1970 NFL season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 18 – December 20, 1970
Start dateDecember 26, 1970
AFC ChampionsBaltimore Colts
NFC ChampionsDallas Cowboys
Super Bowl V
DateJanuary 17, 1971
SiteOrange Bowl, Miami, Florida
ChampionsBaltimore Colts
Pro Bowl
DateJanuary 24, 1971
SiteLos Angeles Memorial Coliseum
1970 NFL season is located in the United States
AFC teams: West, Central, East
1970 NFL season is located in the United States
NFC teams: West, Central, East

The 1970 NFL season was the 51st regular season of the National Football League, and the first after the consummation of the AFL–NFL merger. The merged league realigned into two conferences: all ten of the American Football League (AFL) teams joined the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers to form the American Football Conference (AFC); the other thirteen NFL clubs formed the National Football Conference (NFC).

The season concluded in 1971 with Super Bowl V on January 17, as the Baltimore Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys 16–13 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. The Pro Bowl was the following Sunday; the NFC beat the AFC 27–6 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Merger between NFL and AFL

The merger forced a realignment between the combined league's clubs. During the previous 1969 season, there were 16 NFL teams and 10 AFL teams:

1969 AFL teams
Eastern Western
Buffalo Bills Denver Broncos
Miami Dolphins Kansas City Chiefs
Boston Patriots Oakland Raiders
New York Jets San Diego Chargers
Houston Oilers Cincinnati Bengals
1969 NFL teams
Eastern Western
Capitol Century Central Coastal
Dallas Cowboys Cleveland Browns Chicago Bears Los Angeles Rams
New Orleans Saints New York Giants Detroit Lions San Francisco 49ers
Philadelphia Eagles Pittsburgh Steelers Green Bay Packers Atlanta Falcons
Washington Redskins St. Louis Cardinals Minnesota Vikings Baltimore Colts

Because there were more NFL teams than AFL teams, three teams needed to be transferred to balance the two new conferences at 13 teams each. In May 1969, the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to join all ten AFL teams to form the American Football Conference (AFC). The remaining NFL teams formed the National Football Conference (NFC).

Replacing the old Eastern and Western conferences (although divisions from those conferences still existed but were renamed to suit the realignment), the new conferences, AFC and NFC, function similar to Major League Baseball's American and National leagues, and each of those two were divided into three divisions: East, Central, and West. The two Eastern divisions had five teams; the other four divisions had four teams each. The realignment discussions for the NFC were so contentious that one final plan, out of five of them, was selected from an envelope in a vase by Commissioner Pete Rozelle's secretary, Thelma Elkjer[1] on January 16, 1970.

The format agreed on was as follows:

1970 NFL teams
AFC East Central West
Baltimore Colts Cincinnati Bengals Denver Broncos
Boston Patriots Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs
Buffalo Bills Houston Oilers Oakland Raiders
Miami Dolphins Pittsburgh Steelers San Diego Chargers
New York Jets
NFC East Central West
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
New York Giants Detroit Lions Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints
St. Louis Cardinals Minnesota Vikings San Francisco 49ers
Washington Redskins

This arrangement would keep most of the pre-merger NFL teams in the NFC and the AFL teams in the AFC. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Baltimore were placed in the AFC in order to balance the conferences, while the NFC equalized the competitive strength of its East and West divisions rather than sorting out teams purely geographically.

Division alignment in 1970 largely kept traditional rivals in the same division. Plans were also made to add two expansion teams, but this would not take place until 1976, seven years after the merger, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks joined the league.

The 26-team league also began to use an eight-team playoff format, four from each conference, that included the three division winners and a wild card team, the second-place team with the best record.


The 1970 NFL Draft was held from January 27 to 28, 1970 at New York City's Belmont Plaza Hotel. With the first pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected quarterback Terry Bradshaw from Louisiana Tech University.

