A players' strike reduced the regular season to nine games. Thus, the league used a special 16-team playoff tournament just for this year. Division standings were ignored. Eight teams from each conference were seeded 1-8 based on their regular season records:
|1||Los Angeles Raiders||Washington Redskins|
|2||Miami Dolphins||Dallas Cowboys|
|3||Cincinnati Bengals||Green Bay Packers|
|4||Pittsburgh Steelers||Minnesota Vikings|
|5||San Diego Chargers||Atlanta Falcons|
|6||New York Jets||St. Louis Cardinals|
|7||New England Patriots||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|8||Cleveland Browns||Detroit Lions|
Because of the eight-game first round, this was the first (and currently only) time that NFL playoff games were regionally televised across the United States instead of nationwide. This year was also the only season in which the conference championship games were played on separate days.
In addition, as of 2007, it marked the only time in NFL history in which at least one team that qualified for the playoffs had a losing record, as both Cleveland and Detroit finished with 4-5 records. Both lost in the first round of the playoffs.
The Redskins jumped to a 24-0 lead enroute to a 31-7 victory over the Lions. Washington receiver Alvin Garrett, who only caught 1 pass during the regular season, recorded 6 receptions for 110 yards and 3 touchdowns. Fullback John Riggins led the team on the ground with 119 rushing yards. Quarterback Joe Theismann compiled 210 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. And the defense forced five turnovers to lead this romp over Detroit.
Jeris White got Washington on the board with a 77-yard interception return for a touchdown. Then after Mark Moseley's 26-yard field goal made it 10-0, Joe Theismann connected with Garrett for touchdowns twice in the second quarter.
Green Bay quarterback Lynn Dickey threw for 260 yards and 4 touchdowns en route to a 41-16 win. The Packers scored four touchdowns on four consecutive possessions. It was their first playoff victory since Super Bowl II.
After stopping the Cardinals on fourth and goal on the Packers 1-yard line, Dickey put Green Bay in the lead by finishing off two long drives with touchdown passes to John Jefferson and James Lofton. Later in the first half, they converted two St. Louis turnovers into a pair of touchdowns by Eddie Lee Ivery.
By the end of the game, the Packers had set numerous franchise post season records, including most touchdown passes in a game (4). most receiving yards (6 receptions for 148 yards by Jefferson), longest touchdown reception (Jefferson's 60-yard score), and longest field goal (46 yards by Jan Stenerud)
Cardinals receiver Roy Green caught 9 passes for 113 yards.
The Dolphins controlled most of the game with four long touchdown drives, and intercepted Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan twice. Miami quarterback David Woodley had one of the best performances of his career, completing 16 of 19 passes for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns (both to tight end Bruce Hardy) with no interceptions, while also rushing for 16 yards.
The Raiders gained 510 total yards of offense. Quarterback Jim Plunkett threw for 386 yards, while running back Marcus Allen rushed for 72 yards, caught 6 passes for 74 yards, and scored 2 touchdowns.
The underdog Jets overcame an early 14-3 deficit by racking up 517 yards of offense and scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter. Running back Freeman McNeil led the Jets to a victory with 210 rushing yards and a touchdown, while also catching a pass for 9 yards and throwing a touchdown pass on a halfback option play. Receiver Wesley Walker caught 8 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. Jets quarterback Richard Todd completed 20 of 28 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown. Playing in the final postseason game of his legendary career, Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson completed 26 of 35 passes for a career playoff high 354 yards and 2 touchdowns, but was intercepted 3 times. Receiver Cris Collinsworth caught 7 passes for 120 yards.
Two first quarter touchdown passes from Anderson gave the Bengals an early 14-3 lead, but New York stormed back with 17 points in the second quarter and added a field goal early in the third. With time running out in the third quarter, Bengals kicker Jim Breech made 20-yard field goal. So despite giving up 20 unanswered points, Cincinnati only trailed 23-17 going into the final period. However, the Bengals self destructed in the fourth quarter, suffering one of the worst collapses in franchise history. Throughout the fourth quarter, Cincinnati had a 69-yard touchdown pass called back by a false start penalty, gave up two Jets rushing touchdowns, missed a 46-yard field goal, and threw two interceptions, one of which was returned a playoff record 98 yards for a touchdown by safety Darrol Ray
San Diego quarterback Dan Fouts threw for 333 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions to lead his team to victory. With the Steelers leading 21-17 in the fourth quarter, the Chargers scored two touchdowns in the final period -- the second with only a minute remaining. Chargers running back Chuck Muncie rushed for 126 yards and caught a pass for 12, while tight end Kellen Winslow caught 7 passes for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns. Steelers receiver John Stallworth caught 8 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw for 325 yards and 2 touchdowns and scored a rushing touchdown in his final postseason game, but was intercepted twice.
The Cowboys had 445 yards of total offense, while their defense held Buccaneers quarterback Doug Williams to just 8 of 28 completions for 113 yards and intercepted him 3 times. Dallas running back Tony Dorsett rushed for 110 yards, while kicker Rafael Septien made 3 field goals.
The Vikings drove 72 yards to score the winning touchdown with 1:44 left in the game.
