The 1998 NFL season was the 79th regular season of the National Football League.
The season culminated with Super Bowl XXXIII, with the Denver Broncos defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34-19 at Pro Player Stadium. The Broncos had won their first thirteen games, the best start since the undefeated 1972 Dolphins, and were tipped by some to have a realistic chance at winning all nineteen games.The Minnesota Vikings became the first team since the 1968 Baltimore Colts to win all but one of their regular season games and not win the Super Bowl. After no team had won 14 regular season games since the 1992 49ers, three teams went 14-2 or better for the only time in a 16-game season.
Football Outsiders noted:
1998 was the last hurrah for the great quarterbacks who came into the league in the 1980s. The top four QBs [statistically] were all over 35: Vinny Testaverde, Randall Cunningham, Steve Young, and John Elway. Troy Aikman, age 32, was fifth. Dan Marino was 11th in his last good year.
The 1998 NFL Draft was held from April 17 to 18, 1998 at New York City's Theater at Madison Square Garden. With the first pick, the Indianapolis Colts selected quarterback Peyton Manning from the University of Tennessee.
Dale Hamer and Gary Lane returned to head linesman and side judge, respectively. Tony Corrente and Ron Winter were promoted to referee.
Mike Pereira left the field after two seasons as a side judge to become an assistant supervisor of officials. He succeeded Jerry Seeman as Vice President of Officiating in 2001. Pereira's replacement, Terry McAulay, assumed Pereira's old position and uniform number (77). McAulay was promoted to referee in 2001 and was crew chief for three Super Bowls (XXXIX, XLIII and XLVIII).
Major rule changes
- The officiating position titles of back judge and field judge were swapped to become more consistent with college and high school football. The field judge is now 20 yards deep, positioned on the same sideline as the line judge, while the back judge is 25 yards from the line of scrimmage near the center of the field.
- Tinted visors on players' facemasks are banned except for medical need.
- A defensive player can no longer flinch before the snap in an attempt to draw movement from an offensive lineman.
- A team will be penalized immediately for having 12 players in a huddle even if the 12th player goes straight to the sideline as the huddle breaks.
- During the season, the rules regarding the coin toss were changed to where the visiting team must make the call before the coin is tossed instead of while it was in the air. On Thanksgiving, the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions went to overtime. During the coin toss, Steelers running back Jerome Bettis was heard calling "tails" but referee Phil Luckett claimed he said "heads". The coin landed on tails, and the Lions won the toss and eventually the game on a Jason Hanson field goal. It was later revealed that Bettis had changed his mind during the call and was originally going to call "heads" but stopped. Thus, the rule change was adopted to prevent any further confusion.
Final regular season standings
- Miami finished ahead of Buffalo in the AFC East based on better net division points (6 to Bills' 0).
- Oakland finished ahead of Seattle in the AFC West based on head-to-head sweep (2-0).
- Carolina finished ahead of St. Louis in the NFC West based on head-to-head sweep (2-0).
* Indicates overtime victory
||Minnesota Vikings (556)
|Total yards gained
||San Francisco 49ers (6,800)
||San Francisco 49ers (2,544)
||Minnesota Vikings (4,328)
|Fewest points allowed
||Miami Dolphins (265)
|Fewest total yards allowed
||San Diego Chargers (4,208)
|Fewest rushing yards allowed
||San Diego Chargers (1,140)
|Fewest passing yards allowed
||Philadelphia Eagles (2,720)
||Gary Anderson, Minnesota (164 points)
||Terrell Davis, Denver (23 TDs)
|Most field goals made
||Al Del Greco, Tennessee (36 FGs)
||Terrell Davis, Denver (2,008 yards)
||Randall Cunningham, Minnesota, (106.0 rating)
||Steve Young, San Francisco (36 TDs)
||O.J. McDuffie, Miami (90 catches)
|Pass receiving yards
||Antonio Freeman, Green Bay (1,424)
||Randy Moss, Minnesota (17 touchdowns)
||Deion Sanders, Dallas (15.6 average yards)
||Terry Fair, Detroit (28.0 average yards)
||Ty Law, New England (8)
||Craig Hentrich, Tennessee (47.2 average yards)
||Michael Sinclair, Seattle (16.5)
|Most Valuable Player
||Terrell Davis, Running back, Denver
|Coach of the Year
||Dan Reeves, Atlanta
|Offensive Player of the Year
||Terrell Davis, Running back, Denver
|Defensive Player of the Year
||Reggie White, Defensive end, Green Bay
|Offensive Rookie of the Year
||Randy Moss, Wide receiver, Minnesota
|Defensive Rookie of the Year
||Charles Woodson, Cornerback, Oakland
|NFL Comeback Player of the Year
||Doug Flutie, Quarterback, Buffalo
|NFL Man of the Year
||Dan Marino, Quarterback, Miami
|Super Bowl Most Valuable Player
||John Elway, Quarterback, Denver
- The Baltimore Ravens began wearing their white pants instead of black with their white jerseys
- The Detroit Lions wore blue pants and silver-topped socks with their white jerseys for this season only
- The Jacksonville Jaguars removed the black side panels on uniforms
- The New York Jets unveiled a modernized version of the team's classic design and logo used from 1964-77
- The San Diego Chargers returned to navy pants with their white jerseys
- The San Francisco 49ers switched from white to gold pants
This was the first season that CBS held the rights to televise American Football Conference games, taking over the package from NBC. Meanwhile, this was the first time that ESPN broadcast all of the Sunday night games throughout the season (this was also the first season in which ESPN's coverage used the Monday Night Football themes, before reverting to using an original theme in 2001). This was also the first season where the late games kicked off at 4:05pm ET & 4:15pm ET (replacing the original 4:00pm ET start time), to give more time to finish the early games before the start of the late games. The 4:15 start time would last until 2011.