1973 NFL season

1973 National Football League season
Regular season
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
Champions Miami Dolphins
Pro Bowl
Date January 20, 1974
Site Arrowhead Stadium,
Kansas City, Missouri

The 1973 NFL season was the 54th regular season of the National Football League. The season was highlighted by O.J. Simpson becoming the first player to rush for 2,000 yards in one season.

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.

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 to 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 to 99 would be allowed again for defensive linemen from 1979 and for linebackers from 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.[1]

Stadium changes

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, records against common opponents, and records in conference play.

National Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
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
4 Washington* 3–1–0 Minnesota 4–0–0 Los Angeles 4–0–0 Dallas 3–1–0
5 Washington 4–1–0 Minnesota 5–0–0 Los Angeles 5–0–0 Dallas 3–2–0
6 Washington 5–1–0 Minnesota 6–0–0 Los Angeles 6–0–0 Dallas 4–2–0
7 Washington 5–2–0 Minnesota 7–0–0 Los Angeles 6–1–0 Dallas* 4–3–0
8 Washington* 5–3–0 Minnesota 8–0–0 Los Angeles 6–2–0 Atlanta* 5–3–0
9 Washington* 6–3–0 Minnesota 9–0–0 Los Angeles 7–2–0 Atlanta* 6–3–0
10 Washington* 7–3–0 Minnesota 9–1–0 Los Angeles 8–2–0 Atlanta* 7–3–0
11 Washington 8–3–0 Minnesota 10–1–0 Los Angeles 9–2–0 Atlanta 8–3–0
12 Washington* 9–3–0 Minnesota 10–2–0 Los Angeles 10–2–0 Atlanta* 8–4–0
13 Dallas* 9–4–0 Minnesota 11–2–0 Los Angeles 11–2–0 Washington 9–4–0
14 Dallas 10–4–0 Minnesota 12–2–0 Los Angeles 12–2–0 Washington 10–4–0
  • 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

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

Final standings


  • 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. 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 PlayoffsConf. Championship GamesSuper Bowl VIII
December 22 – Metropolitan Stadium
Washington Redskins20
December 30 – Texas Stadium
Minnesota Vikings27
Minnesota Vikings27
December 23 – Texas Stadium
Dallas Cowboys10
Los Angeles Rams16
January 13 – Rice Stadium
Dallas Cowboys27
Minnesota Vikings7
December 22 – Oakland Coliseum
Miami Dolphins24
Pittsburgh Steelers14
December 30 – Miami Orange Bowl
Oakland Raiders33
Oakland Raiders10
December 23 – Miami Orange Bowl
Miami Dolphins27
Cincinnati Bengals16
Miami Dolphins34


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
Man of the YearLen Dawson, Quarterback, Kansas City
Comeback Player of the YearRoman Gabriel, Quarterback, Eagles
Super Bowl Most Valuable PlayerLarry Csonka, Running Back, Miami


The 1973 NFL Draft was held from January 30 to 31, 1973 at New York City's Americana Hotel. With the first pick, the Houston Oilers selected defensive end John Matuszak from the University of Tampa.


American Football Conference

National Football Conference


  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • NFL History 1971–1980 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
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