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1976 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 12 - December 12, 1976
Playoffs
Start date December 18, 1976
AFC Champions Oakland Raiders
NFC Champions Minnesota Vikings
Super Bowl XI
Date January 9, 1977
Site Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
Champions {{{sb_champions}}}
Champions Oakland Raiders
Pro Bowl
Date January 17, 1977
National Football League seasons
 < 1975 1977 > 

The 1976 NFL season was the 57th regular season of the National Football League. The league expanded to 28 teams with the addition of the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This fulfilled one of the conditions agreed to in 1966 for the 1970 AFL-NFL Merger, which called for the league to expand to 28 teams by 1970 or soon thereafter.

For this season only, the Seahawks played in the NFC West while the Buccaneers played in the AFC West. (The Seahawks would return to the NFC West with the realignment prior to the 2002 NFL season.)

In addition, the Buccaneers would set a record of futility, finishing the season 0-14. The Buccaneers would go on to lose their first 26 games as a franchise before finally winning against the New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Cardinals to finish the 1977 season.

The season ended with Super Bowl XI when the Oakland Raiders defeated the Minnesota Vikings.

Major rule changesEdit

  • Two 30-seconds clocks, one on each end of the field, will be used for all games. They will be visible to both players and fans to note the official time between the ready-for-play signal and the snap of the ball.
  • If the defensive team commits a foul during a failed extra point attempt, the try is replayed and the offensive team has the option to either have the distance penalty assessed on the next try or the ensuing kickoff.
  • If the defensive team commits a foul during a successful extra point attempt, the penalty will be assessed on the ensuing kickoff.
  • Players cannot grasp the facemask of an opponent. The penalty for an incidental grasp of the facemask is 5 yards. The penalty for twisting, turning, or pulling the facemask is 15 yards. A player can be ejected from the game if the foul is judged to be vicious and/or flagrant.
  • A defender is prohibited from running or diving into, or throwing his body against or on a ballcarrier who falls or slips to the ground untouched and makes no attempt to advance, before or after the ball is dead. This is sometimes called as the "Ben Davidson Rule" after the Raiders defender who almost seriously injured quarterback Len Dawson after the Chiefs passer fell to the ground and made no attempt to advance.

Division racesEdit

The two expansion clubs, Tampa Bay and Seattle, were "swing" teams that didn't participate in regular conference play. Every other NFL team played a home-and-away series against the other members in its division, three interconference games, and the remainder of their 14 game schedule against other conference teams. As a member of the AFC in 1976, Tampa Bay played the other 13 members of the conference, while Seattle did the same in the NFC. The 14th game, played in Week Six, was Seattle's 13–10 win at Tampa.

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.

National Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 3 teams 1-0-0 Tie: (Chi, Min) 1-0-0 Tie: (LA, SF) 1-0-0 4 teams 1-0-0
2 3 teams 2-0-0 Chicago 2-0-0 Los Angeles 1-0-1 2 teams 2-0-0
3 Tie: (Dal, Was) 3-0-0 Minnesota 2-0-1 Los Angeles 2-0-1 Tie: (Dal, Was) 3-0-0
4 Dallas 4-0-0 Minnesota 3-0-1 Los Angeles 3-0-1 St. Louis* 3-1-0
5 Dallas 5-0-0 Minnesota 4-0-1 San Francisco 4-1-0 St. Louis 4-1-0
6 St. Louis* 5-1-0 Minnesota 5-0-1 San Francisco 5-1-0 Dallas 5-1-0
7 Dallas 6-1-0 Minnesota 6-0-1 San Francisco 6-1-0 Los Angeles 5-1-1
8 Dallas 7-1-0 Minnesota 6-1-1 Los Angeles 6-1-1 St. Louis* 6-2-0
9 Dallas 8-1-0 Minnesota 7-1-1 Los Angeles 6-2-1 St. Louis 7-2-0
10 Dallas 9-1-0 Minnesota 8-1-1 Los Angeles 6-3-1 St. Louis 8-2-0
11 Dallas 9-2-0 Minnesota 9-1-1 Los Angeles 7-3-1 St. Louis 8-3-0
12 Dallas 10-2-0 Minnesota 9-2-1 Los Angeles 8-3-1 Washington* 8-4-0
13 Dallas 11-2-0 Minnesota 10-2-1 Los Angeles 9-3-1 Washington* 9-4-0
14 Dallas 11-3-0 Minnesota 11-2-1 Los Angeles 10-3-1 Washington* 10-4-0

American Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 Tie: (Bal, Mia) 1-0-0 3 teams 1-0-0 Tie: (Oak, SD) 1-0-0 4 teams 1-0-0
2 Baltimore 2-0-0 Houston 2-0-0 Tie: (Den, Oak) 2-0-0 2 teams 2-0-0
3 Miami* 2-1-0 Houston* 2-1-0 Tie: (Oak, SD) 3-0-0 5 teams 2-1-0
4 Baltimore* 3-1-0 Cincinnati* 3-1-0 Tie: (Den, Oak) 3-1-0 3 teams* 3-1-0
5 Baltimore 4-1-0 Cincinnati* 4-1-0 Oakland 4-1-0 Houston 4-1-0
6 Baltimore 5-1-0 Cincinnati* 4-2-0 Oakland 5-1-0 New England* 4-2-0
7 Baltimore 6-1-0 Cincinnati 5-2-0 Oakland 6-1-0 New England 5-2-0
8 Baltimore 7-1-0 Cincinnati 6-2-0 Oakland 7-1-0 New England 5-3-0
9 Baltimore 8-1-0 Cincinnati 7-2-0 Oakland 8-1-0 New England 6-3-0
10 Baltimore 8-2-0 Cincinnati 8-2-0 Oakland 9-1-0 New England 7-3-0
11 Baltimore 9-2-0 Cincinnati 9-2-0 Oakland 10-1-0 New England 8-3-0
12 Baltimore 10-2-0 Cincinnati 9-3-0 Oakland 11-1-0 New England 9-3-0
13 Baltimore* 10-3-0 Cincinnati* 9-4-0 Oakland 12-1-0 New England* 10-3-0
14 Baltimore* 11-3-0 Pittsburgh* 10-4-0 Oakland 13-1-0 New England 11-3-0

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

AFC East
TeamWLTPCTPFPA
y-Baltimore Colts 1130.786417246
x-New England Patriots 1130.786376236
Miami Dolphins 680.429263264
New York Jets 3110.214169383
Buffalo Bills 2120.143245363
AFC Central
TeamWLTPCTPFPA
y-Pittsburgh Steelers 1040.714342138
Cincinnati Bengals 1040.714335210
Cleveland Browns 950.643267287
Houston Oilers 590.357222273
AFC West
TeamWLTPCTPFPA
y-Oakland Raiders 1310.929350237
Denver Broncos 950.643315206
San Diego Chargers 680.429248285
Kansas City Chiefs 590.357290376
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0140.000125412
NFC East
TeamWLTPCTPFPA
y-Dallas Cowboys 1130.786296194
x-Washington Redskins 1040.714291217
St. Louis Cardinals 1040.714309267
Philadelphia Eagles 4100.286165286
New York Giants 3110.214170250
NFC Central
TeamWLTPCTPFPA
y-Minnesota Vikings 1121.821305176
Chicago Bears 770.500253216
Detroit Lions 680.429262220
Green Bay Packers 590.357218299
NFC West
TeamWLTPCTPFPA
y-Los Angeles Rams 1031.750351190
San Francisco 49ers 860.571270190
Atlanta Falcons 4100.286172312
New Orleans Saints 4100.286253346
Seattle Seahawks 2120.143229429


TiebreakersEdit

  • Baltimore finished ahead of New England in the AFC East based on better division record (7–1 to Patriots' 6–2).
  • Pittsburgh finished ahead of Cincinnati in the AFC Central based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • Washington finished ahead of St. Louis in the NFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • Atlanta finished ahead of New Orleans in the NFC West based on better division record (2–4 to Saints' 1–5).

PlayoffsEdit

Divisional Playoffs Conf. Championship Games Super Bowl XI
                   
December 19 - Memorial Stadium        
 3) Pittsburgh Steelers  40
December 26 - Oakland Coliseum
 2) Baltimore Colts  14  
 3) Pittsburgh Steelers  7
December 18 - Oakland Coliseum
     1) Oakland Raiders  24  
 4) New England Patriots  21
January 9 - Rose Bowl
 1) Oakland Raiders  24  
 A1) Oakland Raiders  32
December 19 - Texas Stadium    
   N1) Minnesota Vikings  14
 3) Los Angeles Rams  14
December 26 - Metropolitan Stadium
 2) Dallas Cowboys  12  
 3) Los Angeles Rams  13
December 18 - Metropolitan Stadium
     1) Minnesota Vikings  24  
 4) Washington Redskins  20
 1) Minnesota Vikings  35  
 

AwardsEdit

Most Valuable PlayerBert Jones, Quarterback, Baltimore Colts
Coach of the YearForrest Gregg, Cleveland Browns
Offensive Player of the YearBert Jones, Quarterback, Baltimore Colts
Defensive Player of the YearJack Lambert, Linebacker, Pittsburgh
Offensive Rookie of the YearSammy White, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings
Defensive Rookie of the YearMike Haynes, Cornerback, New England

ReferencesEdit

Template:1976 NFL season by team

NFL seasons

Early Era (1920-1969)

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Modern Era (1970-present)
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