1998 NFL season

1998 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 6 – December 28, 1998
Start date January 2, 1999
AFC Champions Denver Broncos
NFC Champions Atlanta Falcons
Super Bowl XXXIII
Date January 31, 1999
Site Pro Player Stadium, Miami
Champions Denver Broncos
Pro Bowl
Date February 7, 1999
Site Aloha Stadium

The 1998 NFL season was the 79th regular season of the National Football League.

The season culminated with Super Bowl XXXIII, with the Denver Broncos defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34–19 at Pro Player Stadium. The Broncos had won their first thirteen games, the best start since the undefeated 1972 Dolphins, and were tipped by some to have a realistic chance at winning all nineteen games.[1][2] The Minnesota Vikings became the first team since the 1968 Baltimore Colts to win all but one of their regular season games and not win the Super Bowl. After no team had won 14 regular season games since the 1992 49ers, three teams went 14–2 or better for the only time in a 16-game season.

Football Outsiders noted:

Major rule changes

  • The officiating position titles of back judge and field judge were swapped to become more consistent with college and high school football. The field judge is now 20 yards deep, positioned on the same sideline as the line judge, while the back judge is 25 yards from the line of scrimmage near the center of the field.
  • Tinted visors on players' facemasks are banned except for medical need.
  • A defensive player can no longer flinch before the snap in an attempt to draw movement from an offensive lineman.
  • A team will be penalized immediately for having 12 players in a huddle even if the 12th player goes straight to the sideline as the huddle breaks.
  • During the season, the rules regarding the coin toss were changed to where the visiting team must make the call before the coin is tossed instead of while it was in the air. On Thanksgiving, the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions went to overtime. During the coin toss, Steelers running back Jerome Bettis was heard calling "tails" but referee Phil Luckett claimed he said "heads". The coin landed on tails, and the Lions won the toss and eventually the game on a Jason Hanson field goal. It was later revealed that Bettis had changed his mind during the call and was originally going to call "heads" but stopped.[4] Thus, the rule change was adopted to prevent any further confusion.


New uniforms

Coaching changes


This was the first season that CBS held the rights to televise American Football Conference games, taking over the package from NBC. Meanwhile, this was the first time that ESPN broadcast all of the Sunday night games throughout the season (this was also the first season in which ESPN's coverage used the Monday Night Football themes, before reverting to using an original theme in 2001).

Final regular season standings


  • Miami finished ahead of Buffalo in the AFC East based on better net division points (6 to Bills’ 0).
  • Oakland finished ahead of Seattle in the AFC West based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • Carolina finished ahead of St. Louis in the NFC West based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).


Jan. 3 – Alltel Stadium   Jan. 10 – Giants Stadium          
 6  New England  10
 3  Jacksonville  24
 3  Jacksonville  25     Jan. 17 – Mile High Stadium
 2  NY Jets  34  
Jan. 2 – Pro Player Stadium  2  NY Jets  10
Jan. 9 – Mile High Stadium
   1  Denver  23  
 5  Buffalo  17 AFC Championship
 4  Miami  3
 4  Miami  24   Jan. 31 – Pro Player Stadium
 1  Denver  38  
Wild card playoffs  
Divisional playoffs
Jan. 3 – 3Com Park  A1  Denver  34
Jan. 9 – Georgia Dome
   N2  Atlanta  19
 5  Green Bay  27 Super Bowl XXXIII
 4  San Francisco  18
 4  San Francisco  30     Jan. 17 – Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
 2  Atlanta  20  
Jan. 2 – Texas Stadium  2  Atlanta  30*
Jan. 10 – Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
   1  Minnesota  27  
 6  Arizona  20 NFC Championship
 6  Arizona  21
 3  Dallas  7  
 1  Minnesota  41  

* Indicates overtime victory

Statistical leaders


Points scoredMinnesota Vikings (556)
Total yards gainedSan Francisco 49ers (6,800)
Yards rushingSan Francisco 49ers (2,544)
Yards passingMinnesota Vikings (4,328)
Fewest points allowedMiami Dolphins (265)
Fewest total yards allowedSan Diego Chargers (4,208)
Fewest rushing yards allowedSan Diego Chargers (1,140)
Fewest passing yards allowedPhiladelphia Eagles (2,720)


ScoringGary Anderson, Minnesota (164 points)
TouchdownsTerrell Davis, Denver (23 TDs)
Most field goals madeAl Del Greco, Tennessee (36 FGs)
RushingTerrell Davis, Denver (2,008 yards)
PassingRandall Cunningham, Minnesota, (106.0 rating)
Passing touchdownsSteve Young, San Francisco (36 TDs)
Pass receivingO.J. McDuffie, Miami (90 catches)
Pass receiving yardsAntonio Freeman, Green Bay (1,424)
Receiving touchdownsRandy Moss, Minnesota (17 touchdowns)
Punt returnsDeion Sanders, Dallas (15.6 average yards)
Kickoff returnsTerry Fair, Detroit (28.0 average yards)
InterceptionsTy Law, New England (8)
PuntingCraig Hentrich, Tennessee (47.2 average yards)
SacksMichael Sinclair, Seattle (16.5)


Most Valuable PlayerTerrell Davis, Running back, Denver
Coach of the YearDan Reeves, Atlanta
Offensive Player of the YearTerrell Davis, Running back, Denver
Defensive Player of the YearReggie White, Defensive end, Green Bay
Offensive Rookie of the YearRandy Moss, Wide receiver, Minnesota
Defensive Rookie of the YearCharles Woodson, Cornerback, Oakland
NFL Comeback Player of the YearDoug Flutie, Quarterback, Buffalo
NFL Man of the YearDan Marino, Quarterback, Miami
Super Bowl Most Valuable PlayerJohn Elway, Quarterback, Denver


The 1998 NFL Draft was held from April 17 to 18, 1998 at New York City's Theater at Madison Square Garden. With the first pick, the Indianapolis Colts selected quarterback Peyton Manning from the University of Tennessee.


  1. "New York eyes 19–0, but there's no rush" in Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 16, 1998
  2. Freeman, Mike; "Chasing Perfection and Taking Questions; Voluble Broncos Are 13–0 and Ready to Talk" in The New York Times, December 9, 1998
  3. 1998 DVOA Ratings and Commentary
  4. Pincus, David (November 26, 2010). "11/26/1998 - The Turkey Day coin flip". sbnation.com. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
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