The Cowboys playing against the Broncos in Super Bowl XII
|Duration||September 18, 1977 - December 18, 1977|
|Start date||December 24, 1977|
|AFC Champions||Denver Broncos|
|NFC Champions||Dallas Cowboys|
|Super Bowl XII|
|Date||January 15, 1978|
|Site||Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Date||January 23, 1978|
|Site||Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida|
Instead of a traditional Thanksgiving Day game hosted by the Dallas Cowboys, the league scheduled a Miami Dolphins at St. Louis Cardinals contest. This would be only the second season since 1966 that the Cowboys did not play on that holiday. It marked the last time that the Cowboys did not play on Thanksgiving.
This was the last NFL regular season with 14 games. The regular season was expanded to 16 games in 1978, with the preseason reduced from six games to four. It was also the final season of the eight-team playoff field in the NFL, before going to ten the following season.
The 1977 season is considered the last season of the "Dead Ball Era" of professional football (1970 to 1977). The 17.2 average points scored per team per game was the lowest since 1942. For 1978, the league made significant changes to allow greater offensive production.
The 1977 NFL Draft was held from May 3 to 4, 1977 at New York City's Roosevelt Hotel. With the first pick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected running back Ricky Bell from the University of Southern California.
Tommy Bell retired after the 1976 season. His line judge, Jerry Markbreit, was named his successor. Bell worked two Super Bowls, III and VII. Markbreit would work four Super Bowls, and is (as of 2019) the only referee to achieve this.
Tampa Bay and Seattle continued as "swing" teams that did not participate in regular conference play. Every other NFL team played a home-and-away series against the other members in its division, two or three interconference games, and the remainder of their 14-game schedule against other conference teams. Tampa Bay switched to the NFC and played the other 13 members of the conference, while Seattle did the same in the AFC. The teams met in Week Five, with Seattle winning 30-23.
Starting in 1970, and through 2001, except for the strike-shortened 1982 season, 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.
National Football Conference
|1||3 teams||1-0||(Chicago, Green Bay)||1-0||Atlanta||1-0||3 teams||1-0|
|2||Dallas||2-0||4 teams||1-1||Atlanta*||1-1||8 teams||1-1|
|8||Dallas||8-0||Minnesota||5-3||Los Angeles||5-3||St. Louis*||5-3|
|9||Dallas||8-1||Minnesota||6-3||Los Angeles||6-3||St. Louis*||6-3|
|10||Dallas||8-2||Minnesota||6-4||Los Angeles||7-3||St. Louis||7-3|
|11||Dallas||9-2||Minnesota||7-4||Los Angeles||8-3||St. Louis||7-4|
|12||Dallas||10-2||Minnesota||8-4||Los Angeles||8-4||St. Louis*||7-5|
* other teams with same W-L record
American Football Conference
|1||(Baltimore, Miami)||1-0||3 teams||1-0||(Denver, Oakland)||1-0||5 teams||1-0|
|2||(Baltimore, Miami)||2-0||(Cleveland, Houston)||2-0||(Denver, Oakland)||2-0||3 teams||2-0-0|
|3||(Baltimore, Miami)||3-0||Cleveland*||2-1||(Denver, Oakland)||3-0||2 teams||3-0|
|4||Baltimore||4-0||Houston||3-1||(Denver, Oakland)||4-0||2 teams||4-0|
* other teams with same W-L record
|Divisional Playoffs||Conf. Championship Games||Super Bowl XII|
|* December 26 - Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum|
|January 1 - Texas Stadium|
|2) Los Angeles||7|
|December 26 - Texas Stadium|
|January 15 - Louisiana Superdome|
|December 24 - Memorial Stadium|
|4) Oakland (2OT)||37|
|January 1 - Mile High Stadium|
|December 24 - Mile High Stadium|
*The Denver Broncos (the AFC 1 seed) did not play the Oakland Raiders (the 4 seed) in the Divisional playoff round because both teams were in the same division.
|Most Valuable Player||Walter Payton, Running Back, Chicago|
|Coach of the Year||Red Miller, Denver|
|Offensive Player of the Year||Walter Payton, Running Back, Chicago|
|Defensive Player of the Year||Harvey Martin, Defensive End, Dallas|
|Offensive Rookie of the Year||Tony Dorsett, Running Back, Dallas|
|Defensive Rookie of the Year||A. J. Duhe, Defensive End, Miami|
|Man of the Year||Walter Payton, Running Back, Chicago|
|Comeback Player of the Year||Craig Morton, Quarterback, Denver|
|Super Bowl Most Valuable Player||Randy White, Defensive Tackle, Dallas and Harvey Martin, Defensive End, Dallas|