1977 NFL season
|Duration||September 18, 1977 – December 18, 1977|
|Start date||December 24, 1977|
|AFC Champions||Denver Broncos|
|NFC Champions||Dallas Cowboys|
|Super Bowl XII|
|Date||January 15, 1978|
|Site||Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Date||January 23, 1978|
|Site||Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida|
Instead of a traditional Thanksgiving Day game hosted by the Dallas Cowboys, the league scheduled a Miami Dolphins at St. Louis Cardinals contest. This would be only the second season since 1966 that the Cowboys did not play on that holiday. As of 2015, it marked the last time that the Cowboys did not play on Thanksgiving.
This was the last NFL regular season with 14 games. The regular season was expanded to 16 games in 1978, with the preseason reduced from six games to four. It was also the final season of the eight-team playoff field in the NFL, before going to ten the following season.
The 1977 season is considered the last season of the "Dead Ball Era" of professional football (1970–1977). The 17.2 average points scored per team per game was the lowest since 1942. In 1978, the league made significant changes to allow greater offensive production.
Major rule changes
- The head slap is outlawed. This change is referred to as the "Deacon Jones Rule"; the Los Angeles Rams' defensive end frequently used this technique.
- Any shoe worn by a player with an artificial limb must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe. Informally referred to as the "Tom Dempsey Rule." Dempsey is a record-breaking placekicker whose modified shoe (having a flattened and enlarged toe area) on his deformed kicking foot generated controversy during his career.
- Defenders are only permitted to make contact with receivers once.
- Defenders are not allowed to make contact with an opponent above the shoulders with the palms of their hands, except to ward him off the line.
- Offensive linemen are not allowed to thrust their hands to a defender's neck, face, or head.
- Wide receivers are not allowed to clip defenders.
- This was the first season when the statistic for time of possession began to be recorded.
Tampa Bay and Seattle continued as "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, two or three interconference games, and the remainder of their 14-game schedule against other conference teams. Tampa Bay switched to the NFC and played the other 13 members of the conference, while Seattle did the same in the AFC. The teams met in Week Five, with Seattle winning 30–23.
Starting in 1970, and through 2001, except for the strike-shortened 1982 season, 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
|1||3 teams||1–0||(Chicago, Green Bay)||1–0||Atlanta||1–0||3 teams||1–0|
|2||Dallas||2–0||4 teams||1–1||Atlanta*||1–1||8 teams||1–1|
|8||Dallas||8–0||Minnesota||5–3||Los Angeles||5–3||St. Louis*||5–3|
|9||Dallas||8–1||Minnesota||6–3||Los Angeles||6–3||St. Louis*||6–3|
|10||Dallas||8–2||Minnesota||6–4||Los Angeles||7–3||St. Louis||7–3|
|11||Dallas||9–2||Minnesota||7–4||Los Angeles||8–3||St. Louis||7–4|
|12||Dallas||10–2||Minnesota||8–4||Los Angeles||8–4||St. Louis*||7–5|
* other teams with same W-L record
American Football Conference
|1||(Baltimore, Miami)||1–0||3 teams||1–0||(Denver, Oakland)||1–0||5 teams||1–0|
|2||(Baltimore, Miami)||2–0||(Cleveland, Houston)||2–0||(Denver, Oakland)||2–0||3 teams||2–0–0|
|3||(Baltimore, Miami)||3–0||Cleveland*||2–1||(Denver, Oakland)||3–0||2 teams||3–0|
|4||Baltimore||4–0||Houston||3–1||(Denver, Oakland)||4–0||2 teams||4–0|
* other teams with same W-L record
W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT = Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against
wild card berth, – clinched division title– clinched
|New England Patriots||9||5||0||.643||278||217|
|New York Jets||3||11||0||.214||191||300|
|San Diego Chargers||7||7||0||.500||222||205|
|Kansas City Chiefs||2||12||0||.143||225||349|
|St. Louis Cardinals||7||7||0||.500||272||287|
|New York Giants||5||9||0||.357||181||265|
|Green Bay Packers||4||10||0||.286||134||219|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2||12||0||.143||103||223|
|y-Los Angeles Rams||10||4||0||.714||302||146|
|San Francisco 49ers||5||9||0||.357||220||260|
|New Orleans Saints||3||11||0||.214||232||336|
- Baltimore finished ahead of Miami in the AFC East based on better conference record (9–3 to Dolphins' 8–4).
- N.Y. Jets finished ahead of Buffalo in the AFC East based on better point-differential in head-to-head competition (1 point).
- Houston finished ahead of Cincinnati in the AFC Central based on better point-differential in head-to-head competition (2 points).
- Minnesota finished ahead of Chicago in the NFC Central based on better point-differential in head-to-head competition (3 points).
- Chicago won the NFC Wild Card over Washington based on better net points in conference games (48 to Redskins' 4).
- Philadelphia finished ahead of N.Y. Giants in the NFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
|Divisional Playoffs||Conf. Championship Games||Super Bowl XII|
|December 26 – L.A. Memorial Coliseum|
|January 1 – Texas Stadium|
|2) Los Angeles||7|
|December 26 – Texas Stadium|
|January 15 – Louisiana Superdome|
|December 24 – Memorial Stadium|
|4) Oakland (2OT)||37|
|January 1 – Mile High Stadium|
|December 24 – Mile High Stadium|
*Denver (the AFC 1 seed) did not play Oakland (the 4 seed) in the Divisional playoff round because both teams were in the same division.
- NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
- NFL History 1971–1980 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
- Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
- 1977 Regular season Standings (Last accessed April 24, 2014)