The 1987 NFL season was the 68th regular season of the National Football League. 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.
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. 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. Final television revenues were down by about 20%, a smaller drop than the networks had expected. 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. The Miami Dolphins opened their new stadium Joe Robbie Stadium. 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.
Major rule changes
- 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.
W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT = Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against
x – clinched wild card berth, y – clinched division title
- 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).
- 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