3–0 Oakland 11–1–0 New England 9–3–0
13 Baltimore* 10–3–0 Cincinnati* 9–4–0 Oakland 12–1–0 New England* 10–3–0
14 BALTIMORE* 11–3–0 PITTSBURGH* 10–4–0 OAKLAND 13–1–0 NEW ENGLAND 11–3–0

Final standings[edit]

W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT = Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against

  x  – clinched wild card berth,   y  – clinched division title

AFC East
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Baltimore Colts 11 3 0 .786 417 246
x-New England Patriots 11 3 0 .786 376 236
Miami Dolphins 6 8 0 .429 263 264
New York Jets 3 11 0 .214 169 383
Buffalo Bills 2 12 0 .143 245 363
AFC Central
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Pittsburgh Steelers 10 4 0 .714 342 138
Cincinnati Bengals 10 4 0 .714 335 210
Cleveland Browns 9 5 0 .643 267 287
Houston Oilers 5 9 0 .357 222 273
AFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Oakland Raiders 13 1 0 .929 350 237
Denver Broncos 9 5 0 .643 315 206
San Diego Chargers 6 8 0 .429 248 285
Kansas City Chiefs 5 9 0 .357 290 376
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0 14 0 .000 125 412
NFC East
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Dallas Cowboys 11 3 0 .786 296 194
x-Washington Redskins 10 4 0 .714 291 217
St. Louis Cardinals 10 4 0 .714 309 267
Philadelphia Eagles 4 10 0 .286 165 286
New York Giants 3 11 0 .214 170 250
NFC Central
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Minnesota Vikings 11 2 1 .821 305 176
Chicago Bears 7 7 0 .500 253 216
Detroit Lions 6 8 0 .429 262 220
Green Bay Packers 5 9 0 .357 218 299
NFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Los Angeles Rams 10 3 1 .750 351 190
San Francisco 49ers 8 6 0 .571 270 190
Atlanta Falcons 4 10 0 .286 172 312
New Orleans Saints 4 10 0 .286 253 346
Seattle Seahawks 2 12 0 .143 229 429


Tiebreakers[edit]

  • Baltimore finished ahead of New England in the AFC East based on better division record (7–1 to Patriots' 6–2).
  • Pittsburgh finished ahead of Cincinnati in the AFC Central based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • Washington finished ahead of St. Louis in the NFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • Atlanta finished ahead of New Orleans in the NFC West based on better division record (2–4 to Saints' 1–5).

Playoffs[edit]

Divisional Playoffs Conf. Championship Games Super Bowl XI
                   
December 19 – Memorial Stadium        
 3) Pittsburgh Steelers  40
December 26 – Oakland Coliseum
 2) Baltimore Colts  14  
 3) Pittsburgh Steelers  7
December 18 – Oakland Coliseum
     1) Oakland Raiders  24  
 4) New England Patriots  21
January 9 – Rose Bowl
 1) Oakland Raiders  24  
 A1) Oakland Raiders  32
December 19 – Texas Stadium    
   N1) Minnesota Vikings  14
 3) Los Angeles Rams  14
December 26 – Metropolitan Stadium
 2) Dallas Cowboys  12  
 3) Los Angeles Rams  13
December 18 – Metropolitan Stadium
     1) Minnesota Vikings  24  
 4) Washington Redskins  20
 1) Minnesota Vikings  35  
 

Awards[edit]

Most Valuable Player Bert Jones, Quarterback, Baltimore Colts
Coach of the Year Forrest Gregg, Cleveland Browns
Offensive Player of the Year Bert Jones, Quarterback, Baltimore Colts
Defensive Player of the Year Jack Lambert, Linebacker, Pittsburgh
Offensive Rookie of the Year Sammy White, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings
Defensive Rookie of the Year Mike Haynes, Cornerback, New England

References[edit]