Canceled NFL games
The following is a list of games that have been cancelled by the National Football League since 1933. While cancelling games was extremely common prior to this date, since that year, the NFL has only twice cancelled regular season games, in both cases for labor disputes between the league and the National Football League Players Association. Seven weeks of regular season games were cancelled in 1982 and one week of regular season games was cancelled in 1987.
Preseason contests have seen comparatively more cancellations, since the games do not count in the standings. Two of these games, the 1974 Chicago College All-Star Game and the 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, were cancelled because of off-season labor stoppages that were resolved prior to the start of the rest of the preseason. Three games were canceled as the result of unsafe playing fields: a 1995 NFL preseason game between the San Diego Chargers and the Houston Oilers, a 2001 preseason game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Philadelphia Eagles, and the 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game. An additional preseason game, the 2017 Texas Governor's Cup, was cancelled for weather. At least one other announced game was discarded before it was officially placed on the schedule. The proposed China Bowl exhibition was to have been played in August 2007 but was postponed indefinitely before the 2007 schedule was released, with all plans for the game formally canceled before December 2008.
The league has run into other instances in which a game cannot realistically be played on its scheduled date, including weather-related rainouts and conflicts with college football or Major League Baseball over the use of shared stadiums. Unlike baseball, the NFL generally plays through even the coldest and most precipitous of weather unless such weather makes the stadium unusable or it becomes unsafe for spectators to attend the match. In such cases where a game cannot be played on its scheduled date, especially in the regular season, the league has the options of rescheduling the contest to any available day and, if the stadium cannot be used, relocating the contest to the opponent's stadium or a neutral site (usually another nearby NFL stadium or a suitably sized modern college football venue). To date, such measures have not been necessary for any individual game in the playoffs.
- 1 1920s and 1930s
- 2 1974 players' strike
- 3 1982 players' strike
- 4 1987 players' strike
- 5 1995 preseason game in Houston
- 6 2001 preseason game in Philadelphia
- 7 September 11, 2001 attacks
- 8 2011 owners' lockout
- 9 2016 Hall of Fame Game
- 10 2017 Governor’s Cup
- 11 Cancellations due to severe weather and natural disasters
- 12 Effects of shared stadiums and sports complexes
- 13 Notes
- 14 References
- 15 External links
1920s and 1930s
Cancelling games was far more common in the 1920s and early 1930s, in the founding years of the league. When a team did not want to play a game, they could cancel without any punishment or penalty. Several years after league schedules were standardized in 1933, cancellations were effectively banned, and teams would have to forfeit the game or postpone if a cancellation was due to issues outside the team's control. There have been no forfeits in the league's history; a 1921 game between the Rochester Jeffersons and the Washington Senators is occasionally listed as a forfeit, but because of the lax cancellation rules of the time and uncertainty over which team (if either) was at fault for the game not being played, the game is listed in modern records as a cancellation. The last unpunished cancellation of a regular season NFL game is believed to have been a November 17, 1935 contest between the Boston Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, which was canceled for severe rain and snow.
Several games were removed from the schedules of the NFL teams of the early 1940s, but because the issues (namely, World War II, the loss of marquee talent to the war effort, and restrictions on resource usage) were already foreseen by the start of the 1942 season, the league was able to issue shortened schedules from the start without having to cancel already scheduled contests.
1974 players' strike
The 1974 College All-Star Game, an exhibition game that pitted the most recent Super Bowl champion (Miami Dolphins) against a team composed entirely of rookies, was canceled as a result of a players’ strike. The strike was resolved before any further games were canceled; the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, along with the rest of the 1974 NFL season, went on as scheduled, although at least one game was held with the Denver Broncos using a squad of rookie replacement players.
1982 players' strike
In 1982, players began a 57-day strike following the completion of Week 2 of the regular season. As a result of the impasse, games were simply cancelled until a settlement was reached (ultimately, Weeks 3 to 9). Upon reaching that settlement, the NFL announced that Weeks 11 to 16 would be played as scheduled, and the games originally scheduled for Week 3 of the season would be played following the completion of the resumed regular season as a new Week 17, with the playoffs pushed back one week. Later, the NFL decided to use the final week 17 to hold various intra-division games from cancelled Weeks 3 to 9 instead of merely playing the Week 3 games. This was done to increase attendance and to allow some teams to balance out home and away games, to the extent possible (either five home and four away, or four home and five away). Because the 1982 shortened season would include only nine regular season contests for each team, the NFL announced that the three divisions in each of the two conferences would be eliminated for the purpose of determining playoff qualifications, and the regular season would be followed by an expansion of the playoffs from 10 to 16 teams. With this, each conference had 14 teams competing for 8 playoff spots, with division standings being disregarded in favor of overall conference standings. Each of the first three rounds of the playoffs was pushed back one week in order to make room for the new week 17, which was originally scheduled as the Wild Card weekend. This was possible because there was an idle week between the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl and Pro Bowl were held as originally scheduled.
