1997 NFL season

1997 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration August 31, 1997 – December 22, 1997
Start date December 27, 1997
AFC Champions Denver Broncos
NFC Champions Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl XXXII
Date January 25, 1998
Site Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
Champions Denver Broncos
Pro Bowl
Date February 1, 1998
Site Aloha Stadium

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 BearsMiami 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.


New uniforms

  • 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.

Coaching changes

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


1997OffensiveDefensiveSpecial Teams
SeptemberRB – Terrell Davis, DenverLB – Chris Slade, New EnglandK – Matt Stover, Baltimore
OctoberRB – Jerome Bettis, PittsburghDE – Bruce Smith, BuffaloK – Greg Davis, San Diego
NovemberQB – John Elway, DenverS – James Wood, Kansas CityWR-PR – Eric Metcalf, San Diego
DecemberWR – Keenan McCardell, JacksonvilleLB – Derrick Thomas, Kansas CityK – Pete Stoyanovich, Kansas City


1997OffensiveDefensiveSpecial Teams
SeptemberWR – Jake Reed, MinnesotaDT – Warren Sapp, Tampa BayK – Richie Cunningham, Dallas
OctoberRB – Barry Sanders, DetroitDT – John Randle, MinnesotaP – Matt Turk, Washington
NovemberRB – Barry Sanders, DetroitDT – Dana Stubblefield, San FranciscoK – Doug Brien, New Orleans
DecemberRB – Barry Sanders, DetroitCB – Jason Sehorn, New York GiantsRB-KR – Byron Hanspard, Atlanta


Dec. 28 – Houlihan's Stadium   Jan. 4 – Lambeau Field          
 5  Detroit  10
 4  Tampa Bay  7
 4  Tampa Bay  20     Jan. 11 – 3Com Park
 2  Green Bay  21  
Dec. 27 – Giants Stadium  2  Green Bay  23
Jan. 3 – 3Com Park
   1  San Francisco  10  
 6  Minnesota  23 NFC Championship
 6  Minnesota  22
 3  N.Y. Giants  22   Jan. 25 – Qualcomm Stadium
 1  San Francisco  38  
Wild card playoffs  
Divisional playoffs
Dec. 27 – Mile High Stadium  N2  Green Bay  24
Jan. 4 – Arrowhead Stadium
   A4  Denver  31
 5  Jacksonville  17 Super Bowl XXXII
 4  Denver  14
 4  Denver  42     Jan. 11 – Three Rivers Stadium
 1  Kansas City  10  
Dec. 28 – Foxboro Stadium  4  Denver  24
Jan. 3 – Three Rivers Stadium
   2  Pittsburgh  21  
 6  Miami  3 AFC Championship
 3  New England  6
 3  New England  17  
 2  Pittsburgh  7  

Statistical leaders


Points scoredDenver Broncos (472)
Total yards gainedDenver Broncos (5,872)
Yards rushingPittsburgh Steelers (2,479)
Yards passingSeattle Seahawks (3,959)
Fewest points allowedKansas City Chiefs (232)
Fewest total yards allowedSan Francisco 49ers (4,013)
Fewest rushing yards allowedPittsburgh Steelers (1,318)
Fewest passing yards allowedDallas Cowboys (2,522)


ScoringMike Hollis, Jacksonville (134 points)
TouchdownsKarim Abdul-Jabbar, Miami (16 TDs)
Most field goals madeRichie Cunningham, Dallas (34 FGs)
RushingBarry Sanders, Detroit, (2,053 yards)
PassingSteve Young, San Francisco (104.7 rating)
Passing touchdownsBrett Favre, Green Bay (35 TDs)
Pass receivingTim Brown, Oakland and Herman Moore, Detroit (104 catches)
Pass receiving yardsRob Moore, Arizona (1,584)
Punt returnsJermaine Lewis, Baltimore (15.6 average yards)
Kickoff returnsMichael Bates, Carolina (27.3 average yards)
InterceptionsRyan McNeil, St. Louis (9)
PuntingMark Royals, New Orleans (45.9 average yards)
SacksJohn Randle, Minnesota (15.5)


Most Valuable PlayersBrett Favre, Quarterback, Green Bay and Barry Sanders, Running back, Detroit
Coach of the YearJim Fassel, New York Giants
Offensive Player of the YearBarry Sanders, Running back, Detroit
Defensive Player of the YearDana Stubblefield, Defensive tackle, San Francisco
Offensive Rookie of the YearWarrick Dunn, Running back, Tampa Bay
Defensive Rookie of the YearPeter Boulware, Linebacker, Baltimore
NFL Comeback Player of the YearRobert Brooks, Wide Receiver, Green Bay
NFL Man of the YearTroy Aikman, Quarterback, Dallas
Super Bowl Most Valuable PlayerTerrell Davis, Running Back, Denver


The 1997 NFL Draft was held from April 19 to 20, 1997 at New York City's Theater at Madison Square Garden. With the first pick, the St. Louis Rams selected offensive tackle Orlando Pace from Ohio State University.


  • "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)
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