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1970 NFL season

1970 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 18 – December 20, 1970
Start date December 26, 1970
AFC Champions Baltimore Colts
NFC Champions Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl V
Date January 17, 1971
Site Miami Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida
Champions Baltimore Colts
Pro Bowl
Date January 24, 1971
Site Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

The 1970 NFL season was the 51st regular season of the National Football League, and the first one after the AFL-NFL Merger.

The merger forced a realignment between the combined league's clubs. Because there were 16 NFL teams and 10 AFL teams, three teams needed to transfer to balance the two new conferences at 13 teams each. In May 1969, the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to join all ten AFL teams to form the American Football Conference (AFC). The remaining NFL teams formed the National Football Conference (NFC). Replacing the old Eastern and Western conferences (although divisions from those conferences still existed but were renamed to suit the realignment), the new conferences, AFC and NFC, function similar to Major League Baseball's American and National leagues, and each of those two were divided into three divisions: East, Central, and West. The two Eastern divisions had five teams; the other four divisions had four teams each. The realignment discussions for the NFC were so contentious that the final plan was selected from a vase in January 1970.

The format agreed on was as follows:

NFC East: Dallas, New York (Giants), Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington

NFC Central: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota

NFC West: Atlanta, Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Francisco

AFC East: Baltimore, Buffalo, Miami, Boston, New York (Jets)

AFC Central: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Pittsburgh

AFC West: Denver, Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego

This arrangement would keep most of the pre-merger NFL teams in the NFC conference and the AFL teams in the AFC. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Baltimore were placed in the AFC in order to balance it out, while the NFC equalized the competitive strength of its East and West divisions rather than sorting out teams just geographically.

Prior to 1966, the NFL had two seven-team conferences:

Eastern Conference: Cleveland, Dallas, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Washington

Western Conference: Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles, Minnesota, and San Francisco.

Atlanta was added as an expansion franchise in 1966 and placed in the Eastern Conference. Every team had a bye week during the 1966 season.

When New Orleans was awarded an expansion franchise for 1967, the NFL divided its teams into two eight-team conferences, with two four-team divisions in each conference as follows:

Eastern Conference/Capitol Division: Dallas, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington

Eastern Conference/Century Division: Cleveland, New York, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis

Western Conference/Central Division: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, and Minnesota

Western Conference/Coastal Division: Baltimore, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco.

The Giants and Saints swapped divisions in 1968, and then returned to the 1967 alignment in 1969.

Meanwhile, the AFL for its 10-year existence had:

Eastern Division: Boston, Buffalo, Houston, and New York (with Miami added in 1966)

Western Division: Dallas/Kansas City, Denver, Los Angeles/San Diego, and Oakland (with Cincinnati added in 1968).

Division alignment in 1970 was largely intended to preserve the pre-merger setups, keeping traditional rivals in the same division. Plans were also made to add two expansion teams, but this would not take place until 1976, seven years after the merger.

The 26-team league began to use an eight-team playoff format, four from each conference, that included the three division winners and a wild card team, the second-place team with the best record. The season concluded with the Colts defeating the Dallas Cowboys 16–13 in Super Bowl V, the first Super Bowl played for the NFL Championship. The game was held at the Orange Bowl in Miami, and was the first Super Bowl played on artificial turf.

Seven teams played their home games on artificial turf in 1970. This was up from 2 teams in both the NFL and AFL in 1969. The teams were: Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh opened new stadiums: Riverfront Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium.

To televise their games, the combined league retained the services of CBS and NBC, who were previously the primary broadcasters of the NFL and the AFL, respectively. It was then decided that CBS would televise all NFC teams (including playoff games) while NBC all AFC teams. For interconference games, CBS would broadcast them if the visiting team was from the NFC and NBC would carry them when the visitors were from the AFC. At the time, all NFL games were blacked out in the home team's market, so this arrangement meant that fans in each team's home market would see all of their team's televised Sunday afternoon games on the same network (CBS for NFC teams and NBC for AFC teams). The two networks also divided up the Super Bowl on a yearly rotation.

Meanwhile, with the debut of Monday Night Football on ABC September 21, 1970, the league became the first professional sports league in the United States to have a regular series of nationally-televised games in prime-time, and the only league ever to have its games televised on three major broadcast networks at the same time. Both teams that advanced to the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Colts and the Dallas Cowboys, had suffered humiliating defeats at home on Monday Night Football during the season.

