1987 NFL season

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1987 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 13, 1987 – December 28, 1987
A player's strike shortened the regular season to 15 games.
Start date January 3, 1988
AFC Champions Denver Broncos
NFC Champions Washington Redskins
Super Bowl XXII
Date January 31, 1988
Site Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego, California
Champions Washington Redskins
Pro Bowl
Date February 7, 1988
Site Aloha Stadium
National Football League seasons
 < 1986 1988 > 

The 1987 NFL season was the 68th regular season of the National Football League.

A 24-day players' strike was called after Week 2. The games that were scheduled for the third week of the season were cancelled, reducing the 16-game season to 15, but the games for Weeks 4–6 were played with replacement players, after which the union voted to end the strike. Approximately 15% of the NFLPA's players chose to cross picket lines to play during the strike; prominent players who did so included New York Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau, Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Randy White, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, New England Patriots quarterback Doug Flutie and Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Steve Largent.[1]

The replacement players were mostly those left out of work by the recent folding of the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes and the 1985 dissolution of the United States Football League, as well as others who had been preseason cuts or had long left professional football. The replacement players, called to play on short notice and having little chance to jell as teammates, were widely treated with scorn by the press and general public, including name-calling, public shaming and accusations of being scabs. The games played by these replacement players were regarded with even less legitimacy, but nonetheless were counted as regular NFL games.[2] Final television revenues were down by about 20%, a smaller drop than the networks had expected.[3] The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants went 0–3 in replacement games, ultimately costing them a chance to make the playoffs and to repeat their championship.

Starting November 8, 1987, ESPN debuted ESPN Sunday Night Football, in which the cable network broadcast NFL Sunday-night games, primarily during the second half of the season. In deference to Game 7 of the 1987 World Series, a Sunday-night Denver BroncosMinnesota Vikings matchup was moved back one day to Monday, October 26.

Chicago Bears star halfback Walter Payton, who had set the NFL career rushing record in 1984, announced that the 1987 season would be his last in the NFL. As was the case in the previous season, his Bears finished first in their division but lost their first playoff game at home. 1987 was the last year for the AstroTurf playing surface that had been installed at Soldier Field in 1971; the Bears reinstated a grass surface the next season.

After the season, the St. Louis Cardinals announced a relocation to Arizona, where the team would become known as the Phoenix Cardinals for 1988. NFL football would not return to St. Louis until the Rams moved from Los Angeles in 1995.

The season ended with Super Bowl XXII, with the Washington Redskins trouncing the Denver Broncos 42–10 at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. The Broncos suffered their second consecutive crushing Super Bowl defeat.

Major rule changes[edit]

  • If a defensive player commits pass interference in his own end zone, the ball is placed at the 1-yard line, or if the previous spot was inside the 2-yard line, the penalty is half the distance to the goal line.
  • Except for the first onside kick attempt, if a kickoff goes out of bounds, the receiving team takes possession of the ball 30 yards from the spot of the kick or the spot it went out of bounds.
  • In order to stop the clock, the quarterback is permitted to throw the ball out of bounds or to the ground as long as he throws it immediately after receiving the snap.
  • During passing plays, an offensive player cannot chop block (block a defender below the thigh while the defensive player is already engaging another offensive player).
  • Illegal contact by a defensive player beyond the 5-yard zone from the line of scrimmage will not be called if the offensive team is in an obvious punt formation.
  • During kicks and punts, players on the receiving team cannot block below the waist. However, players on the kicking team may block below the waist, but only before the kick is made. On all other plays after a change of possession, no player can block below the waist.

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
y-Indianapolis Colts 9 6 0 .600 300 238
New England Patriots 8 7 0 .533 320 293
Miami Dolphins 8 7 0 .533 362 335
Buffalo Bills 7 8 0 .467 270 305
New York Jets 6 9 0 .400 334 360
AFC Central
y-Cleveland Browns 10 5 0 .667 390 239
x-Houston Oilers 9 6 0 .600 345 349
Pittsburgh Steelers 8 7 0 .533 285 299
Cincinnati Bengals 4 11 0 .267 285 370
AFC West
y-Denver Broncos 10 4 1 .700 379 288
x-Seattle Seahawks 9 6 0 .600 371 314
San Diego Chargers 8 7 0 .533 253 317
Los Angeles Raiders 5 10 0 .333 301 289
Kansas City Chiefs 4 11 0 .267 273 388
NFC East
y-Washington Redskins 11 4 0 .733 379 285
Dallas Cowboys 7 8 0 .467 340 348
St. Louis Cardinals 7 8 0 .467 362 368
Philadelphia Eagles 7 8 0 .467 337 380
New York Giants 6 9 0 .400 280 312
NFC Central
y-Chicago Bears 11 4 0 .733 356 282
x-Minnesota Vikings 8 7 0 .533 336 335
Green Bay Packers 5 9 1 .367 255 300
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4 11 0 .267 286 360
Detroit Lions 4 11 0 .267 269 384
NFC West
y-San Francisco 49ers 13 2 0 .867 459 253
x-New Orleans Saints 12 3 0 .800 422 283
Los Angeles Rams 6 9 0 .400 317 361
Atlanta Falcons 3 12 0 .200 205 436


  • Houston was the #4 seed in the AFC, winning a tiebreaker over Seattle based on better conference record (7–4 vs. Seahawks' 5–6).
  • Chicago was the #2 seed in the NFC, winning a tiebreaker over Washington based on better conference record (9–2 vs. Redskins' 9–3).
  • New England finished ahead of Miami in the AFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • Dallas finished ahead of St. Louis and Philadelphia in the NFC East based on better division record (4–4 to Cardinals' 3–5 and Eagles' 3–5), and St. Louis finished ahead of Philadelphia based on better conference record (7–7 to Eagles' 4–7).
  • Tampa Bay finished ahead of Detroit in the NFC Central based on better division record (3–4 to Lions' 2–5).


Home team in capitals



  • Wild-Card playoff: Minnesota 44, NEW ORLEANS 10
  • Divisional playoffs: Minnesota 36, SAN FRANCISCO 24; Washington 21, CHICAGO 17
  • NFC Championship: WASHINGTON 17, Minnesota 10 at RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C. January 17, 1988

Super Bowl[edit]


As awarded by the Associated Press
Most Valuable Player John Elway, Quarterback, Denver
Coach of the Year Jim Mora, New Orleans
Offensive Player of the Year Jerry Rice, Wide Receiver, San Francisco
Defensive Player of the Year Reggie White, Defensive End, Philadelphia
Offensive Rookie of the Year Troy Stradford, Running Back, Miami
Defensive Rookie of the Year Shane Conlan, Linebacker, Buffalo
NFL Comeback Player of the Year Charles White, Running Back, L.A. Rams



  1. ^ http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=6642330
  2. ^ NFL crossed the line on Replacement Sunday, By Clare Farnsworth, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter
  3. ^ "N.F.L. TV Ratings Drop". New York Times. October 6, 1987. Retrieved September 15, 2009.