1982 games lost
Note: Some of the games originally scheduled for Weeks 3 to 9, listed below, were rescheduled to a new, final Week 17.
Week Three – September 26
|Day||Visiting Team||Home Team|
Week Four – October 3
|Day||Visiting Team||Home Team|
|Sunday||L.A. Rams||St. Louis|
|Sunday||New Orleans||L.A. Raiders|
|Monday||San Francisco||Tampa Bay|
Week Five – October 10
|Day||Visiting Team||Home Team|
|Sunday||San Francisco||New Orleans|
|Sunday||St. Louis||N.Y. Giants|
Week Six – October 17
|Day||Visiting Team||Home Team|
|Sunday||Kansas City||San Diego|
|Sunday||Tampa Bay||Green Bay|
Week Seven – October 24
|Day||Visiting Team||Home Team|
|Sunday||New Orleans||L.A. Rams|
|Sunday||St. Louis||New England|
Week Eight – October 31
|Day||Visiting Team||Home Team|
|Sunday||L.A. Rams||San Diego|
|Sunday||New England||N.Y. Jets|
Week Nine – November 7
|Day||Visiting Team||Home Team|
|Sunday||Green Bay||Tampa Bay|
|Sunday||Kansas City||L.A. Raiders|
|Sunday||L.A. Rams||New Orleans|
Week Ten – November 14
|Day||Visiting Team||Home Team|
|Sunday[d]||New Orleans||San Diego|
|Sunday||N.Y. Giants||L.A. Rams|
Games postponed to new Week 17
In order to ensure maximal attendance, and to balance out home and away games for each team, to the extent possible (either five home and four away, or four home and five away), the NFL made 12 of the 14 games in the final week of the rescheduled season (Week 17) select intra-division games that were picked from cancelled Weeks 3 to 10, instead of merely playing out Week 3 games, as had originally been planned. This was the maximum number mathematically possible, since four of the six divisions at that time had an odd number of teams (the two games that were not intra-division were New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings). The New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles game originally scheduled for Week 7 on Monday was moved to Sunday, while the Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings game originally scheduled for Week 3 on Sunday was moved to Monday.
|Org||Day||Visiting Team||Home Team|
|3||Sunday||L.A. Raiders||San Diego|
|6||Sunday||L.A. Rams||San Francisco|
|7||Sunday||N.Y. Jets||Kansas City|
1987 players' strike
In 1987, the players went on strike for a second time in-season, again following the second week of the campaign. However, unlike 1982, the owners took the bold step of using replacement players. After missing just one week of action, the NFL resumed with replacement players for Week 4. By the time Week 6 had rolled around, enough players had crossed the picket lines and forced an agreement to let the regular players play again. The cancelled games of Week 3 were not made up, and the league counted the three weeks of game results featuring the replacement players as regular season games toward each team's final standings. By Week 7, the teams had all players back in action, with all teams completing a 15-game schedule. Also unlike 1982, there was no change to the playoff format that season.
1987 games lost
Week Three – September 27
|Day||Visiting Team||Home Team|
|Sunday||Green Bay||Tampa Bay|
1995 preseason game in Houston
An August 19, 1995 preseason game between the San Diego Chargers and the Houston Oilers was the first game in NFL history to be cancelled before kickoff after an NFL official determined that the Astrodome's artificial turf endangered the players.
2001 preseason game in Philadelphia
Because the multi-purpose stadium was shared by both the Eagles and the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team, the new artificial surface, NexTurf, and previous artificial turf installations before it included cutouts that covered up the dirt infield around the bases. After examining the turf, Ravens coach Brian Billick discovered a trench around the area where third base was covered up by one of the cutouts, and refused to let the Ravens take the field for warm-ups. Later, players from both teams reported that they sank into the turf in locations near the infield cutouts.
City crews unsuccessfully tried to fix the problem, forcing the game to be canceled. Team president Joe Banner was irate after the game, calling the stadium's conditions "absolutely unacceptable" and "an embarrassment to the city of Philadelphia."
City officials, however, promised that the stadium would be suitable for play when the regular season started. The Eagles would move into Lincoln Financial Field in 2003, and the Phillies would move into its own separate ballpark, Citizens Bank Park, in 2004.