The Chicago Bears' first home game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles was played at Northwestern University's Dyche Stadium because the Chicago Cubs did not want to convert Wrigley Field, which they then shared with the Bears, to a football configuration while the Cubs were still in playoff contention. The Bears also treated this game as a trial run for possibly moving their home games to Evanston. Before the season, the league demanded that the Bears find a new home field because the seating capacity of Wrigley Field was too small (after the merger, all stadiums were required to seat at least 50,000), and Wrigley Field did not have lights, making it unavailable for late afternoon and night games. Ultimately, a deal to make Dyche Stadium the Bears' new home fell through, and negotiations with the Cubs' ownership for continued use of Wrigley Field also collapsed. As a result, the Bears moved to Soldier Field in 1971 where they remain to the present day, save for a temporary relocation in 2002 to the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium while Soldier Field was completely renovated.

On November 8, New Orleans Saints placekicker Tom Dempsey kicked a record 63-yard field goal. The record stood for 43 years (tied in 1998, 2011 and 2012) until it was broken in 2013 by Denver Broncos' Matt Prater.[1]

The Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, and Los Angeles Rams all started 3–0 but lost in Week Four. Only the Lions would go on to the playoffs after the 3–0 start.


  • Major rule changes 1
  • Division races 2
  • Final standings 3
    • Tiebreakers 3.1
  • Playoffs 4
  • Awards 5
  • References 6

Major rule changes

  • The NFL rules became the standardized rules for the merged league, which included dropping the AFL's two-point conversion. This would not be reinstated until 1994.
  • The stadium's scoreboard clock became the official game clock, an AFL innovation.
  • Rules were added to place last names on the back of players' jerseys. The AFL had had names on jerseys; the pre-merger NFL teams had not.

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.

The New York Giants lost their last regular-season game. Had they won that game, they would have tied for first place in the NFC East division and taken the division championship on a tie-breaker; then, the tie-breakers would have led to a coin toss between Dallas and Detroit for the NFC wild card. Because of this close call regarding possible use of coin toss, future tie-breakers would be expanded to have more competitive aspects.

National Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 Dallas 1–0–0 3 teams 1–0–0 3 teams 1–0–0 4 teams 1–0–0
2 Dallas 2–0–0 3 teams 2–0–0 2 teams 2–0–0 3 teams 2–0–0
3 St. Louis* 2–1–0 Detroit 3–0–0 Los Angeles 3–0–0 6 teams 2–1–0
4 St. Louis* 3–1–0 Detroit* 3–1–0 San Francisco* 3–1–0 4 teams 3–1–0
5 St. Louis 4–1–0 Detroit* 4–1–0 Los Angeles 4–1–0 Minnesota 4–1–0
6 St. Louis* 4–2–0 Detroit* 5–1–0 San Francisco 4–1–1 Minnesota 5–1–0
7 St. Louis* 5–2–0 Minnesota 6–1–0 San Francisco 5–1–1 3 teams 5–2–0
8 St. Louis 6–2–0 Minnesota 7–1–0 San Francisco 6–1–1 Los Angeles 5–2–1
9 St. Louis 7–2–0 Minnesota 8–1–0 San Francisco 7–1–1 N.Y. Giants 6–3–0
10 St. Louis 7–2–1 Minnesota 9–1–0 San Francisco 7–2–1 Los Angeles 6–3–1
11 St. Louis 8–2–1 Minnesota 9–2–0 Los Angeles* 7–3–1 San Francisco 7–3–1
12 St. Louis 8–3–1 Minnesota 10–2–0 Los Angeles* 8–3–1 San Francisco 8–3–1
13 N.Y. Giants* 9–4–0 Minnesota 11–2–0 San Francisco 9–3–1 Dallas* 9–4–0
14 Dallas 10–4–0 Minnesota 12–2–0 San Francisco 10–3–1 Detroit 10–4–0

American Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 2 teams 1–0–0 3 teams 1–0–0 Denver 1–0–0 3 teams 1–0–0
2 4 teams 1–1–0 3 teams 1–1–0 Denver 2–0–0 6 teams 1–1–0
3 Baltimore* 2–1–0 2 teams 2–1–0 Denver 3–0–0 2 teams 2–1–0
4 Baltimore* 3–1–0 Cleveland 3–1–0 Denver 3–1–0 Miami 3–1–0
5 Baltimore* 4–1–0 Cleveland 3–2–0 Denver 4–1–0 Miami 4–1–0
6 Baltimore 5–1–0 Cleveland 4–2–0 Denver 4–2–0 Miami 4–2–0
7 Baltimore 6–1–0 Cleveland 4–3–0 Oakland 3–2–2 Denver 4–3–0
8 Baltimore 7–1–0 Cleveland* 4–4–0 Oakland 4–2–2 Kansas City 4–3–1
9 Baltimore 7–1–1 Cleveland* 4–5–0 Oakland 5–2–2 Kansas City 5–3–1
10 Baltimore 7–2–1 Cleveland 5–5–0 Oakland 6–2–2 Kansas City 5–3–2
11 Baltimore 8–2–1 Cleveland* 5–6–0 Oakland* 6–3–2 Kansas City 6–3–2
12 Baltimore 9–2–1 Cleveland* 6–6–0 Oakland* 7–3–2 Kansas City 7–3–2
13 Baltimore 10–2–1 Cincinnati 7–6–0 Oakland 8–3–2 Miami 9–4–0
14 Baltimore 11–2–1 Cincinnati 8–6–0 Oakland 8–4–2 Miami 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

Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings

AFC East
y-Baltimore Colts 11 2 1 .846 321 234
x-Miami Dolphins 10 4 0 .714 297 228
New York Jets 4 10 0 .286 255 286
Buffalo Bills 3 10 1 .231 204 337
Boston Patriots 2 12 0 .143 149 361
AFC Central
y-Cincinnati Bengals 8 6 0 .571 312 255
Cleveland Browns 7 7 0 .500 286 265
Pittsburgh Steelers 5 9 0 .357 210 272
Houston Oilers 3 10 1 .231 217 352
AFC West
y-Oakland Raiders 8 4 2 .667 300 293
Kansas City Chiefs 7 5 2 .583 272 244
San Diego Chargers 5 6 3 .455 282 278
Denver Broncos 5 8 1 .385 253 264
NFC East
y-Dallas Cowboys 10 4 0 .714 299 221
New York Giants 9 5 0 .643 301 270
St. Louis Cardinals 8 5 1 .615 325 228
Washington Redskins 6 8 0 .429 297 314
Philadelphia Eagles 3 10 1 .231 241 332
NFC Central
y-Minnesota Vikings 12 2 0 .857 335 143
x-Detroit Lions 10 4 0 .714 347 202
Green Bay Packers 6 8 0 .429 196 293
Chicago Bears 6 8 0 .429 256 261
NFC West
y-San Francisco 49ers 10 3 1 .769 352 267
Los Angeles Rams 9 4 1 .692 325 202
Atlanta Falcons 4 8 2 .333 206 261
New Orleans Saints 2 11 1 .154 172 347


  • Green Bay finished ahead of Chicago in the NFC Central based on better division record (2–4 to Bears' 1–5).


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 V
December 27 – Oakland Coliseum        
 Miami Dolphins  14
January 3 – Memorial Stadium
 Oakland Raiders  21  
 Oakland Raiders  17
December 26 – Memorial Stadium
     Baltimore Colts  27  
 Cincinnati Bengals  0
January 17 – Miami Orange Bowl
 Baltimore Colts  17  
 Baltimore Colts  16
December 26 – Cotton Bowl    
   Dallas Cowboys  13
 Detroit Lions  0
January 3 – Kezar Stadium
 Dallas Cowboys  5  
 Dallas Cowboys  17
December 27 – Metropolitan Stadium
     San Francisco 49ers  10  
 San Francisco 49ers  17
 Minnesota Vikings  14  


Most Valuable Player John Brodie, Quarterback, San Francisco
Coach of the Year Dick Nolan, San Francisco
Offensive Rookie of the Year Dennis Shaw, Quarterback, Buffalo
Defensive Rookie of the Year Bruce Taylor, Cornerback, San Francisco


  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • NFL History 1961–1970 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
  1. ^ Brinson, Wil. "LOOK: Matt Prater makes NFL record 64-yard field goal". CBS. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
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