Major rule changes

The Colts running an offensive play in Super Bowl V

The NFL rules became the standardized rules for the merged league, with two exceptions that were both carried over from the AFL:

After experimenting with compromise rules regarding the two-point conversion (then exclusive to the AFL) during the late 1960s preseasons, the NFL decided not to use that feature and use its previous rule only allowing one point for any conversion. The two-point conversion would later be added to the NFL rules in 1994.

Division races

Starting in 1970, 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 intra-conference records and finally a coin flip. This became problematic during the final week of the regular season when potential victories by the Cowboys, Lions and Giants (all of whom were playing at home and favored to win) would have resulted in all three teams having similar records, New York winning the NFC East championship and a coin toss between Dallas and Detroit to decide the wild card.[2] That possibility was averted when the Giants were upset by the Los Angeles Rams.[3] Because of this close call regarding possible use of coin toss, future tie-breakers would be expanded to have more competitive aspects.

National Football Conference
Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 Dallas 1–0–0 3 teams 1–0–0 3 teams 1–0–0 4 teams 1–0–0
2 Dallas 2–0–0 3 teams 2–0–0 2 teams 2–0–0 3 teams 2–0–0
3 St. Louis* 2–1–0 Detroit 3–0–0 Los Angeles 3–0–0 6 teams 2–1–0
4 St. Louis* 3–1–0 Detroit* 3–1–0 San Francisco* 3–1–0 4 teams 3–1–0
5 St. Louis 4–1–0 Detroit* 4–1–0 Los Angeles 4–1–0 Minnesota 4–1–0
6 St. Louis* 4–2–0 Detroit* 5–1–0 San Francisco 4–1–1 Minnesota 5–1–0
7 St. Louis* 5–2–0 Minnesota 6–1–0 San Francisco 5–1–1 3 teams 5–2–0
8 St. Louis 6–2–0 Minnesota 7–1–0 San Francisco 6–1–1 Los Angeles 5–2–1
9 St. Louis 7–2–0 Minnesota 8–1–0 San Francisco 7–1–1 N.Y. Giants 6–3–0
10 St. Louis 7–2–1 Minnesota 9–1–0 San Francisco 7–2–1 Los Angeles 6–3–1
11 St. Louis 8–2–1 Minnesota 9–2–0 Los Angeles* 7–3–1 San Francisco 7–3–1
12 St. Louis 8–3–1 Minnesota 10–2–0 Los Angeles* 8–3–1 San Francisco 8–3–1
13 N.Y. Giants* 9–4–0 Minnesota 11–2–0 San Francisco 9–3–1 Dallas* 9–4–0
14 Dallas 10–4–0 Minnesota 12–2–0 San Francisco 10–3–1 Detroit 10–4–0
American Football Conference
Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 2 teams 1–0–0 3 teams 1–0–0 Denver 1–0–0 3 teams 1–0–0
2 4 teams 1–1–0 3 teams 1–1–0 Denver 2–0–0 6 teams 1–1–0
3 Baltimore* 2–1–0 2 teams 2–1–0 Denver 3–0–0 2 teams 2–1–0
4 Baltimore* 3–1–0 Cleveland 3–1–0 Denver 3–1–0 Miami 3–1–0
5 Baltimore* 4–1–0 Cleveland 3–2–0 Denver 4–1–0 Miami 4–1–0
6 Baltimore 5–1–0 Cleveland 4–2–0 Denver 4–2–0 Miami 4–2–0
7 Baltimore 6–1–0 Cleveland 4–3–0 Oakland 3–2–2 Denver 4–3–0
8 Baltimore 7–1–0 Cleveland* 4–4–0 Oakland 4–2–2 Kansas City 4–3–1
9 Baltimore 7–1–1 Cleveland* 4–5–0 Oakland 5–2–2 Kansas City 5–3–1
10 Baltimore 7–2–1 Cleveland 5–5–0 Oakland 6–2–2 Kansas City 5–3–2
11 Baltimore 8–2–1 Cleveland* 5–6–0 Oakland* 6–3–2 Kansas City 6–3–2
12 Baltimore 9–2–1 Cleveland* 6–6–0 Oakland* 7–3–2 Kansas City 7–3–2
13 Baltimore 10–2–1 Cincinnati 7–6–0 Oakland 8–3–2 Miami 9–4–0
14 Baltimore 11–2–1 Cincinnati 8–6–0 Oakland 8–4–2 Miami 10–4–0