September 11, 2001 attacks
In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the NFL postponed its Week 2 games of the 2001 season, originally scheduled for September 16 and 17, until the end of the regular season. All playoff games following the 2001 regular season, including Super Bowl XXXVI and the 2002 Pro Bowl, were similarly rescheduled one week later.
This was in contrast during the wake of the John F. Kennedy assassination in 1963 when the NFL went ahead and played its full slate of games that week, a decision that then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle later regretted, though he also stated that Pierre Salinger, Kennedy's press secretary, had urged him to allow the games to be played. Meanwhile, the American Football League canceled week 12 of its 1963 season and later rescheduled those games.
2011 owners' lockout
On July 22, 2011, the NFL announced that that year's Pro Football Hall of Fame Game originally set for August 7 of that year between Chicago and St. Louis had been cancelled, for an ongoing lockout that had been in place since March of that year. The league approved a new collective bargaining agreement on July 21, but at the same time announced the cancellation of the game, citing the fact that the players would not have enough time in training camp to prepare before the game.
The NFL also had contingency plans to cancel and/or postpone regular season games (up to eight) if a labor agreement could not be reached by the start of the regular season. The league did not have to implement the plans, since the players association agreed to terms with the NFL shortly before the start of the season proper on July 25, ending the lockout.
2016 Hall of Fame Game
Mike Silver of NFL.com reported that on the morning of game day, officials discovered the logos at midfield and in the end zones had been painted using paint which was not intended for use on the newly installed FieldTurf. Subsequently, the paint had not fully dried, and officials heated the field to speed up the drying process, causing the turf's rubber to melt; the affected areas were described as being slick and "like cement," making it impossible to get decent footing. Stadium officials attempted to address this by applying paint thinner to the turf, but a Packers employee noticed a label warning that the paint thinner could result in severe burns when exposed to skin, and alerted them to the discovery. When officially cancelling the game, both the league and the Players Association cited safety concerns.
Both teams were told at 6:40 p.m., an hour and 20 minutes before kickoff, that the game was going to be cancelled. However, fans in the stadium only learned of the pending cancellation via social media, and no official announcement was made until just before the scheduled 8 p.m. kickoff, which was greeted by boos and jeering.
2017 Governor’s Cup
The 2017 Governor's Cup, an annual preseason matchup between Texas’s two NFL franchises, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, was canceled by the effects of Hurricane Harvey. The game, originally scheduled for August 31 in Houston, was initially moved to Dallas, as Houston was severely flooded as the result of the rains from Harvey and the team had temporarily relocated to Dallas until the storm passed. The Texans opted instead to cancel the game to allow the team more time to relocate back to Houston.
Cancellations due to severe weather and natural disasters
In the modern era, severe weather or natural disasters have affected some games, but only the aforementioned case of Hurricane Harvey has a game been cancelled outright. Others were either switched to a different location, or to a different date in the schedule.
The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damaged Candlestick Park, forcing the San Francisco 49ers to play their next home game on October 22 against the New England Patriots at Stanford University’s Stanford Stadium.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew forced the September 6 opening-day game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins at Joe Robbie Stadium to be rescheduled to October 18, when both teams originally had a bye week.
In the wake of the October 25, 2003 Cedar Fire, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to assist in the disaster relief process. Because of the soot and particulate matter in the air from the fire two days earlier, the NFL was forced to move the Monday Night Football game on October 27 between the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.
During the 2004 regular season, the Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins opening-day game, scheduled for Sunday, September 12 at 1 PM ET, was rescheduled to Saturday, September 11 at 1 PM ET because of Hurricane Ivan,and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins game scheduled for Sunday, September 26, at 1 PM ET was moved to 8:30 PM ET because of Hurricane Jeanne. The latter game became notable as the first NFL start of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 damaged the Louisiana Superdome. The NFL decided that the New Orleans Saints' first regularly scheduled home game against the New York Giants be played in Giants Stadium in New Jersey, with the Saints the home team in name only. For the rest of the season, the Saints home games were split between the Alamodome in San Antonio and Louisiana State University’s Tiger Stadium.
In 2005, the NFL moved up the Kansas City Chiefs at Miami Dolphins game from Sunday, October 23 at 1 PM ET to Friday, October 21 at 7 PM ET because of Hurricane Wilma. The NFL received permission to play the game on a Friday, as the team’s antitrust exemption normally forbids it to televise games on Fridays to protect high school football. It also forced the Chiefs to travel to Miami on the day of the game, a violation of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement with the National Football League Players Association which requires a visiting team to arrive in the host city no later than 24 hours prior to kickoff.
