The playoff format was changed so that the division champions with the best regular season records were made the home teams for the divisional round, with the division champion advancing to the conference championship game with the best record hosting the title game. Previously, game sites rotated by division. The caveat stipulating that a wild card team could not face its own division champion in the divisional round was kept in force.
Jerry Seeman, who would go on to serve as referee for Super Bowl XXIII and Super Bowl XXV before a 10-year tenure as the NFL's Director of Officiating from 1991–2001, was hired as a line judge. Fred Swearingen, the referee in the 1972 Raiders-Steelers playoff game which produced the Immaculate Reception, was demoted to his former position, field judge. Gene Barth, the line judge on Jim Tunney's crew the previous four seasons, was promoted.
Major rule changes
After a fourth down incomplete pass goes in or through the end zone, the other team will take possession at the previous line of scrimmage. Previously, it resulted in a touchback.
The penalty for pass interference on the offensive team is reduced from 15 yards to 10.
If there are fouls by both teams on the same play but one results in a player ejection, the penalties will offset but the player will still be ejected.
Referees were equipped with wireless microphones to announce penalties and clarify complex or unusual rulings to both fans and the media. The NFL thus became the first professional league in North America to adopt this technology.
Starting in 1970, through 2001, 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 records, and records in conference play.
Baltimore finished ahead of Miami in the AFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
N.Y. Jets finished ahead of New England in the AFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
Minnesota was the top NFC playoff seed based on point rating system (Vikings were 1st in NFC in points scored and 2nd in NFC in points allowed for a combined rating of 3 while Rams were 5th in NFC in points scored and 1st in NFC in points allowed for a combined rating of 6).
Chicago finished ahead of Green Bay in the NFC Central based on better division record (2–4 to Packers’ 1–5).
The New York Giants introduced new uniforms that featured blue jerseys, red trim, and white pants; and white jerseys, red trim, and blue pants. This new design emphasized a widen striping pattern with the accent color white. The lowercase "ny" helmet logo was replaced by a striped uppercase "NY", while the face masks were changed from gray to white.
The Cleveland Browns switched from white to orange pants (stripe to match helmet). The face masks were changed from gray to white.