1981 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 6 – December 21, 1981
Playoffs
Start date December 27, 1981
AFC Champions Cincinnati Bengals
NFC Champions San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl XVI
Date January 24, 1982
Site Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac, Michigan
Champions {{{sb_champions}}}
Champions San Francisco 49ers
Pro Bowl
Date January 31, 1982
National Football League seasons
 < 1980 1982 > 

The 1981 NFL season was the 62nd regular season of the National Football League. The season ended with Super Bowl XVI when the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals.

Major rule changes[edit | edit source]

  • It is illegal for any player to put adhesive or slippery substances such as the product "stickum" on his body, equipment or uniform. This rule is known as both the "Lester Hayes Rule" and the "Fred Biletnikoff Rule" since both players were notorious for using sticky substances to make it easier for them to catch passes.
  • An offensive player who comes into the game wearing an illegal number for the position he takes must report to the Referee before the start of the next play.
  • The penalty for an ineligible receiver who touches a forward pass is a loss of down.
  • The penalty for illegal use of hands, arms, or body (including holding) is reduced from 15 yards to 10 yards.
  • The penalty for intentional grounding is modified: loss of down and 10 yards penalty from the previous spot, or if the foul occurs more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, loss of down at the spot of the foul.

Division Races[edit | edit source]

Starting in 1978, ten teams qualified for the playoffs: the winners of each of the divisions, and two wild-card teams in each conference. The two wild cards would meet for the right to face whichever of the three division winners had the best overall record. The tiebreaker rules were based on head-to-head competition, followed by division records, common opponents records, and conference play.

National Football Conference[edit | edit source]

Week Eastern Central Western WildCard WildCard
1 Tie: (Dal, Phi) 1–0 3 teams 1–0 Atlanta 1–0
2 Tie: (Dal, Phi) 2–0 3 teams 1–1 Atlanta 2–0
3 Tie: (Dal, Phi) 3–0 5 teams 1-2 Atlanta 3-0
4 Tie: (Dal, Phi) 4–0 3 teams 2-2 Atlanta 3–1 Tie: (Dal, Phi) 4-0 6 teams 2–2
5 Philadelphia 4-1 Tie: (Min, TB) 3–2 3 teams 3-2 Dallas 4–1 5 teams 3–2
6 Philadelphia 5-1 Tie: (Min, TB) 4–2 Tie: (LA, SF) 4–2 5 teams 4-2
7 Philadelphia 6-1 Minnesota 5–2 San Francisco 5–2 Dallas 5–2 4 teams 4–3
8 Philadelphia 7–1 Minnesota 5-3 San Francisco 6–2 Dallas 6–2 NY Giants 5–3
9 Tie: (Dal, Phi) 7-2 Tie: (Min, TB) 5-4 San Francisco 7-2 Tie: (Dal, Phi) 7–2 5 teams 5–4
10 Tie: (Dal, Phi) 8-2 Minnesota 6–4 San Francisco 8-2 Tie: (Dal, Phi) 8–2 4 teams 5-5
11 Philadelphia 9–2 Minnesota 7-4 San Francisco 8-3 Dallas 8-3 7 teams 5-6
12 Tie: (Dal, Phi) 9-3 Minnesota 7–5 San Francisco 9-3 Tie: (Dal, Phi) 9-3 4 teams 6-6
13 Dallas 10-3 3 teams 7–6 San Francisco 10-3 Philadelphia 9-4 4 teams 7–6
14 Dallas 11-3 Tampa Bay 8–6 San Francisco 11-3 Philadelphia 9-5 6 teams 7-7
15 Dallas 12-3 3 teams 8–7 San Francisco 12-3 Philadelphia 9-6 4 teams 8–7
16 Dallas 12-4 Tampa Bay 9–7 San Francisco 13-3 Philadelphia 10-6 NY Giants 9–7

American Football Conference[edit | edit source]

