1988 NFL season

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1988 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 4 – December 19, 1988
Playoffs
Start date December 24, 1988
AFC Champions Cincinnati Bengals
NFC Champions San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl XXIII
Date January 22, 1989
Site Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami, Florida
Champions San Francisco 49ers
Pro Bowl
Date January 29, 1989
Site Aloha Stadium
National Football League seasons
 < 1987 1989 > 

The 1988 NFL season was the 69th regular season of the National Football League. The Cardinals relocated from St. Louis, Missouri to the Phoenix, Arizona area becoming the Phoenix Cardinals but remained in the NFC East division. Playoff races came down to the season's final day, with the Seattle Seahawks winning the AFC West by one game, and the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers winning their respective divisions in a five-way tie, with the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants losing the NFC Wild Card berth to the Los Angeles Rams on tiebreakers.

This season marked the final coaching season for the legendary Tom Landry.

The season ended with Super Bowl XXIII when the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals.

Major rule changes[edit]

  • A standard system of two time intervals between plays are established (and would be timed using the play clock): For normal plays, the offensive team has 45 seconds to snap the ball after the previous play is signaled dead. After time outs and other administrative stoppages, the time limit is 30 seconds beginning after the Referee signals that the ball is ready to resume play.
  • If a fumble occurs during an extra point attempt, only the fumbling player can recover and/or advance the ball. This change closes a loophole in the "Stabler Fumble Rule" that was enacted during the 1979 NFL season in reaction to the Holy Roller Game.
  • The penalty for "Running into the kicker" is changed from five yards and a first down to just 5 yards.
  • Referees were outfitted with white hats while all other officials wore black hats, which was the standard practice in college and high school football. From 1979 through 1987, referees wore black hats while all other officials wore white hats.

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-Buffalo Bills 12 4 0 .750 329 237
Indianapolis Colts 9 7 0 .563 354 315
New England Patriots 9 7 0 .563 250 284
New York Jets 8 7 1 .531 372 354
Miami Dolphins 6 10 0 .375 319 380
AFC Central
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Cincinnati Bengals 12 4 0 .750 448 329
x-Cleveland Browns 10 6 0 .625 304 288
x-Houston Oilers 10 6 0 .625 424 365
Pittsburgh Steelers 5 11 0 .313 336 421
AFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Seattle Seahawks 9 7 0 .563 339 329
Denver Broncos 8 8 0 .500 327 352
Los Angeles Raiders 7 9 0 .438 325 369
San Diego Chargers 6 10 0 .375 231 332
Kansas City Chiefs 4 11 1 .281 254 320
NFC East
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Philadelphia Eagles 10 6 0 .625 379 319
New York Giants 10 6 0 .625 359 304
Washington Redskins 7 9 0 .438 345 387
Phoenix Cardinals 7 9 0 .438 344 398
Dallas Cowboys 3 13 0 .188 265 381
NFC Central
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Chicago Bears 12 4 0 .750 312 215
x-Minnesota Vikings 11 5 0 .688 406 233
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5 11 0 .313 261 350
Detroit Lions 4 12 0 .250 220 313
Green Bay Packers 4 12 0 .250 240 315
NFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-San Francisco 49ers 10 6 0 .625 369 294
x-Los Angeles Rams 10 6 0 .625 407 293
New Orleans Saints 10 6 0 .625 312 283
Atlanta Falcons 5 11 0 .313 244 315


Tiebreakers[edit]

  • Cincinnati was the top AFC playoff seed ahead of Buffalo based on head-to-head victory (1–0).
  • Indianapolis finished ahead of New England in the AFC East based on better record against common opponents (7–5 to Patriots' 6–6).
  • Cleveland finished ahead of Houston in the AFC Central based on better division record (4–2 to Oilers' 3–3).
  • San Francisco was the second NFC playoff seed ahead of Philadelphia on better record against common opponents (6–3 to Eagles' 5–4).
  • Philadelphia finished first in the NFC East based on head-to-head sweep of the N.Y. Giants (2–0).
  • Washington finished third in the NFC East based on better division record (4–4) than Phoenix (3–5).
  • Detroit finished fourth in the NFC Central based on head-to-head sweep of Green Bay (2–0).
  • San Francisco finished first in the NFC West based on better head-to-head record (3–1) against the L.A. Rams (2–2) and New Orleans (1–3).
  • The L.A. Rams finished second in the NFC West based on better division record (4–2) than New Orleans (3–3), and earned the last NFC Wild Card based on better conference record (8–4) than the N.Y. Giants (9–5) and New Orleans (6–6).

Playoffs[edit]

*Note: Two teams from the same division were not allowed to play against each other in the Divisional playoff round.
                                   
Divisional Playoffs
    January 1 - Rich Stadium        
AFC Wild Card Game AFC Championship
 5  Houston  10
December 24 - Cleveland Stadium     January 8 - Riverfront Stadium
 2*  Buffalo  17  
 5  Houston  24  2  Buffalo  10
December 31 - Riverfront Stadium
 4  Cleveland  23      1  Cincinnati  21   Super Bowl XXIII
 3  Seattle  13
    January 22 - Joe Robbie Stadium
 1*  Cincinnati  21  
 A1  Cincinnati  16
January 1 - Candlestick Park
NFC Wild Card Game NFC Championship    N2  San Francisco  20
 4  Minnesota  9
December 26 - Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome     January 8 - Soldier Field
 2*  San Francisco  34  
 5  L.A. Rams  17  2  San Francisco  28
December 31 - Soldier Field
 4  Minnesota  28      1  Chicago  3  
 3  Philadelphia  12
   
 1*  Chicago  20  

Awards[edit]

Most Valuable Player Boomer Esiason, Quarterback, Cincinnati
Coach of the Year Mike Ditka, Chicago
Offensive Player of the Year Roger Craig, Running Back, San Francisco
Defensive Player of the Year Mike Singletary, Linebacker, Chicago
Offensive Rookie of the Year John Stephens, Running Back, New England
Defensive Rookie of the Year Erik McMillan, Safety, N.Y. Jets

References[edit]