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.
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 changesEdit

  • 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 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-Indianapolis Colts 960.600300238
New England Patriots 870.533320293
Miami Dolphins 870.533362335
Buffalo Bills 780.467270305
New York Jets 690.400334360
AFC Central
y-Cleveland Browns 1050.667390239
x-Houston Oilers 960.600345349
Pittsburgh Steelers 870.533285299
Cincinnati Bengals 4110.267285370
AFC West
y-Denver Broncos 1041.700379288
x-Seattle Seahawks 960.600371314
San Diego Chargers 870.533253317
Los Angeles Raiders 5100.333301289
Kansas City Chiefs 4110.267273388
NFC East
y-Washington Redskins 1140.733379285
Dallas Cowboys 780.467340348
St. Louis Cardinals 780.467362368
Philadelphia Eagles 780.467337380
New York Giants 690.400280312
NFC Central
y-Chicago Bears 1140.733356282
x-Minnesota Vikings 870.533336335
Green Bay Packers 591.367255300
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4110.267286360
Detroit Lions 4110.267269384
NFC West
y-San Francisco 49ers 1320.867459253
x-New Orleans Saints 1230.800422283
Los Angeles Rams 690.400317361
Atlanta Falcons 3120.200205436


  • 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).


Home team in capitals


  • 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


  • 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 BowlEdit


As awarded by the Associated Press
Most Valuable PlayerJohn Elway, Quarterback, Denver
Coach of the YearJim Mora, New Orleans
Offensive Player of the YearJerry Rice, Wide Receiver, San Francisco
Defensive Player of the YearReggie White, Defensive End, Philadelphia
Offensive Rookie of the YearTroy Stradford, Running Back, Miami
Defensive Rookie of the YearShane Conlan, Linebacker, Buffalo
NFL Comeback Player of the YearCharles White, Running Back, L.A. Rams



  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. 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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