1981 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 6, 1981 - December 21, 1981
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 San Francisco 49ers
Pro Bowl
Date January 31, 1982
Site Aloha Stadium
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 changesEdit

  • 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.

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
y-Miami Dolphins 1141.719345275
x-New York Jets 1051.656355287
x-Buffalo Bills 1060.625311276
Baltimore Colts 2140.125259533
New England Patriots 2140.125322370
AFC Central
y-Cincinnati Bengals 1240.750421304
Pittsburgh Steelers 880.500356297
Houston Oilers 790.438281355
Cleveland Browns 5110.313276375
AFC West
y-San Diego Chargers 1060.625478390
Denver Broncos 1060.625321289
Kansas City Chiefs 970.563343290
Oakland Raiders 790.438273343
Seattle Seahawks 6100.375322388
NFC East
y-Dallas Cowboys 1240.750367277
x-Philadelphia Eagles 1060.625368221
x-New York Giants 970.563295257
Washington Redskins 880.500347349
St. Louis Cardinals 790.438315408
NFC Central
y-Tampa Bay Buccaneers 970.563315268
Detroit Lions 880.500397322
Green Bay Packers 880.500324361
Minnesota Vikings 790.438325369
Chicago Bears 6100.375253324
NFC West
y-San Francisco 49ers 1330.813357250
Atlanta Falcons 790.438426355
Los Angeles Rams 6100.375303351
New Orleans Saints 4120.250207378


  • 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).


Home team in capitals



Super BowlEdit


Most Valuable PlayerKen Anderson, Quarterback, Cincinnati
Coach of the YearBill Walsh, San Francisco
Offensive Player of the YearKen Anderson, Quarterback, Cincinnati
Defensive Player of the YearLawrence Taylor, Linebacker, N.Y. Giants
Offensive Rookie of the YearGeorge Rogers, Running Back, New Orleans
Defensive Rookie of the YearLawrence Taylor, Linebacker, N.Y. Giants


1981 NFL seasonv · d · e
AFC East Central West East Central West NFC
Baltimore Cincinnati Denver Dallas Chicago Atlanta
Buffalo Cleveland Kansas City NY Giants Detroit Los Angeles
Miami Houston Oakland Philadelphia Green Bay New Orleans
New England Pittsburgh San Diego St. Louis Minnesota San Francisco
NY Jets Seattle Washington Tampa Bay
1981 NFL DraftNFL PlayoffsPro BowlSuper Bowl XVI
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