1970 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 18, 1970–December 20, 1970
Start date December 26, 1970
AFC Champions Baltimore Colts
NFC Champions Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl V
Date January 17, 1971
Site Miami Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida
Champions {{{sb_champions}}}
Champions Baltimore Colts
Pro Bowl
Date January 24, 1971
National Football League seasons
 < 1969 1971 > 

The 1970 NFL season was the 51st regular season of the National Football League, and the first one after the AFL-NFL Merger.

The merger forced a realignment between the combined league's clubs. Because there were 16 NFL teams and 10 AFL teams, three teams needed to transfer to balance the two new conferences at 13 teams each. 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). The conferences are similar to the American and National leagues from Major League Baseball but in the football sense and 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 were so contentious that at one point team names were pulled out of a glass jar.

The format agreed on was as follows:

NFC East: Eagles, Redskins, Cowboys, Giants, Cardinals

NFC Central: Packers, Bears, Vikings, Lions

NFC West: Rams, 49ers, Saints, Falcons

AFC East: Patriots, Jets, Colts, Bills, Dolphins

AFC Central: Steelers, Browns, Bengals, Oilers

AFC West: Broncos, Raiders, Chargers, Chiefs

This arrangement would keep most of the pre-merger NFL teams in the NFC conference and the AFL teams in the AFC. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Baltimore were placed in the AFC in order to balance it out, while the NFC equalizes the team strengths of its East and West divisions rather than sorting out teams just geographically. The NFL had originally consisted of an Eastern Conference (consisted of Philadelphia, Washington, New York, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Dallas, and Cleveland) and a Western Conference (Green Bay, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and San Francisco). In 1967, this was changed to Capitol (Philadelphia, Washington, Dallas, and newly-added New Orleans), Central (Green Bay, Minnesota, Detroit, and Chicago), Century (Cleveland, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis), and Coastal (San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Baltimore) divisions. Meanwhile, the AFL for its 10-year existence had an Eastern Division (New York Jets, Boston, Buffalo, Houston and later Miami) and a Western Division (Kansas City, Oakland, Denver, San Diego, and later Cincinnati). Division alignment in 1970 was largely intended to preserve the pre-merger setups, keeping 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.

The 26-team league 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 season concluded with the Colts defeating the Dallas Cowboys 16–13 in Super Bowl V, the first Super Bowl played for the NFL Championship. The game was held at the Orange Bowl in Miami, and was the first Super Bowl played on artificial turf.

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. The two networks also divided up the Super Bowl on a yearly rotation.

Meanwhile, with the debut of Monday Night Football on ABC 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.

The Chicago Bears' first home game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles was played at Northwestern University's Dyche Stadium as part of an experiment. Before the season, the league demanded that the Bears find a new home field because the seating capacity of their then-current home, Wrigley Field, was too small (after the merger, all stadiums were required to seat at least 50,000). Ultimately, a deal to make Dyche Stadium as the Bears' new home fell through and the team moved to Soldier Field in 1971 where they remain to the present day.

On November 8, New Orleans Saints placekicker Tom Dempsey kicked a 63-yard field goal (still the NFL record as of the 2009 NFL Season) as the Saints beat the Detroit Lions 19-17.

The Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, and Los Angeles Rams all started 3-0 but lost in Week Four. Only the Lions would go on to the playoffs after the 3-0 start.

Major rule changesEdit

  • The NFL rules become the standardized rules for the merged league, which included dropping the AFL's two-point conversion. This would not be reinstated until 1994.
  • The official game clock is the stadium's scoreboard clock, an AFL innovation.
  • Rules are added to place last names on the back of players' jerseys. The AFL had had names on jerseys, the pre-merger NFL teams did not.

Division racesEdit

Starting in 1970, and until 2002, 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, common opponents records, and conference play.

The New York Giants lost their last regular-season game. Had they won that game, they would have tied for first place in the NFC East division and taken the division championship on a tie-breaker; then, the tie-breakers would have led to a coin toss between Dallas and Detroit for the NFC wild card.

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 standingsEdit

W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against

 x  - clinched wild card berth,  y  - clinched division title

Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings

AFC East
y-Baltimore Colts 1121.846321234
x-Miami Dolphins 1040.714297228
New York Jets 4100.286255286
Buffalo Bills 3101.231204337
Boston Patriots 2120.143149361
AFC Central
y-Cincinnati Bengals 860.571312255
Cleveland Browns 770.500286265
Pittsburgh Steelers 590.357210272
Houston Oilers 3101.231217352
AFC West
y-Oakland Raiders 842.667300293
Kansas City Chiefs 752.583272244
San Diego Chargers 563.455282278
Denver Broncos 581.385253264
NFC East
y-Dallas Cowboys 1040.714299221
New York Giants 950.643301270
St. Louis Cardinals 851.615325228
Washington Redskins 680.429297314
Philadelphia Eagles 3101.231241332
NFC Central
y-Minnesota Vikings 1220.857335143
x-Detroit Lions 1040.714347202
Green Bay Packers 680.429196293
Chicago Bears 680.429256261
NFC West
y-San Francisco 49ers 1031.769352267
Los Angeles Rams 941.692325202
Atlanta Falcons 482.333206261
New Orleans Saints 2111.154172347


  • Green Bay finished ahead of Chicago in the NFC Central based on better division record (2–4 to Bears' 1–5).


Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation.
Divisional Playoffs Conf. Championship Games Super Bowl V
December 27 - Oakland Coliseum        
 Miami Dolphins  14
January 3 - Memorial Stadium
 Oakland Raiders  21  
 Oakland Raiders  17
December 26 - Memorial Stadium
     Baltimore Colts  27  
 Cincinnati Bengals  0
January 17 – Miami Orange Bowl
 Baltimore Colts  17  
 Baltimore Colts  16
December 26 - Cotton Bowl    
   Dallas Cowboys  13
 Detroit Lions  0
January 3 - Kezar Stadium
 Dallas Cowboys  5  
 Dallas Cowboys  17
December 27 - Metropolitan Stadium
     San Francisco 49ers  10  
 San Francisco 49ers  17
 Minnesota Vikings  14  


Most Valuable PlayerJohn Brodie, Quarterback, San Francisco
Coach of the YearDick Nolan, San Francisco
Offensive Rookie of the YearDennis Shaw, Quarterback, Buffalo
Defensive Rookie of the YearBruce Taylor, Cornerback, San Francisco


NFL seasons

Early Era (1920-1969)






Modern Era (1970-present)




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