1973 NFL season
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|Duration||September 16 – December 16, 1973|
|Start date||December 22, 1973|
|AFC Champions||Miami Dolphins|
|NFC Champions||Minnesota Vikings|
|Super Bowl VIII|
|Date||January 13, 1974|
|Site||Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas|
|Date||January 20, 1974|
Kansas City, Missouri
The 1973 NFL season was the 54th regular season of the National Football League. The season featured O.J. Simpson becoming the first player 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 in Connecticut.
The season ended with Super Bowl VIII when the Miami Dolphins repeated as league champions by defeating the Minnesota Vikings 24–7 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas. The Pro Bowl took place on January 20, 1974, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri; the AFC beat the NFC 15–13.
- 1 Major rule changes
- 2 Division races
- 3 Final standings
- 4 Playoffs
- 5 Awards
- 6 Draft
- 7 Coaches
- 8 References
Major rule changes
Jersey numbering system
- A jersey numbering system is adopted (players who played in 1972 are grandfathered):
- 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 (two players wearing 00 at the time, Jim Otto and Ken Burrough, were grandfathered). Numbers 90–99 would be allowed again for defensive linemen in 1979 and for linebackers in 1984 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, except if the ball went out of bounds on the change of possession, or the change of possession occurred on the final play of the first or third quarters; in those cases, the clock started on the snap.
- 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.
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
|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|
- For the last time until 1997, the last two unbeaten teams in the league met in Week 7, with the Vikings tipping the Rams 10–9.
American Football Conference
|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|
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||5||9||0||.357||258||300|
|New York Jets||4||10||0||.286||240||306|
|Kansas City Chiefs||7||5||2||.571||231||192|
|San Diego Chargers||2||11||1||.179||188||386|
|St. Louis Cardinals||4||9||1||.321||286||365|
|New York Giants||2||11||1||.179||226||362|
|Green Bay Packers||5||7||2||.429||202||259|
|y-Los Angeles Rams||12||2||0||.857||388||178|
|San Francisco 49ers||5||9||0||.357||262||319|
|New Orleans Saints||5||9||0||.357||163||312|
- 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).
- Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation. Had the 1973 playoffs been seeded, the AFC divisional matchups would have been #3 Oakland at #2 Cincinnati and #4 wild card Pittsburgh at #1 Miami; the NFC matchups would not have changed, although #3 Dallas would have had to travel to #2 Los Angeles, and #1 Minnesota would have had home field for the NFC championship game.
|Divisional Playoffs||Conf. Championship Games||Super Bowl VIII|
|December 22 – Metropolitan Stadium|
|December 30 – Texas Stadium|
|December 23 – Texas Stadium|
|Los Angeles Rams||16|
|January 13 – Rice Stadium|
|December 22 – Oakland Coliseum|
|December 30 – Miami Orange Bowl|
|December 23 – Miami Orange Bowl|
|Most Valuable Player||O.J. Simpson, Running Back, Buffalo|
|Coach of the Year||Chuck Knox, Los Angeles|
|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|
|Man of the Year||Len Dawson, Quarterback, Kansas City|
|Comeback Player of the Year||Roman Gabriel, Quarterback, Eagles|
|Super Bowl Most Valuable Player||Larry Csonka, Running Back, Miami|
American Football Conference
- Baltimore Colts: Howard Schnellenberger
- Buffalo Bills: Lou Saban
- Cincinnati Bengals: Paul Brown
- Cleveland Browns: Nick Skorich
- Denver Broncos: John Ralston
- Houston Oilers: Bill Peterson (5 games) and Sid Gillman (9 games)
- Miami Dolphins: Don Shula
- Kansas City Chiefs: Hank Stram
- New England Patriots: Chuck Fairbanks
- New York Jets: Weeb Ewbank
- Oakland Raiders: John Madden
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Chuck Noll
- San Diego Chargers: Harland Svare
National Football Conference
- Atlanta Falcons: Norm Van Brocklin
- Chicago Bears: Abe Gibron
- Dallas Cowboys: Tom Landry
- Detroit Lions: Don McCafferty
- Green Bay Packers: Dan Devine
- Los Angeles Rams: Chuck Knox
- Minnesota Vikings: Bud Grant
- New Orleans Saints: John North
- New York Giants: Alex Webster
- Philadelphia Eagles: Mike McCormack
- San Francisco 49ers: Dick Nolan
- St. Louis Cardinals: Don Coryell
- Washington Redskins: George Allen