The 1997 NFL season was the 78th regular season of the National Football League. The Oilers relocated from Houston, Texas to Nashville, Tennessee. The newly renamed Tennessee Oilers played their home games during this season at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee while construction of a new stadium in Nashville started. Houston would rejoin the NFL with the expansion Texans in 2002.
This was the last season to date that TNT broadcast NFL games, as well as the last for NBC until 2006. When the TV contracts were renewed near the end of the season, Fox retained the National Football Conference package, CBS took over the American Football Conference package and ESPN won the right to televise all of the Sunday night games.
Due to Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, the Chicago Bears–Miami Dolphins game at Pro Player Stadium was delayed one day to Monday, October 27.
The Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers both changed their uniforms, and the new uniforms for both teams were introduced during this season.
The season ended with Super Bowl XXXII when the Denver Broncos defeated the Green Bay Packers 31–24 at Qualcomm Stadium. This broke the National Football Conference's streak of thirteen consecutive Super Bowl victories, the last American Football Conference win having been the Los Angeles Raiders defeating the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – New font style numbers to match those on the helmets; Steelers logo patch on uniform.
- Baltimore Ravens – New style numbers with shadow in the back; wore white pants with home uniforms.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Brighter orange on uniform; new Logo, and Bengals logo on sleeve ends.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – New logo and uniforms; Pewter pants and red home jerseys. Orange was maintained as a pinstripe.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – New font style numbers; black side panels on uniforms.
- Atlanta Falcons – New Logo; new striping on pants; red numbers with black trim on road uniforms.
- San Diego Chargers – White pants with road uniforms.
- Denver Broncos – New Logo and uniforms, with navy replacing orange as the primary color.
- Miami Dolphins – New Logo with darker aqua; new shadow in the numbers.
Major rule changes
- When a team fakes a punt and throws the ball downfield, pass interference will not be called on the two outside defenders who are actually trying to block a coverage man from getting downfield and might not even know the ball has been thrown.
- In order to reduce taunting and excessive celebrations, no player may remove his helmet while on the playing field except during timeouts, between quarters, and in the case of an injury. Violating the rule results in a 15-yard penalty. This is known as the "Emmitt Smith rule" after the Dallas Cowboys' running back's habit of taking his helmet off every time he scored a touchdown.
Final regular season standings
- Miami finished ahead of NY Jets in the AFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
- Pittsburgh finished ahead of Jacksonville in the AFC Central based on better net division points (78 to Jaguars’ 23).
- Oakland finished ahead of San Diego in the AFC West based on better division record (2–6 to Chargers’ 1–7).
- San Francisco was the top NFC playoff seed based on better conference record than Green Bay (11–1 to Packers’ 10–2).
- Detroit finished ahead of Minnesota in the NFC Central based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
- Carolina finished ahead of Atlanta in the NFC West based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
Players of the Month
|September||RB – Terrell Davis, Denver||LB – Chris Slade, New England||K – Matt Stover, Baltimore|
|October||RB – Jerome Bettis, Pittsburgh||DE – Bruce Smith, Buffalo||K – Greg Davis, San Diego|
|November||QB – John Elway, Denver||S – James Wood, Kansas City||WR-PR – Eric Metcalf, San Diego|
|December||WR – Keenan McCardell, Jacksonville||LB – Derrick Thomas, Kansas City||K – Pete Stoyanovich, Kansas City|
|September||WR – Jake Reed, Minnesota||DT – Warren Sapp, Tampa Bay||K – Richie Cunningham, Dallas|
|October||RB – Barry Sanders, Detroit||DT – John Randle, Minnesota||P – Matt Turk, Washington|
|November||RB – Barry Sanders, Detroit||DT – Dana Stubblefield, San Francisco||K – Doug Brien, New Orleans|
|December||RB – Barry Sanders, Detroit||CB – Jason Sehorn, New York Giants||RB-KR – Byron Hanspard, Atlanta|
|Scoring||Mike Hollis, Jacksonville (134 points)|
|Touchdowns||Karim Abdul-Jabbar, Miami (16 TDs)|
|Most field goals made||Richie Cunningham, Dallas (34 FGs)|
|Rushing||Barry Sanders, Detroit, (2,053 yards)|
|Passing||Steve Young, San Francisco (104.7 rating)|
|Passing touchdowns||Brett Favre, Green Bay (35 TDs)|
|Pass receiving||Tim Brown, Oakland and Herman Moore, Detroit (104 catches)|
|Pass receiving yards||Rob Moore, Arizona (1,584)|
|Punt returns||Jermaine Lewis, Baltimore (15.6 average yards)|
|Kickoff returns||Michael Bates, Carolina (27.3 average yards)|
|Interceptions||Ryan McNeil, St. Louis (9)|
|Punting||Mark Royals, New Orleans (45.9 average yards)|
|Sacks||John Randle, Minnesota (15.5)|
|Most Valuable Players||Brett Favre, Quarterback, Green Bay and Barry Sanders, Running back, Detroit|
|Coach of the Year||Jim Fassel, New York Giants|
|Offensive Player of the Year||Barry Sanders, Running back, Detroit|
|Defensive Player of the Year||Dana Stubblefield, Defensive tackle, San Francisco|
|Offensive Rookie of the Year||Warrick Dunn, Running back, Tampa Bay|
|Defensive Rookie of the Year||Peter Boulware, Linebacker, Baltimore|
|NFL Comeback Player of the Year||Robert Brooks, Wide Receiver, Green Bay|
|NFL Man of the Year||Troy Aikman, Quarterback, Dallas|
|Super Bowl Most Valuable Player||Terrell Davis, Running Back, Denver|
- "The Official national Football League: 1998 Record and Fact Book." Workman Publishing Co. New York. July 1998.
- NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
- NFL History 1991–2000 (Last accessed October 17, 2005)
- Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
- Steelers Fever – History of NFL Rules (Last accessed October 17, 2005)