Running back John Riggins led the Redskins to a victory with 185 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Running back John Riggins led the Redskins to a victory with 185 rushing yards on 37 carries and a touchdown. Washington scored 21 points in the games's first 20 minutes.
The Vikings cut a 14-0 Redskins lead in half early in the second period, but Washington responded immediately with Joe Theismann's touchdown pass to Alvin Garrett.
Scott Dierking scored the Jets' winning touchdown with 3:45 remaining. The New York defense then forced two interceptions in the final minutes to seal the victory. Jets running back Freeman McNeil rushed for 105 yards and caught a pass for 11. Wesley Walker caught 7 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.
Miami avenged their divisional playoff loss to San Diego in the previous season known as The Epic In Miami with dominating 34-13 win. The Dolphins defense completely shut down Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts, limiting him to just 15 of 34 completions for 194 yards and a touchdown while intercepting him 5 times. The Dolphins led 27-13 at halftime. Miami quarterback David Woodley, who was benched in the second quarter of the Epic in Miami due to poor performance, redeemed himself by completing 17 of 22 passes for 195 yards and 2 touchdowns with 1 interception, while also scoring a rushing touchdown. The Dolphins converted 3 turnovers, including 2 fumbled kickoffs, into 21 points. This was the final postseason game in the hall of fame careers of Chargers stars Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, and Kellen Winslow.
The Cowboys scored touchdowns on two 80-yard drives while cornerback Dennis Thurman had 3 interceptions, including a 39-yard touchdown and one to clinch the victory. Packers quarterback Lynn Dickey threw for a franchise postseason record 332 yards and a touchdown, but his 3 interceptions were too costly to overcome. Receiver James Lofton caught 5 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown, and also had a 71-yard touchdown run on a reverse play, which tied the record for longest running play in a playoff game at the time.
Two field goals by Rafael Septien, a touchdown run by Robert Newhouse, and Thurman's 39-yard touchdown return gave the Cowboys a 20-7 lead by halftime. In the second half, the Packers mounted a strong comeback attempt, racking up 363 yards and scoring 19 points. Midway through the fourth quarter, Green Bay defensive back Mark Lee's 22-yard interception return for a touchdown cut the Packers deficit to 30-26. But later on, Thurman's third interception set up a 74-yard scoring drive to put the game away with Newhouse's second touchdown run.
Green Bay finished the game with a franchise playoff record 466 total yards.
The Redskins sealed the victory by converting 2 turnovers in the final period into 10 points. The Cowboys scored first after a 75-yard drive led to a 27-yard field goal by kicker Rafael Septien. But Washington then scored on an 84-yard drive that was capped by quarterback Joe Theismann's 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Charlie Brown. Then in the second quarter, after Redskins kicker Mark Moseley missed a 27-yard field goal attempt, Dallas' Rod Hill lost a muffed punt, setting up a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Redskins running back John Riggins to increase their lead, 14-3.
With 32 seconds left in the first half, Cowboys quarterback Danny White suffered a concussion after being hit by Washington's Dexter Manley and was replaced by unknown backup Gary Hogeboom for the rest of the game. A short Redskins punt early in the third quarter then set up Hogeboom's 6-yard touchdown toss to Drew Pearson, capping a six-play, 38-yard drive, cutting the score to 14-10. But on the ensuing kickoff, Mike Nelms returned the ball 76 yards down the right sideline to the Dallas 21-yard line. A 22-yard pass from Theismann to Brown was then followed by Riggins' four-yard touchdown run. Hogeboom then responded by leading Dallas on an 84-yard, 14-play drive capped by his 23-yard scoring pass to Butch Johnson, cutting the margin was back to 21-17 with 3:25 left in the third quarter.
Dallas threatened to cut the lead further, driving to the Washington 23-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but Septien missed a 42-yard field goal. Following a Washington punt, Dallas had the ball at the Washington 32-yard line, but linebacker Mel Kaufman made a leaping, over-the-shoulder interception that was intended to Cowboys receiver Tony Hill, setting up Washington kicker Mark Moseley's 29-yard field goal with 6:55 left to play. Then from the Dallas 20-yard line, defensive lineman Dexter Manley tipped Hogeboom's delayed screen pass intended for running back Tony Dorsett; tackle Darryl Grant caught it and returned it 10 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
Riggins, who ran nine straight times to help Washington run out the clock in the final period, finished the game with 140 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns.
On a wet, muddy field (the Jets complained about the Dolphins' decision not to place the tarp over the field before the game), the Dolphins defense held Jets quarterback Richard Todd to only 15 of 37 completions for 103 yards and intercepted 5 of his passes. Linebacker A.J. Duhe led Miami to a victory with 3 interceptions, scoring a 35-yard touchdown and setting up the other Dolphins score. Miami held the Jets to 139 total yards and forced 5 interceptions. The game was scoreless until the third period when Duhe intercepted a pass from Todd. Aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Jets, the Dolphins advanced to the New York 7-yard line where Woody Bennett rushed into the end zone for a touchdown. Then early in the final period, Duhe intercepted a screen pass and returned it 35 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.