Final standings



Main article: 1970–71 NFL playoffs

Note: Although the home teams in these playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation, the home club coincidentally happened to be the one with the better record in every game. Had the playoffs been seeded, the only difference would have been that the #4 wild card Lions, ineligible to play the Vikings, would have played at the #2 49ers and the #3 Cowboys would have played at the #1 Vikings in the NFC divisional playoffs.
Dec 27 – Oakland Coliseum
WC Miami 14
Jan 3 – Memorial Stadium
West Oakland 21
West Oakland 17
Dec 26 – Memorial Stadium
East Baltimore 27
AFC Championship
Cent. Cincinnati 0
Jan 17 – Miami Orange Bowl
East Baltimore 17
Divisional playoffs
AFC Baltimore 16
Dec 26 – Cotton Bowl
NFC Dallas 13
Super Bowl V
WC Detroit 0
Jan 3 – Kezar Stadium
East Dallas 5
East Dallas 17
Dec 27 – Metropolitan Stadium
West San Francisco 10
NFC Championship
West San Francisco 17
Cent. Minnesota 14


On November 8, New Orleans Saints placekicker Tom Dempsey kicked a record 63-yard field goal as time expired to win 19–17 over the visiting Detroit Lions. It bettered the previous record by seven yards (set seventeen years earlier by Bert Rechichar),[4][5] and stood for 43 years (tied in 1998, 2011, and 2012) until it was broken in 2013 by Denver Broncos' Matt Prater.[6] His record 64-yard field goal was at elevation in Denver on December 8, at the end of the first half. That record would stand until September 26, 2021, when Baltimore Ravens' Justin Tucker kicked a 66 yard field goal as time expired to win 19-17 over the Detroit Lions[7]

The Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, and Los Angeles Rams all started 3–0 but lost in Week Four. Only the Lions advanced to the postseason after the 3–0 start.

Coaching changes


Head coaches at the start of the merged 1970 NFL regular season
East Central West East Central West
Baltimore: Don McCafferty Cincinnati: Paul Brown Denver: Lou Saban Dallas: Tom Landry Chicago: Jim Dooley Atlanta: Norm Van Brocklin
Boston: Clive Rush Cleveland: Blanton Collier Kansas City: Hank Stram NY Giants: Alex Webster Detroit: Joe Schmidt Los Angeles: George Allen
Buffalo: John Rauch Houston: Wally Lemm Oakland: John Madden Philadelphia: Jerry Williams Green Bay: Phil Bengtson New Orleans: Tom Fears
Miami: Don Shula Pittsburgh: Chuck Noll San Diego: Charlie Waller St. Louis: Charley Winner Minnesota: Bud Grant San Francisco: Dick Nolan
NY Jets: Weeb Ewbank   Washington: Bill Austin  


Stadium changes

Before the season, the league had demanded that the Chicago Bears find a new home field: Wrigley Field was too small, as it did not meet the new stadium requirement to seat at least 50,000, and it did not have lights (installed in 1988), meaning it was unavailable for late afternoon and night games. The Chicago Cubs baseball team, which shared the stadium with the Bears, did not want to convert it to a football configuration while the Cubs were still in playoff contention.

As a result, the Bears' first home game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles was played at Northwestern University's Dyche Stadium; Chicago also treated this game as a trial run for possibly moving their home games to Evanston. Dyche Stadium (since renamed Ryan Field), did not have lights (nor does it have permanent standards today), was planned as the Bears' new home, but a deal fell through due to strong opposition from several athletic directors in the Big Ten Conference and residents of Evanston. After negotiations with the Cubs' ownership for continued use of Wrigley Field collapsed, the Bears moved to Soldier Field in 1971 where they remain to the present day, save for a temporary relocation in 2002 to the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium while Soldier Field was completely renovated.

