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1973 NFL season

Updated: 2017-07-23T20:47Z
1973 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 16 – December 16, 1973
Start dateDecember 22, 1973
AFC ChampionsMiami Dolphins
NFC ChampionsMinnesota Vikings
Super Bowl VIII
DateJanuary 13, 1974
SiteRice Stadium, Houston, Texas
ChampionsMiami Dolphins
Pro Bowl
DateJanuary 20, 1974
SiteArrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
Simpson pictured in the game where he became the first running back to gain over 2,000 yards in a season on Dec. 16, 1973.

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. The season ended with Super Bowl VIII when the Miami Dolphins repeated as league champions by defeating the Minnesota Vikings 24-7 at the 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.

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, in which case 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.[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

WeekEasternCentralWesternWild Card
14 teams1–0–02 teams1–0–02 teams1–0–05 teams1–0–0
2Dallas, St. Louis (tie)2–0–0Minnesota2–0–0Los Angeles2–0–0Dallas, St. Louis (tie)2–0–0
3Dallas3–0–0Minnesota3–0–0Los Angeles3–0–0St. Louis2–1–0
4Washington*3–1–0Minnesota4–0–0Los Angeles4–0–0Dallas3–1–0
5Washington4–1–0Minnesota5–0–0Los Angeles5–0–0Dallas3–2–0
6Washington5–1–0Minnesota6–0–0Los Angeles6–0–0Dallas4–2–0
7Washington5–2–0Minnesota7–0–0Los Angeles6–1–0Dallas*4–3–0
8Washington*5–3–0Minnesota8–0–0Los Angeles6–2–0Atlanta*5–3–0
9Washington*6–3–0Minnesota9–0–0Los Angeles7–2–0Atlanta*6–3–0
10Washington*7–3–0Minnesota9–1–0Los Angeles8–2–0Atlanta*7–3–0
11Washington8–3–0Minnesota10–1–0Los Angeles9–2–0Atlanta8–3–0
12Washington*9–3–0Minnesota10–2–0Los Angeles10–2–0Atlanta*8–4–0
13Dallas*9–4–0Minnesota11–2–0Los Angeles11–2–0Washington9–4–0
14Dallas10–4–0Minnesota12–2–0Los Angeles12–2–0Washington10–4–0
  • For the last time until 1997, the last two unbeaten teams in the league met in Week 7,[2] with the Vikings tipping the Rams 10–9.

American Football Conference

WeekEasternCentralWesternWild Card
1Buffalo, Miami (tie)1–0–0Cleveland, Pittsburgh (tie)1–0–0Denver1–0–02 teams1–0–0
2NY Jets1–1–0Pittsburgh2–0–04 teams1–1–07 teams1–1–0
3Buffalo2–1–0Pittsburgh3–0–0Kansas City2–1–03 teams2–1–0
4Buffalo, Miami (tie)3–1–0Pittsburgh4–0–0Kansas City3–1–0Buffalo, Miami (tie)3–1–0
5Buffalo, Miami (tie)4–1–0Pittsburgh4–1–0Kansas City3–1–1Buffalo, Miami (tie)4–1–0
6Miami5–1–0Pittsburgh5–1–0Kansas City3–2–1Cincinnati*4–2–0
9Miami8–1–0Pittsburgh8–1–0Oakland*5–3–1Kansas City*5–3–1
10Miami9–1–0Pittsburgh8–2–0Kansas City6–3–1Cleveland6–3–1

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
y-Miami Dolphins1220.857343150
Buffalo Bills950.643259230
New England Patriots590.357258300
New York Jets4100.286240306
Baltimore Colts4100.286226341
AFC Central
y-Cincinnati Bengals1040.714286231
x-Pittsburgh Steelers1040.714347210
Cleveland Browns752.571234255
Houston Oilers1130.071199447
AFC West
y-Oakland Raiders941.679292175
Kansas City Chiefs752.571231192
Denver Broncos752.571354296
San Diego Chargers2111.179188386
NFC East
y-Dallas Cowboys1040.714382203
x-Washington Redskins1040.714325198
Philadelphia Eagles581.393310393
St. Louis Cardinals491.321286365
New York Giants2111.179226362
NFC Central
y-Minnesota Vikings1220.857296168
Detroit Lions671.464271247
Green Bay Packers572.429202259
Chicago Bears3110.214195334
NFC West
y-Los Angeles Rams1220.857388178
Atlanta Falcons950.643318224
San Francisco 49ers590.357262319
New Orleans Saints590.357163312


  • 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 decided to retire.


Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation.
Divisional PlayoffsConf. Championship GamesSuper Bowl VIII
December 22 – Metropolitan Stadium    
 Washington 20
December 30 – Texas Stadium
 Minnesota 27 
 Minnesota 27
December 23 – Texas Stadium
   Dallas 10 
 Los Angeles 16
January 13 – Rice Stadium
 Dallas 27 
 Minnesota 7
December 22 – Oakland Coliseum  
  Miami 24
 Pittsburgh 14
December 30 – Miami Orange Bowl
 Oakland 33 
 Oakland 10
December 23 – Miami Orange Bowl
   Miami 27 
 Cincinnati 16
 Miami 34 


Most Valuable PlayerO.J. Simpson, Running Back, Buffalo
Coach of the YearChuck Knox, Los Angeles
Offensive Player of the YearO.J. Simpson, Running Back, Buffalo
Defensive Player of the YearDick Anderson, Safety, Miami
Offensive Rookie of the YearChuck Foreman, Running Back, Minnesota
Defensive Rookie of the YearWally Chambers, Defensive Tackle, Chicago


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