Week Eastern Central Western WildCard WildCard
1 3 teams 1-0 Tie: (Cin, Hou) 1-0 3 teams 1–0
2 Tie: (Buf, Mia) 2–0 Tie: (Cin, Hou) 2-0 Tie: (KC, SD) 2–0
3 Miami 3–0 Tie: (Cin, Hou) 2–1 San Diego 3–0
4 Miami 4–0 Cincinnati 3–1 3 teams 3-1 4 teams 3-1
5 Miami 4-0-1 3 teams 3-2 Tie: (Den, SD) 4-1 Tie: (Den, SD) 4-1 5 teams 3-2
6 Miami 4-1-1 3 teams 4-2 Denver 5-1 7 teams 4-2
7 Miami 5-1-1 Cincinnati 5-2 3 teams 5-2 5 teams 5-2
8 Miami 5-2-1 Tie: (Cin, Pit) 5-3 Kansas City 6-2 5 teams 5-3
9 Miami 6-2-1 Cincinnati 6-3 3 teams 6-3 5 teams 6-3
10 Miami 7-2-1 Cincinnati 7-3 Denver 7-3 3 teams 6-4
11 Miami 7-3-1 Cincinnati 8-3 Denver 8-3 Kansas City 7-4 NY Jets 6-4-1
12 Tie: (Mia, NYJ) 7-4-1 Cincinnati 9-3 Tie: (Den, KC) 8-4 Tie: (Den, KC) 8-4 Tie: (Mia, NYJ) 7-4-1
13 Tie: (Mia, NYJ) 8-4-1 Cincinnati 10-3 3 teams 8-5 Tie: (Mia, NYJ) 8-4-1 4 teams 8-5
14 Miami 9-4-1 Cincinnati 10-4 Denver 9-5 Buffalo 9-5 NY Jets 8-5-1
15 Miami 10-4-1 Cincinnati 11-4 Denver 10-5 Buffalo 10-5 NY Jets 9-5-1
16 Miami 11-4-1 Cincinnati 12-4 San Diego* 10-6 NY Jets 10-5-1 Buffalo 10-6

Final standings[edit | edit source]

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
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Miami Dolphins 11 4 1 .719 345 275
x-New York Jets 10 5 1 .656 355 287
x-Buffalo Bills 10 6 0 .625 311 276
Baltimore Colts 2 14 0 .125 259 533
New England Patriots 2 14 0 .125 322 370
AFC Central
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Cincinnati Bengals 12 4 0 .750 421 304
Pittsburgh Steelers 8 8 0 .500 356 297
Houston Oilers 7 9 0 .438 281 355
Cleveland Browns 5 11 0 .313 276 375
AFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-San Diego Chargers 10 6 0 .625 478 390
Denver Broncos 10 6 0 .625 321 289
Kansas City Chiefs 9 7 0 .563 343 290
Oakland Raiders 7 9 0 .438 273 343
Seattle Seahawks 6 10 0 .375 322 388
NFC East
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Dallas Cowboys 12 4 0 .750 367 277
x-Philadelphia Eagles 10 6 0 .625 368 221
x-New York Giants 9 7 0 .563 295 257
Washington Redskins 8 8 0 .500 347 349
St. Louis Cardinals 7 9 0 .438 315 408
NFC Central
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9 7 0 .563 315 268
Detroit Lions 8 8 0 .500 397 322
Green Bay Packers 8 8 0 .500 324 361
Minnesota Vikings 7 9 0 .438 325 369
Chicago Bears 6 10 0 .375 253 324
NFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-San Francisco 49ers 13 3 0 .813 357 250
Atlanta Falcons 7 9 0 .438 426 355
Los Angeles Rams 6 10 0 .375 303 351
New Orleans Saints 4 12 0 .250 207 378


Tiebreakers[edit | edit source]

  • Baltimore finished ahead of New England in the AFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • San Diego finished ahead of Denver in the AFC West based on better division record (6–2 to Broncos' 5–3).
  • Buffalo was the second AFC Wild Card based on head-to-head victory over Denver (1–0).
  • Detroit finished ahead of Green Bay in the NFC Central based on better record against common opponents (5–5 to Packers' 4–6).

Playoffs[edit | edit source]

Home team in capitals

AFC[edit | edit source]

NFC[edit | edit source]

Super Bowl[edit | edit source]

Awards[edit | edit source]

Most Valuable Player Ken Anderson, Quarterback, Cincinnati
Coach of the Year Bill Walsh, San Francisco
Offensive Player of the Year Ken Anderson, Quarterback, Cincinnati
Defensive Player of the Year Lawrence Taylor, Linebacker, N.Y. Giants
Offensive Rookie of the Year George Rogers, Running Back, New Orleans
Defensive Rookie of the Year Lawrence Taylor, Linebacker, N.Y. Giants

References[edit | edit source]

Template:1981 NFL season by team

NFL seasons

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