The Boston Patriots played in their fourth facility in eleven seasons, leaving Alumni Stadium at Boston College for Harvard Stadium, the only facility in Massachusetts at that time which met the NFL's 50,000-seat minimum. The struggles to find a home led the Patriots to hastily construct Schaeffer Stadium in Foxborough, which opened in 1971. Renamed from "Boston" to "New England" when they moved, the Patriots continue to play in Foxborough in Gillette Stadium, which opened in 2002.

Two multi-purpose stadiums made their debut this season: Riverfront Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium, replacing Nippert Stadium and Pitt Stadium as the homes of the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively. This was also the last season in which Franklin Field was the home of the Philadelphia Eagles; they moved to Veterans Stadium, another multi-purpose stadium, in 1971.

Seven teams played their home games on artificial turf in 1970. This was up from 2 teams in both the NFL and AFL in 1969. The teams were: Cincinnati, Dallas, Miami, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, who joined Houston and Philadelphia, the two teams which played on turf in 1969. Super Bowl V was held at the Orange Bowl in Miami, and was the first Super Bowl played on artificial turf (specifically, Poly-Turf).

Uniform changes

Television changes

To televise their games, the combined league retained the services of CBS and NBC, who were previously the primary broadcasters of the NFL and the AFL, respectively. It was then decided that CBS would televise all NFC teams (including playoff games) while NBC all AFC teams. For interconference games, CBS would broadcast them if the visiting team was from the NFC and NBC would carry them when the visitors were from the AFC. At the time, all NFL games were blacked out in the home team's market, so this arrangement meant that fans in each team's home market would see all of their team's televised Sunday afternoon games on the same network (CBS for NFC teams and NBC for AFC teams). The two networks also divided up the Super Bowl on a yearly rotation, with the network of the designated visiting conference (NBC for odd-numbered games, CBS for even-numbered game) televising each game through Super Bowl XVIII. From 1970–73, whichever network did not televise the Super Bowl televised the Pro Bowl the next week.

Meanwhile, with the debut of Monday Night Football on ABC on September 21, 1970, the league became the first professional sports league in the United States to have a regular series of nationally televised games in prime-time, and the only league ever to have its games televised on all of the then-three major broadcast networks at the same time. Both teams that advanced to the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Colts (44-24 to the Chiefs) and the Dallas Cowboys (38-0 to the Cardinals), had suffered humiliating defeats at home on Monday Night Football during the season.

All three networks initially signed four-year television contracts through the 1973 season. The first MNF team consisted of veteran play-by-play announcer Keith Jackson, sportscaster Howard Cosell, and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith. Ray Scott remained as lead play-by-play announcer for CBS, but Pat Summerall replaced Paul Christman as that network's lead color commentator after Christman died from a heart attack on March 2, 1970. Curt Gowdy and Kyle Rote remained as NBC's lead broadcast team.[8]


  1. ^ Anderson, Dave (February 27, 2000). "Sports of The Times; The Woman Who Aligned the N.F.C. Teams". New York Times. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  2. ^ Koppett, Leonard. "New York Can Capture Eastern Crown," The New York Times, Sunday, December 20, 1970. Retrieved December 1, 2021
  3. ^ Durso, Joseph. "Jaws of Defeat Close With Giants’ Chins Up," The New York Times, Monday, December 21, 1970. Retrieved December 1, 2021
  4. ^ "Dempsey's 63 yard kick breaks record and Lions". Milwaukee Journal. press dispatches. November 9, 1970. p. 11, part 2.
  5. ^ Rappoport, Ken (November 9, 1970). "Still plenty of foot in football". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). Associated Press. p. 22.
  6. ^ Brinson, Wil. "LOOK: Matt Prater makes NFL record 64-yard field goal". CBSSports.com. CBS. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  7. ^ "Tucker's Heroics Get Ravens Big Win". WBFF. Associated Press. September 26, 2021. Retrieved November 10, 2022.
  8. ^ Brulia, Tim. "A CHRONOLOGY OF PRO FOOTBALL ON TELEVISION: Part 2" (PDF). Pro Football Researchers.