1986 NFL Season
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1986 NFL Season

1986 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 7 - December 22, 1986
Start dateDecember 28, 1986
AFC ChampionsDenver Broncos
NFC ChampionsNew York Giants
Super Bowl XXI
DateJanuary 25, 1987
SiteRose Bowl, Pasadena, California
ChampionsNew York Giants
Pro Bowl
DateFebruary 1, 1987
SiteAloha Stadium

The 1986 NFL season was the 67th regular season of the National Football League. Defending Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears shared the league's best record with the Giants at 14-2, with the Giants claiming the spot in the NFC by tiebreakers. In the AFC, the Cleveland Browns earned home-field advantage with a record of 12-4, and they hosted the New York Jets in round one of the AFC playoffs. The Jets had started the season at 10-1 before losing their final five contests. The game went to double OT, with the Browns finally prevailing 23-20. The following Sunday, John Elway and the Denver Broncos defeated the Browns by an identical score in a game known for The Drive, where Elway drove his team 98 yards to send the game to overtime to win. The Giants would defeat their rival Washington Redskins in the NFC title game, blanking them 17-0 to advance to their first Super Bowl. The season ended with Super Bowl XXI when the New York Giants defeated the Denver Broncos 39-20 at the Rose Bowl to win their first league title in 30 years.

Player movement


  • November 8, 1986: Steve Tasker was claimed off waivers by the Buffalo Bills.[1]



The 1986 NFL Draft was held from April 29 to 30, 1986 at New York City's Marriott Marquis. With the first pick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected runningback Bo Jackson from Auburn University.

New referee

Dick Hantak was promoted to referee. Fred Silva was then assigned as a swing official instead of his own crew after suffering a heart attack in the offseason. Chuck Heberling was scheduled to be an instant replay official, but was asked to remain on the field following Silva's heart attack. Herberling earned assignment to the AFC championship.

Major rule changes

  • Players are prohibited from wearing apparel, equipment, or other items that carry commercial names, names of organizations, or any type of personal message unless they get specific permission from the league.
  • If the offensive team commits a dead ball foul during the last two minutes of a half, the clock will start at the snap.
  • If an offensive player fumbles the ball and it goes forward and out of bounds, the ball is returned to that team at the spot of the fumble.
  • If an offensive player fumbles the ball in the field of play and it goes out of bounds in the opponent's end zone, the ball is given to the defensive team at the spot of the fumble (this rule would be changed in 1991 to result in a touchback).
  • A limited system of instant replay was adopted to aid officiating. A replay official in a booth would decide what plays to review and make the final ruling, regardless of the current score or the amount of time left in the game. The replay official communicated with the game officials via radio transmitters. However, there was no time limit on how long the replay official could review a play and this led to long game delays (this was a major reason why the system was eventually repealed in 1992 and not brought back until a more comprehensive replay system with time limits were established in 1999).

American Bowl

A series of National Football League pre-season exhibition games that were held at sites outside the United States, the only American Bowl game in 1986 was held at London's Wembley Stadium.

Date Winning Team Score Losing Team Score Stadium City
August 3, 1986 Chicago Bears 17 Dallas Cowboys 6 Wembley Stadium United Kingdom London

Regular season

Scheduling formula

AFC East vs NFC West
AFC Central vs NFC Central
AFC West vs NFC East

Highlights of the 1986 season included:

  • Thanksgiving: Two games were played on Thursday, November 27, featuring Green Bay at Detroit and Seattle at Dallas, with Green Bay and Seattle winning.

Final standings


  • Denver was second AFC playoff seed ahead of New England based on head-to-head victory (1-0).
  • N.Y. Jets were the first AFC Wild Card based on better conference record (8-4) than Kansas City (9-5), Seattle (7-5), and Cincinnati (7-5).
  • Kansas City was the second AFC Wild Card based on better conference record (9-5) than Seattle (7-5) and Cincinnati (7-5).
  • N.Y. Giants were the top NFC playoff seed based on better conference record than Chicago (11-1 to Bears' 10-2).


NOTE: The New York Giants (the NFC one seed) did not play the Washington Redskins (the four seed) in the Divisional playoff round because both teams were in the same division.
Jan. 4 - Mile High Stadium
3 New England 17
Dec. 28 - Giants Stadium Jan. 11 - Cleveland Stadium
2 Denver 22
5 Kansas City 15 2 Denver 23*
Jan. 3 - Cleveland Stadium
4 NY Jets 35 1 Cleveland 20
AFC Championship
4 NY Jets 20
Jan. 25 - Rose Bowl
1 Cleveland 23**
Divisional playoffs
Wild Card playoffs A2 Denver 20
Jan. 3 - Soldier Field
N1 NY Giants 39
Super Bowl XXI
4 Washington 27
Dec. 28 - RFK Memorial Stadium Jan. 11 - Giants Stadium
2 Chicago 13
5 LA Rams 7 4 Washington 0
Jan. 4 - Giants Stadium
4 Washington 19 1 NY Giants 17
NFC Championship
3 San Francisco 3
1 NY Giants 49

* Indicates overtime victory
** Indicates double-overtime victory


The following players set all-time records during the season:

Most Passes Completed, Season Dan Marino, Miami (378)
Most Pass Attempts, Season Dan Marino, Miami (623)

Statistical leaders


Points scored Miami Dolphins (430)
Total yards gained Cincinnati Bengals (6,490)
Yards rushing Chicago Bears (2,700)
Yards passing Miami Dolphins (4,779)
Fewest points allowed Chicago Bears (187)
Fewest total yards allowed Chicago Bears (4,130)
Fewest rushing yards allowed New York Giants (1,284)
Fewest passing yards allowed St. Louis Cardinals (2,637)


Most Valuable Player Lawrence Taylor, Linebacker, New York Giants
Coach of the Year Bill Parcells, New York Giants
Offensive Player of the Year Eric Dickerson, Running back, Los Angeles Rams
Defensive Player of the Year Lawrence Taylor, Linebacker, New York Giants
Offensive Rookie of the Year Rueben Mayes, Running back, New Orleans Saints
Defensive Rookie of the Year Leslie O'Neal, Defensive end, San Diego Chargers
NFL Comeback Player of the Year Joe Montana, Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers, Tommy Kramer, Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings (co-winners)
Man of the Year Reggie Williams, Linebacker, Cincinnati Bengals
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Phil Simms, Quarterback, New York Giants

Coaching changes



Uniform changes

  • The Buffalo Bills began wearing their white pants with their white jerseys, discontinuing their blue pants. This was the first time the Bills wore white pants with their white jerseys since 1972.
  • The New Orleans Saints switched to gold pants, discontinuing both their black and white pants. A secondary logo featuring a fleur-de-lis inside an outline of the state of Louisiana was added to both the jersey sleeves and the sides of the pants. The Saints retained this look through 1995.
  • The numbers on the San Diego Chargers' blue jerseys changed from gold to white.


  1. ^ "The Month of November in Bills History". Buffalo Bills. Archived from the original on April 13, 2009. Retrieved 2009.

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