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1973 NFL season

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1973 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 16 – December 16, 1973
National Football League seasons
 < 1972 1974 > 

The 1973 NFL season was the 54th regular season of the National Football League. The season featured O.J. Simpson becoming the first man to rush for 2,000 yards in one season. Buffalo moved their home games into Rich Stadium. After playing their first two home games at Yankee Stadium, the New York Giants played the rest of their home games at the Yale Bowl. The season ended with Super Bowl VIII when the Miami Dolphins repeated as league champions by defeating the Minnesota Vikings.

Major rule changes

Jersey numbering system

  • A jersey numbering system is adopted (players who played in the 1972 NFL season are grandfathered in):
    • 1–19: Quarterbacks and specialists
    • 20–49: Running backs and defensive backs
    • 50–59: Centers and linebackers
    • 60–79: Defensive linemen and offensive linemen other than centers
    • 80–89: Wide receivers and tight ends
    • Numbers 0, 00, and 90–99 are no longer allowed to be issued, even though these numbers were rarely issued anyway. Numbers 90–99 would be allowed again in 1984[citation needed] for defensive linemen and linebackers in addition to the above-mentioned numbers.
  • Defensive players cannot jump or stand on a teammate while trying to block a kick.
  • The clock is to start at the snap following a change of possession. Previously, the clock would start on a change of possession when the ball was spotted ready for play by the referee.
  • If there is a foul by the offensive team, and it is followed by a change of possession, the period can be extended by one play by the other team.
  • If the receiving team commits a foul after the ball is kicked, possession will be presumed to have changed; the receiving team keeps the ball.

Television Blackout rules

Up until the 1972 season, all NFL games (including championship games and Super Bowls) were blacked-out on television in each team's home city. In 1973, the league changed their policy to black out games in the team's home city only if tickets to the game had not sold out. This expanded the league's television presence in teams' home cities on gameday.

The policy was put into effect when, in 1972, the Washington Redskins made the playoffs for only the second time in 27 seasons. Because all home games were blacked-out, politicians — including devout football fan President Richard Nixon — were not able to watch their home team win. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle refused to lift the blackout, despite a plea from United States Attorney General Richard Kleindienst. Kleindienst was to suggest that the United States Congress re-evaluate the NFL's antitrust exemption. Rozelle agreed to lift the blackout for Super Bowl VII on an "experimental basis." But Congress intervened before the 1973 season anyway, passing Public Law 93-107, which eliminated the blackout of games in the home market so long as the game was sold out by 72 hours before game time.[1]

Division races

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

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 4 teams 1–0–0 2 teams 1–0–0 2 teams 1–0–0 5 teams 1–0–0
2 Dallas, St. Louis (tie) 2–0–0 Minnesota 2–0–0 Los Angeles 2–0–0 Dallas, St. Louis (tie) 2–0–0
3 Dallas 3–0–0 Minnesota 3–0–0 Los Angeles 3–0–0 St. Louis 2–1–0
4 Washington* 3–1–0 Minnesota 4–0–0 Los Angeles 4–0–0 Dallas 3–1–0
5 Washington 4–1–0 Minnesota 5–0–0 Los Angeles 5–0–0 Dallas 3–2–0
6 Washington 5–1–0 Minnesota 6–0–0 Los Angeles 6–0–0 Dallas 4–2–0
7 Washington 5–2–0 Minnesota 7–0–0 Los Angeles 6–1–0 Dallas* 4–3–0
8 Washington* 5–3–0 Minnesota 8–0–0 Los Angeles 6–2–0 Atlanta* 5–3–0
9 Washington* 6–3–0 Minnesota 9–0–0 Los Angeles 7–2–0 Atlanta* 6–3–0
10 Washington* 7–3–0 Minnesota 9–1–0 Los Angeles 8–2–0 Atlanta* 7–3–0
11 Washington 8–3–0 Minnesota 10–1–0 Los Angeles 9–2–0 Atlanta 8–3–0
12 Washington* 9–3–0 Minnesota 10–2–0 Los Angeles 10–2–0 Atlanta* 8–4–0
13 Dallas* 9–4–0 Minnesota 11–2–0 Los Angeles 11–2–0 Washington 9–4–0
14 DALLAS 10–4–0 MINNESOTA 12–2–0 LOS ANGELES 12–2–0 WASHINGTON 10–4–0
  • For the last time until 1997, the last two unbeaten teams in the league met in Week 7,[2] with the Vikings pipping the Rams 10–9.

American Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 Buffalo, Miami (tie) 1–0–0 Cleveland, Pittsburgh (tie) 1–0–0 Denver 1–0–0 2 teams 1–0–0
2 NY Jets 1–1–0 Pittsburgh 2–0–0 4 teams 1–1–0 7 teams 1–1–0
3 Buffalo 2–1–0 Pittsburgh 3–0–0 Kansas City 2–1–0 3 teams 2–1–0
4 Buffalo, Miami (tie) 3–1–0 Pittsburgh 4–0–0 Kansas City 3–1–0 Buffalo, Miami (tie) 3–1–0
5 Buffalo, Miami (tie) 4–1–0 Pittsburgh 4–1–0 Kansas City 3–1–1 Buffalo, Miami (tie) 4–1–0
6 Miami 5–1–0 Pittsburgh 5–1–0 Kansas City 3–2–1 Cincinnati* 4–2–0
7 Miami 6–1–0 Pittsburgh 6–1–0 Oakland 4–2–1 Buffalo 5–2–0
8 Miami 7–1–0 Pittsburgh 7–1–0 Oakland 5–2–1 Buffalo 5–3–0
9 Miami 8–1–0 Pittsburgh 8–1–0 Oakland* 5–3–1 Kansas City* 5–3–1
10 Miami 9–1–0 Pittsburgh 8–2–0 Kansas City 6–3–1 Cleveland 6–3–1
11 Miami 10–1–0 Pittsburgh 8–3–0 Denver 6–3–2 Cleveland 7–3–1
12 Miami 11–1–0 Cincinnati* 8–4–0 Oakland 7–4–1 Pittsburgh 8–4–0
13 Miami 11–2–0 Cincinnati* 9–4–0 Oakland 8–3–1 Pittsburgh 9–4–0
14 MIAMI 12–2–0 CINCINNATI* 10–4–0 OAKLAND 9–4–1 PITTSBURGH 10–4–0

Final standings

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-Miami Dolphins 12 2 0 .857 343 150
Buffalo Bills 9 5 0 .643 259 230
New England Patriots 5 9 0 .357 258 300
New York Jets 4 10 0 .286 240 306
Baltimore Colts 4 10 0 .286 226 341
AFC Central
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Cincinnati Bengals 10 4 0 .714 286 231
x-Pittsburgh Steelers 10 4 0 .714 347 210
Cleveland Browns 7 5 2 .571 234 255
Houston Oilers 1 13 0 .071 199 447
AFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Oakland Raiders 9 4 1 .679 292 175
Kansas City Chiefs 7 5 2 .571 231 192
Denver Broncos 7 5 2 .571 354 296
San Diego Chargers 2 11 1 .179 188 386
NFC East
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Dallas Cowboys 10 4 0 .714 382 203
x-Washington Redskins 10 4 0 .714 325 198
Philadelphia Eagles 5 8 1 .393 310 393
St. Louis Cardinals 4 9 1 .321 286 365
New York Giants 2 11 1 .179 226 362
NFC Central
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Minnesota Vikings 12 2 0 .857 296 168
Detroit Lions 6 7 1 .464 271 247
Green Bay Packers 5 7 2 .429 202 259
Chicago Bears 3 11 0 .214 195 334
NFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Los Angeles Rams 12 2 0 .857 388 178
Atlanta Falcons 9 5 0 .643 318 224
San Francisco 49ers 5 9 0 .357 262 319
New Orleans Saints 5 9 0 .357 163 312

Tiebreakers

  • N.Y. Jets finished ahead of Baltimore in the AFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • Cincinnati finished ahead of Pittsburgh in the AFC Central based on better conference record (8–3 to Steelers' 7–4).
  • Kansas City finished ahead of Denver in the AFC West based on better division record (4–2 to Broncos' 3–2–1).
  • Dallas finished ahead of Washington in the NFC East based on better point differential in head-to-head games (13 points).
  • San Francisco finished ahead of New Orleans in the NFC West based on better division record (2–4 to Saints' 1–5).

Coaching Changes

After 11 years as head coach of the New York Jets, Weeb Ewbank decides to retire.

Playoffs

Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation.
Divisional Playoffs Conf. Championship Games Super Bowl VIII
                   
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Awards

Most Valuable Player O.J. Simpson, Running Back, Buffalo
Coach of the Year Chuck Knox, L.A. Rams
Offensive Player of the Year O.J. Simpson, Running Back, Buffalo
Defensive Player of the Year Dick Anderson, Safety, Miami
Offensive Rookie of the Year Chuck Foreman, Running Back, Minnesota
Defensive Rookie of the Year Wally Chambers, Defensive Tackle, Chicago

References