Hurricane Ike forced several changes to the 2008 schedule. The Houston Texans’ Week 2 home game against the Baltimore Ravens was first postponed to Monday, September 15, before Ike made landfall; damage to Reliant Stadium forced a further postponement, to Week 10, on Sunday, November 9, giving the Texans and the Ravens their bye weeks in Week 2. Furthermore, to accommodate this move, the Texans’ home game against the Cincinnati Bengals was moved forward from November 9 to Sunday, October 26, pushing the Bengals’ bye week from Week 8 to Week 10.
In 2010, a severe storm in Minnesota deposited over 17 inches or 0.43 metres of snow on the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which caused the venue's inflatable roof (a form of dome now mostly obsolete for major sports) to collapse about 24 hours later, early in the morning of December 12. The Minnesota Vikings had been scheduled to host the New York Giants that afternoon. Prior to the collapse, the game had already been postponed to Monday night, December 13, over concerns of stadium officials. The game was relocated to Ford Field in Detroit, still played Monday night. The game would be notable as the ending of Brett Favre’s NFL-record 297 consecutive starts streak. The Vikings’ December 20 game against Chicago was moved to TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. The collapse affected no further NFL games, as the rest of the Vikings’ 2010 season consisted of road games, and the team had already been eliminated from playoff contention. The roof collapse was a factor in the Metrodome being demolished and replaced with hard-roofed U.S. Bank Stadium a few years later.
On December 26, 2010, a Sunday Night Football game between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia was postponed to Tuesday, December 28, by a severe snowstorm. It was the first Tuesday NFL game in 64 years. In 2014, a severe snowstorm that hit the Buffalo area forced a Jets–Bills game, originally scheduled for November 23, to be moved to Detroit's indoor Ford Field on November 24. In both cases, concerns about fan safety prompted the postponements.
Hurricane Irma prompted the postponement of a game between the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, originally scheduled for September 10, 2017, to November 19; both teams coincidentally were scheduled for the same bye week, leaving the latter date available for the game to be made up.
There have also been rare occasions in which games had to be pushed back one night because of a last-minute scheduling conflict in the facility of those games, most notably when an NFL team has shared a home stadium with a team from Major League Baseball and the baseball team has needed the building for a post-season game. This was a frequent occurrence when there were several shared stadiums across the country, but since 2012 only one such venue remains: Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, home of the NFL Raiders and the MLB Athletics; this arrangement will end by 2020 when the Raiders move to a purpose-built stadium in Las Vegas.
Although NFL/MLB-shared stadiums are now rare instead of the norm, there are several current NFL stadiums that share the same parking lots and other ancillary facilities with an adjacent MLB ballpark, thus also preventing both teams from playing simultaneously. (This also occurs when two NFL franchises in different cities share a common geographic area, namely the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers. The cities and the NFL do not want the teams playing home games on the same day, for Bay Area traffic concerns.)
On October 12, 1964, the St. Louis Cardinals were forced to move their scheduled home game against the Baltimore Colts to Memorial Stadium, since St. Louis' Busch Stadium I was being used for the World Series by the baseball team also called the St. Louis Cardinals. Even though game five of the World Series was played that day at Yankee Stadium, the football Cardinals could not use the stadium until the baseball team, the stadium's owner, had completed its season.
The Atlanta Falcons were forced to move their October 5, 1969 home game vs. the Colts from Atlanta Stadium to Grant Field at Georgia Tech because the Atlanta Braves hosted the New York Mets in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. The same day, the Minnesota Vikings moved their home game vs. the Green Bay Packers from Metropolitan Stadium to Memorial Stadium at the University of Minnesota because of an American League Championship Series game between the Minnesota Twins and the Baltimore Orioles. One week later, the Philadelphia Eagles’ game in Baltimore against the Colts was pushed from Sunday, October 12, to Monday night, October 13, to accommodate Game 2 of the World Series between the Orioles and the New York Mets. The following week, the World Series prompted the American Football League to move the game at Shea Stadium between the Houston Oilers and New York Jets from Sunday, October 19, to Monday night, October 20.
The 1973 New York Jets faced the same situation as the 1964 Cardinals. The New York Mets unexpectedly reached the World Series, and under the terms of the Jets’ lease at Shea Stadium in place at the time, there could be no football games at the stadium in Queens until the Mets’ season was complete. Thus, the Jets were forced to move their October 21 game vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers from Shea to Three Rivers Stadium, even though the final game of the Series at Shea was played October 18 (games six and seven were played at the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum, home of the Oakland Athletics).
