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1990 NFL season

Updated: 2017-05-31T00:43Z
1990 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 9 – December 31, 1990
Start dateJanuary 5, 1991
AFC ChampionsBuffalo Bills
NFC ChampionsNew York Giants
Super Bowl XXV
DateJanuary 27, 1991
SiteTampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida
ChampionsNew York Giants
Pro Bowl
DateFebruary 3, 1991
SiteAloha Stadium

The 1990 NFL season was the 71st regular season of the National Football League. To increase revenue, the league changed the regular season so that all NFL teams would play their 16-game schedule over a 17-week period. Furthermore, the playoff format was expanded from 10 teams to 12 teams by adding another wild card from each conference, thus adding two more contests to the postseason schedule; this number remains in use now. During four out of the five previous seasons, at least one team with a 10–6 record missed the playoffs, including the 11–5 Denver Broncos in 1985; meanwhile, the 10–6 San Francisco 49ers won Super Bowl XXIII, leading for calls to expand the playoff format to ensure that 10–6 teams could compete for a Super Bowl win. Ironically, the first ever sixth-seeded playoff team would not have a 10–6 record, but instead, the New Orleans Saints, with a paltry 8–8 record, took the new playoff spot.

This was also the first full season for Paul Tagliabue as the Commissioner, after taking over from Pete Rozelle midway through the previous season.

ABC was given the rights to televise the two additional playoff games. Meanwhile, Turner's TNT network started to broadcast Sunday night games for the first half of the season.

On October 8, the league announced that the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award would be named the Pete Rozelle Trophy.[1] The season ended with Super Bowl XXV when the New York Giants defeated the Buffalo Bills 20-19 at Tampa Stadium. This would be the first Super Bowl loss for Buffalo. They would lose the next three Super Bowls as well.

Late in the season, with the Gulf War looming closer, the NFL announced that starting in Week 16 (and continuing until Super Bowl XXV), the league would add American flag decals to the back of the helmet.[2] The flag would return on a permanent basis in 2001 following the September 11 attacks.

Major rule changes

  • The rule for unnecessary roughness penalties is clarified so that any player who butts, spears, or rams an opponent is ejected.
  • The penalty for an illegal forward pass beyond the line of scrimmage is enforced from the spot where any part of the passer's body is beyond the line when the ball is released.
  • The following changes are made to try to speed up the game:
    • the time interval on the Play Clock (the time limit the offensive team has to snap the ball between plays) after time outs and other administrative stoppages has been reduced from 30 seconds to 25 seconds (the time interval between plays remains the same at 45 seconds);
    • whenever a player goes out of bounds, other than in the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half or overtime, the game clock immediately starts when the ball is spotted for the next play and the Referee signals it is ready for play; and
    • other than in the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half or overtime the game clock also starts following all declined penalties.
  • This was the first season in which NFL teams officially started to have a bye week.

Final regular season standings

W = Wins, L = Losses, PCT = Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against

Clinched playoff seeds are marked in parentheses and shaded in green. No ties occurred this season.

AFC East
(1) Buffalo Bills133.813428263
(4) Miami Dolphins124.750336242
Indianapolis Colts79.438281353
New York Jets610.375295345
New England Patriots115.063181446
AFC Central
(3) Cincinnati Bengals97.563360352
(6) Houston Oilers97.563405307
Pittsburgh Steelers97.563292240
Cleveland Browns313.188228462
AFC West
(2) Los Angeles Raiders124.750337268
(5) Kansas City Chiefs115.688369257
Seattle Seahawks97.563306286
San Diego Chargers610.375315281
Denver Broncos511.313331374
NFC East
(2) New York Giants133.813335211
(4) Philadelphia Eagles106.625396299
(5) Washington Redskins106.625381301
Dallas Cowboys79.438244308
Phoenix Cardinals511.313268396
NFC Central
(3) Chicago Bears115.688348280
Tampa Bay Buccaneers610.375264367
Detroit Lions610.375373413
Green Bay Packers610.375271347
Minnesota Vikings610.375351326
NFC West
(1) San Francisco 49ers142.875353239
(6) New Orleans Saints88.500274275
Los Angeles Rams511.313345412
Atlanta Falcons511.313348365


  • Cincinnati finished ahead of Houston and Pittsburgh in the AFC Central based on best head-to-head record (3–1 to Oilers' 2–2 to Steelers' 1–3).
  • Houston was the third AFC Wild Card based on better conference record (8–4) than Seattle (7–5) and Pittsburgh (6–6).
  • Philadelphia finished ahead of Washington in the NFC East based on better division record (5–3 to Redskins' 4–4).
  • Tampa Bay was second in NFC Central based on best head-to-head record (5–1) against Detroit (2–4), Green Bay (3–3), and Minnesota (2–4).
  • Detroit finished third in the NFC Central based on best net division points (minus 8) against Green Bay (minus 40).
  • Green Bay finished ahead of Minnesota in the NFC Central based on better conference record (5–7 to Vikings' 4–8).
  • The L.A. Rams finished ahead of Atlanta in the NFC West based on net points in division (plus 1 to Falcons' minus 31).


Jan. 6 – Riverfront Stadium Jan. 13 – Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum     
  6  Houston  14
  3  Cincinnati  10
  3  Cincinnati  41  Jan. 20 – Rich Stadium
  2  LA Raiders  20 
Jan. 5 – Joe Robbie Stadium  2  LA Raiders  3
Jan. 12 – Rich Stadium
   1  Buffalo  51 
  5  Kansas City  16AFC Championship
  4  Miami  34
  4  Miami  17 Jan. 27 – Tampa Stadium
  1  Buffalo  44 
Wild card playoffs 
Divisional playoffs
Jan. 6 – Soldier Field A1  Buffalo  19
Jan. 13 – Giants Stadium
  N2  NY Giants  20
  6  New Orleans  6Super Bowl XXV
  3  Chicago  3
  3  Chicago  16  Jan. 20 – Candlestick Park
  2  NY Giants  31 
Jan. 5 – Veterans Stadium  2  NY Giants  15
Jan. 12 – Candlestick Park
   1  San Francisco  13 
  5  Washington  20NFC Championship
  5  Washington  10
  4  Philadelphia  6 
  1  San Francisco  28 

Statistical leaders


Points scoredBuffalo Bills (428)
Total yards gainedHouston Oilers (6,222)
Yards rushingPhiladelphia Eagles (2,556)
Yards passingHouston Oilers (4,805)
Fewest points allowedNew York Giants (211)
Fewest total yards allowedPittsburgh Steelers (4,115)
Fewest rushing yards allowedPhiladelphia Eagles (1,169)
Fewest passing yards allowedPittsburgh Steelers (2,500)


Most Valuable PlayerJoe Montana, Quarterback, San Francisco
Coach of the YearJimmy Johnson, Dallas
Offensive Player of the YearWarren Moon, Quarterback, Houston Oilers
Defensive Player of the YearBruce Smith, Defensive End, Buffalo
Offensive Rookie of the YearEmmitt Smith, Running Back, Dallas
Defensive Rookie of the YearMark Carrier, Safety, Chicago


  1. ^ "NFL History by Decade: 1981–1990". Archived from the original on October 6, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2008. 
  2. ^
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