1987 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 13, 1987–December 28, 1987
A player's strike shortened the regular season to 15 games.
Playoffs
Start date January 3, 1988
AFC Champions Denver Broncos
NFC Champions Washington Redskins
Super Bowl XXII
Date January 31, 1988
Site Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego, California
Champions Washington Redskins
Pro Bowl
Date February 7, 1988
Site Aloha Stadium
National Football League seasons
 < 1986 1988 > 

The 1987 NFL season was the 68th regular season of the National Football League. A 24-day players' strike reduced the 16-game season to 15. The games that were scheduled for the third week of the season were canceled, but the games for weeks 4-6 were played with replacement players. 85% of the veteran players did not cross picket lines during the strike.

The replacement player teams were given mock names like "Chicago Spare Bears", "San Francisco Phoney Niners", "New Orleans Saint Elsewheres", "Washington ScabSkins", and "Seattle Sea-scabs"[1]. Final television revenues were down by about 20%, a smaller drop than the networks had expected.[2] The defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants went 0-3 in replacement games, ultimately costing them a chance to make the playoffs and repeat their championship.

Starting on November 8, 1987, ESPN debuted ESPN Sunday Night Football, in which the cable network started to broadcast NFL Sunday night games primarily during the second half of the season.

Due to Game 7 of the 1987 World Series, the Denver Broncos - Minnesota Vikings game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was moved back one day to Monday, October 26. Coincidentally, the Broncos had been scheduled to play on Monday night the week the strike began (against the Cleveland Browns), while both Monday Night Football and this year's World Series were televised on ABC.

Walter Payton played his last NFL season retiring as the NFL all-time leading rusher.

The season ended with Super Bowl XXII when the Washington Redskins defeated the Denver Broncos.

Major rule changes[edit | edit source]

  • If a defensive player commits pass interference in his own end zone, the ball is placed at the 1-yard line, or if the previous spot was inside the 2-yard line, the penalty is half the distance to the goal line.
  • Except for the first onside kick attempt, if a kickoff goes out of bounds, the receiving team takes possession of the ball 30 yards from the spot of the kick or the spot it went out of bounds.
  • In order to stop the clock, the quarterback is permitted to throw the ball out of bounds or to the ground as long as he throws it immediately after receiving the snap.
  • During passing plays, an offensive player cannot chop block (block a defender below the thigh while the defensive player is already engaging another offensive player).
  • Illegal contact by a defensive player beyond the 5-yard zone from the line of scrimmage will not be called if the offensive team is in an obvious punt formation.
  • During kicks and punts, players on the receiving team cannot block below the waist. However, players on the kicking team may block below the waist, but only before the kick is made. On all other plays after a change of possession, no player can block below the waist.

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-Indianapolis Colts 9 6 0 .600 300 238
New England Patriots 8 7 0 .533 320 293
Miami Dolphins 8 7 0 .533 362 335
Buffalo Bills 7 8 0 .467 270 305
New York Jets 6 9 0 .400 334 360
AFC Central
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Cleveland Browns 10 5 0 .667 390 239
x-Houston Oilers 9 6 0 .600 345 349
Pittsburgh Steelers 8 7 0 .533 285 299
Cincinnati Bengals 4 11 0 .267 285 370
AFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Denver Broncos 10 4 1 .700 379 288
x-Seattle Seahawks 9 6 0 .600 371 314
San Diego Chargers 8 7 0 .533 253 317
Los Angeles Raiders 5 10 0 .333 301 289
Kansas City Chiefs 4 11 0 .267 273 388
NFC East
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Washington Redskins 11 4 0 .733 379 285
Dallas Cowboys 7 8 0 .467 340 348
St. Louis Cardinals 7 8 0 .467 362 368
Philadelphia Eagles 7 8 0 .467 337 380
New York Giants 6 9 0 .400 280 312
NFC Central
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Chicago Bears 11 4 0 .733 356 282
x-Minnesota Vikings 8 7 0 .533 336 335
Green Bay Packers 5 9 1 .367 255 300
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4 11 0 .267 286 360
Detroit Lions 4 11 0 .267 269 384
NFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-San Francisco 49ers 13 2 0 .867 459 253
x-New Orleans Saints 12 3 0 .800 422 283
Los Angeles Rams 6 9 0 .400 317 361
Atlanta Falcons 3 12 0 .200 205 436


Tiebreakers[edit | edit source]

  • New England finished ahead of Miami in the AFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2-0).
  • Houston was the first AFC Wild Card ahead of Seattle based on better conference record (7-4 to Seahawks' 5-6).
  • Chicago was the second NFC playoff seed ahead of Washington based on better conference record (9-2 to Redskins' 9-3).
  • Dallas finished ahead of St. Louis and Philadelphia in the NFC East based on better division record (4-4 to Cardinals' 3-5 and Eagles' 3-5).
  • St. Louis finished ahead of Philadelphia in the NFC East based on better conference record (7-7 to Eagles' 4-7).
  • Tampa Bay finished ahead of Detroit in the NFC Central based on better division record (3-4 to Lions' 2-5).

Playoffs[edit | edit source]

Home team in capitals

AFC[edit | edit source]

  • Wild-Card playoff: HOUSTON 23, Seattle 20 (OT)
  • Divisional playoffs: CLEVELAND 38, Indianapolis 21; DENVER 34, Houston 10
  • AFC Championship: DENVER 38, Cleveland 33 at Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado January 17, 1988

NFC[edit | edit source]

  • Wild-Card playoff: Minnesota 44, NEW ORLEANS 10
  • Divisional playoffs: Minnesota 36, SAN FRANCISCO 24; Washington 21, CHICAGO 17
  • NFC Championship: WASHINGTON 17, Minnesota 10 at RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C. January 17, 1988

Super Bowl[edit | edit source]

Awards[edit | edit source]

As awarded by the Associated Press
Most Valuable Player John Elway, Quarterback, Denver
Coach of the Year Jim Mora, New Orleans
Offensive Player of the Year Jerry Rice, Wide Receiver, San Francisco
Defensive Player of the Year Reggie White, Defensive End, Philadelphia
Offensive Rookie of the Year Troy Stradford, Running Back, Miami
Defensive Rookie of the Year Shane Conlan, Linebacker, Buffalo
NFL Comeback Player of the Year Charles White, Running Back, L.A. Rams

References[edit | edit source]

  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • NFL History 1981-1990 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. NFL crossed the line on Replacement Sunday, By Clare Farnsworth, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter
  2. "N.F.L. TV Ratings Drop". New York Times. October 6, 1987. http://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/09/sports/nfl-tv-ratings-drop.html. Retrieved 2009-09-15.
1987 NFL seasonv · d · e
AFC East Central West East Central West NFC
Buffalo Cincinnati Denver Dallas Chicago Atlanta
Indianapolis Cleveland Kansas City NY Giants Detroit LA Rams
Miami Houston LA Raiders Philadelphia Green Bay New Orleans
New England Pittsburgh San Diego St. Louis Minnesota San Francisco
NY Jets Seattle Washington Tampa Bay
1987 NFL Draft1987 NFL strikeNFL PlayoffsPro BowlSuper Bowl XXII
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