In 1979, the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins switched the dates of their two games with the Eagles hosting the Redskins on October 7th (instead of October 21st) and the Redskins hosting the Eagles on October 21st (instead of October 7th). This was due to the visit of Pope John Paul II to Washington on October 7th. A similar situation happened to the Eagles in 1983 where they were forced to switch the dates of their games with the Dallas Cowboys because the Phillies were playing the 1983 World Series. The Eagles were originally scheduled to play the Cowboys at Veterans Stadium on October 16, 1983; however this game conflicted with Game 5 of the World Series. The game was moved to Texas Stadium and the November 6th game was moved to Veterans Stadium.
In 1987, Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants was held at Candlestick Park, prompting the 49ers and Falcons to switch home dates for their two games that season; the 49ers visited Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on October 11, and the Falcons went to San Francisco on December 20. The October 11 game in Atlanta drew only 8,684, the lowest ever for a Falcons home game up to that point; the game was played during the player strike, so replacement players were used.
In 1987, the Sunday, October 18 World Series Game 2 between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Minnesota Twins led to the Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to switch home dates for their two games that season.
In 1987, the next week, the Sunday, October 25 World Series Game 7 between the St. Louis Cardinals and Minnesota Twins led the NFL to reschedule the Denver Broncos at Minnesota Vikings) game to the following Monday night, October 26.
In 1989, the Sunday, October 8 New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers switched home dates (October 8 originally in San Francisco and November 6 originally in New Orleans) to accommodate the MLB's National League Championship Series Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Giants games on October 7, 8, and 9.
In 1997, the Sunday, October 26 Cleveland Indians at Florida Marlins World Series game caused the NFL to reschedule the Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins game for the following Monday night, October 27.
In 2001, a potential Oakland Athletics baseball playoff game forced the Oakland Raiders to play their contest against the Dallas Cowboys two weeks in advance to avoid a possible conflict, when both clubs originally had their bye week (as it turned out, the Athletics ended up getting eliminated a few days before the originally scheduled date of the Cowboys–Raiders game).
In 2009, the New York Giants–Philadelphia Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field was moved from 4:15 pm to 1:00 pm to accommodate the Philadelphia Phillies hosting Game 4 of the 2009 World Series at adjacent Citizens Bank Park.
In 2013, the Oakland Athletics playing in the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers forced the Oakland Raiders to postpone their originally scheduled Sunday afternoon game against the San Diego Chargers from 4:25 pm Eastern/1:25 pm Pacific to a late-night start time of 11:35 Eastern/8:35 Pacific.
The opening match of the 2013 season on September 5, which would traditionally have been hosted by the Baltimore Ravens as defending Super Bowl XLVII champions, was instead a Ravens road contest at the Denver Broncos. A Baltimore Orioles home game against the Chicago White Sox was scheduled for Camden Yards that night. The Ravens' M&T Bank Stadium is next door to Camden Yards, and the Ravens and Orioles were unable to resolve issues which centered on parking and traffic.
- This was the first scheduled regular season meeting between the Falcons and Chiefs since 1972, and only the second in history. Their second meeting was played in 1985.
- This was the first scheduled meeting between the Giants and Steelers since 1976, and the two teams actually next oppose each other in 1985.
- This was the first scheduled regular season meeting between the Eagles and the Packers since 1979. The two teams next met in 1987.
- These two teams had previously met in 1979, and did not meet again until the 1988 NFL season.
- This was this franchise’s first scheduled regular season game against the Giants since 1977, and first ever road game. The team next played the Giants in 1985, and did not visit the Giants until 1994.
- The Lions and Bills had last played in 1979 and would not play another regular season game against each other until 1991.
- This was the first scheduled regular season meeting of the Raiders and the Colts since 1975, when the Raiders were based in Oakland. They next oppose one another in 1984, by which time the Colts had moved to Indianapolis. The Raiders next played in Baltimore opposing the relocated Ravens in that franchise’s first-ever regular season game in 1996.
- This was the first scheduled regular season meeting of the Colts and the Cardinals in St. Louis since 1978, when the Colts were based in Baltimore. The Colts did't play again in St. Louis until 2001, when they played against the Rams.
- This was the first scheduled regular season game between the Dolphins and the Giants since the Dolphins’ 1972 perfect season. As of 1972 they were scheduled to meet in 1977, but this meeting was cancelled so the Dolphins could play the Seahawks and the Giants play the Buccaneers. Miami, and the Giants finally played their second-ever regular season game in 1990.
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