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The 1970 NFL season was the 51st regular season of the National Football League, and the first one after the AFL-NFL Merger.

The merger forced a realignment between the combined league's clubs. Because there were 16 NFL teams and 10 AFL teams, three teams needed to transfer to balance the two new conferences at 13 teams each. The Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to join the other AFL teams to form the American Football Conference (AFC). The remaining NFL teams formed the National Football Conference (NFC). The conferences were divided into three divisions: East, Central, and West. The two Eastern divisions had five teams; the other four divisions had four teams each. The realignment discussions were so contentious that at one point team names were pulled out of a hat.

The 26-team league began to use an eight-team playoff format, four from each conference, that included the three division winners and a wild card team, the second-place team with the best record. The season concluded with the Colts defeating the Dallas Cowboys 16–13 in Super Bowl V, the first Super Bowl played for the NFL Championship. The game was held at the Orange Bowlmarker in Miamimarker, and was the first Super Bowl played on artificial turf.

To televise their games, the combined league retained the services of CBS and NBC, who were previously the primary broadcasters of the NFL and the AFL, respectively. It was then decided that CBS would televise all NFC teams (including playoff games) while NBC all AFC teams. For interconference games, CBS would broadcast them if the visiting team was from the NFC and NBC would carry them when the visitors were from the AFC. The two networks also divided up the Super Bowl on a yearly rotation.

Meanwhile, with the debut of Monday Night Football on ABC in September 21, 1970, the league became the first professional sports league in the United Statesmarker to have a regular series of nationally televised games in prime-time.

The Chicago Bears' first home game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles was played at Northwestern Universitymarker's Dyche Stadiummarker as part of an experiment. Before the season, the league demanded that the Bears find a new home field because the seating capacity of their then-current home, Wrigley Fieldmarker, was less than 50,000. Ultimately, a deal to make Dyche Stadium as the Bears' new home fell through and the team moved to Soldier Fieldmarker in 1971.

Major rule changes

  • The NFL rules become the standardized rules for the merged league, including the rule that a point after touchdown is worth one point, (that is, no two-point conversion). The AFL had had the two-point conversion, which would not be adopted in the NFL until 1994.
  • The official game clock is the stadium's scoreboard clock, an AFL innovation.
  • Rules are added to place last names on the back of players' jerseys. The AFL had had names on jerseys, the pre-merger NFL teams did not.


Division races

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.

The New York Giants lost their last regular-season game. Had they won that game, they would have tied for first place in the NFC East division and taken the division championship on a tie-breaker; then, the tie-breakers would have led to a coin toss between Dallas and Detroit for the NFC wild card.

National Football Conference
Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 DALLAS 1-0-0 3 teams 1-0-0 3 teams 1-0-0 4 teams 1-0-0
2 DALLAS 2-0-0 3 teams 2-0-0 2 teams 2-0-0 3 teams 2-0-0
3 ST. LOUIS* 2-1-0 DETROIT 3-0-0 LOS ANGELES 3-0-0 6 teams 2-1-0
4 ST. LOUIS* 3-1-0 DETROIT* 3-1-0 SAN FRANCISCO* 3-1-0 4 teams 3-1-0
5 ST. LOUIS 4-1-0 DETROIT* 4-1-0 LOS ANGELES 4-1-0 MINNESOTA 4-1-0
6 ST. LOUIS* 4-2-0 DETROIT* 5-1-0 SAN FRANCISCO 4-1-1 MINNESOTA 5-1-0
7 ST. LOUIS* 5-2-0 MINNESOTA 6-1-0 SAN FRANCISCO 5-1-1 3 teams 5-2-0
8 ST. LOUIS 6-2-0 MINNESOTA 7-1-0 SAN FRANCISCO 6-1-1 LOS ANGELES 5-2-1
9 ST. LOUIS 7-2-0 MINNESOTA 8-1-0 SAN FRANCISCO 7-1-1 N.Y. GIANTS 6-3-0
10 ST. LOUIS 7-2-1 MINNESOTA 9-1-0 SAN FRANCISCO 7-2-1 LOS ANGELES 6-3-1
11 ST. LOUIS 8-2-1 MINNESOTA 9-2-0 LOS ANGELES* 7-3-1 SAN FRANCISCO 7-3-1
12 ST. LOUIS 8-3-1 MINNESOTA 10-2-0 LOS ANGELES* 8-3-1 SAN FRANCISCO 8-3-1
13 N.Y. GIANTS* 9-4-0 MINNESOTA 11-2-0 SAN FRANCISCO 9-3-1 DALLAS* 9-4-0
14 DALLAS 10-4-0 MINNESOTA 12-2-0 SAN FRANCISCO 10-3-1 DETROIT 10-4-0


American Football Conference
Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 2 teams 1-0-0 3 teams 1-0-0 DENVER 1-0-0 3 teams 1-0-0
2 4 teams 1-1-0 3 teams 1-1-0 DENVER 2-0-0 6 teams 1-1-0
3 BALTIMORE* 2-1-0 2 teams 2-1-0 DENVER 3-0-0 2 teams 2-1-0
4 BALTIMORE* 3-1-0 CLEVELAND 3-1-0 DENVER 3-1-0 MIAMI 3-1-0
5 BALTIMORE* 4-1-0 CLEVELAND 3-2-0 DENVER 4-1-0 MIAMI 4-1-0
6 BALTIMORE 5-1-0 CLEVELAND 4-2-0 DENVER 4-2-0 MIAMI 4-2-0
7 BALTIMORE 6-1-0 CLEVELAND 4-3-0 OAKLAND 3-2-2 DENVER 4-3-0
8 BALTIMORE 7-1-0 CLEVELAND* 4-4-0 OAKLAND 4-2-2 KANSAS CITY 4-3-1
9 BALTIMORE 7-1-1 CLEVELAND* 4-5-0 OAKLAND 5-2-2 KANSAS CITY 5-3-1
10 BALTIMORE 7-2-1 CLEVELAND 5-5-0 OAKLAND 6-2-2 KANSAS CITY 5-3-2
11 BALTIMORE 8-2-1 CLEVELAND* 5-6-0 OAKLAND* 6-3-2 KANSAS CITY 6-3-2
12 BALTIMORE 9-2-1 CLEVELAND* 6-6-0 OAKLAND* 7-3-2 KANSAS CITY 7-3-2
13 BALTIMORE 10-2-1 CINCINNATI 7-6-0 OAKLAND 6-3-2 MIAMI 9-4-0
14 BALTIMORE 11-2-1 CINCINNATI 8-6-0 OAKLAND 8-4-2 MIAMI 10-4-0


Final standings

W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against

- clinched wild card berth, - clinched division title

Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings

AFC East
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Baltimore Colts 11 2 1 .846 321 234
x-Miami Dolphins 10 4 0 .714 297 228
New York Jets 4 10 0 .286 255 286
Buffalo Bills 3 10 1 .231 204 337
Boston Patriots 2 12 0 .143 149 361
AFC Central
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Cincinnati Bengals 8 6 0 .571 312 255
Cleveland Browns 7 7 0 .500 286 265
Pittsburgh Steelers 5 9 0 .357 210 272
Houston Oilers 3 10 1 .231 217 352
AFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Oakland Raiders 8 4 2 .667 300 293
Kansas City Chiefs 7 5 2 .583 272 244
San Diego Chargers 5 6 3 .455 282 278
Denver Broncos 5 8 1 .385 253 264
NFC East
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Dallas Cowboys 10 4 0 .714 299 221
New York Giants 9 5 0 .643 301 270
St. Louis Cardinals 8 5 1 .615 325 228
Washington Redskins 6 8 0 .429 297 314
Philadelphia Eagles 3 10 1 .231 241 332
NFC Central
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Minnesota Vikings 12 2 0 .857 335 143
x-Detroit Lions 10 4 0 .714 347 202
Green Bay Packers 6 8 0 .429 196 293
Chicago Bears 6 8 0 .429 256 261
NFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-San Francisco 49ers 10 3 1 .769 352 267
Los Angeles Rams 9 4 1 .692 325 202
Atlanta Falcons 4 8 2 .333 206 261
New Orleans Saints 2 11 1 .154 172 347



Tiebreakers

  • Green Bay finished ahead of Chicago in the NFC Central based on better division record (2–4 to Bears' 1–5).


Playoffs

Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation.


References

  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • NFL History 1961-1970 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
  • 1970 season in details
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)



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