|Duration||September 17 – December 17, 1972|
|Start date||December 23, 1972|
|AFC Champions||Miami Dolphins|
|NFC Champions||Washington Redskins|
|Super Bowl VII|
|Date||January 14, 1973|
|Site||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum|
|Date||January 21, 1973|
|Site||Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas|
The 1972 NFL season was the 53rd regular season of the National Football League. The Miami Dolphins became the first (and to date the only) NFL team to finish a championship season undefeated and untied when they beat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.
Major rule changes
- The inbounds lines or hashmarks were moved 10¾ feet closer to the center of the field, to 23 yards, 1 foot, 9 inches from the sidelines. Since the 1945 season, they had been 20 yards from the sideline (40 feet apart). The hashmarks are now 18½ feet apart (the same width as the goalposts), cutting down on severe angles for short field goal attempts, and nearly eliminating the short-side fields for the offense.
- With the hashmarks now the same width as the goalposts, a team punting from inside its 15-yard line could snap the ball from a spot even with the marked field numbers instead of the hashmarks to avoid the punt hitting the goalpost.
- If a legal receiver goes out of bounds, either accidentally or forced out, and returns to touch or catch the pass in bounds, the penalty is a loss of down (but no penalty yardage will be assessed).
- If a punt or missed field goal crosses the receivers' goal line, a member of the receiving team may advance the ball into the field of play. Previously, the ball was dead when a scrimmage kick crossed the goal line and the receivers were awarded an automatic touchback.
- All fouls committed by the offensive team behind the line of scrimmage will be assessed from the previous spot.
- Tie games, previously ignored in computing of winning percentage, were made equal to a half-game win and a half-game loss.
Referee Jack Vest, the referee for Super Bowl II, the 1969 AFL championship game and 1971 AFC championship game, was killed in a June motorcycle accident. Chuck Heberling was promoted from line judge to fill the vacancy and kept Vest's crew intact. Heberling's line judge vacancy was filled by Red Cashion, who was promoted to referee in 1976 and worked in the league through 1996, earning assignment to Super Bowl XX and Super Bowl XXX.
- The Kansas City Chiefs moved their home games to Arrowhead Stadium at the Truman Sports Complex and became the twelfth team (of 26) to play its home games on artificial turf.
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.
National Football Conference
|1||Dallas, St. Louis, Washington||1–0–0||Detroit, Green Bay||1–0–0||Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles||1–0–0||St.L, Wash., Atl., San Fran., Green Bay||1–0–0|
|2||Dallas, Washington||2–0–0||Minnesota||1–1–0||Los Angeles||1–0–1||Dallas, Washington||2–0–0|
|3||Washington||2–1–0||Detroit, Green Bay||2–1–0||Atlanta, San Francisco||2–1–0||3 teams||2–1–0|
|4||Washington||3–1–0||Detroit*||3–1–0||Los Angeles||2–1–1||2 teams||3–1–0|
|5||Washington||4–1–0||Green Bay||4–1–0||Los Angeles||3–1–1||Dallas||4–1–0|
|6||Washington||5–1–0||Green Bay*||4–2–0||Los Angeles||4–1–1||4 teams||4–2–0|
|7||Washington||6–1–0||Green Bay*||4–3–0||Los Angeles||4–2–1||Dallas||5–2–0|
|8||Washington||7–1–0||Green Bay*||5–3–0||Los Angeles||5–2–1||Dallas||6–2–0|
|9||Washington||8–1–0||Green Bay||6–3–0||Los Angeles||5–3–1||Dallas||7–2–0|
|10||Washington||9–1–0||Green Bay||7–3–0||Los Angeles*||5–4–1||Dallas||8–2–0|
|11||Washington||10–1–0||Green Bay*||7–4–0||San Francisco||6–4–1||Dallas||8–3–0|
|13||Washington||11–2–0||Green Bay||9–4–0||San Francisco||7–5–1||Dallas||10–3–0|
|14||Washington||11–3–0||Green Bay||10–4–0||San Francisco||8–5–1||Dallas||10–4–0|
American Football Conference
|1||Miami, NY Jets||1–0–0||Cincinnati, Pittsburgh||1–0–0||Denver||1–0–0||Miami, NY Jets||1–0–0|
|2||Miami, NY Jets||2–0–0||Cincinnati||2–0–0||Oakland, Denver, Kansas City, San Diego||1–1–0||Miami, NY Jets||2–0–0|
|3||Miami||3–0–0||Cleveland||2–1–0||Kansas City||2–1–0||Pittsburgh, San Diego, Cincinnati, NY Jets||2–1–0|
|4||Miami||4–0–0||Cincinnati||3–1–0||Kansas City||3–1–0||San Diego*||2–1–1|
Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings
- Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation. Had the playoffs been seeded, the divisional matchups in the AFC would not have changed, but undefeated Miami would have had home field advantage for the AFC championship game. The NFC divisional matchups would have been #4 wild card Dallas, ineligible to play Washington, at #2 Green Bay and #3 San Francisco at #1 Washington.
|Divisional Playoffs||Conf. Championship Games||Super Bowl VII|
|December 24 – Miami Orange Bowl|
|December 31 – Three Rivers Stadium|
|December 23 – Three Rivers Stadium|
|January 14 – L.A. Coliseum|
|December 23 – Candlestick Park|
|December 31 – RFK Stadium|
|December 24 – RFK Stadium|
American Football Conference
- Baltimore Colts: Don McCafferty (5 games) and John Sandusky (9 games)
- Buffalo Bills: Lou Saban
- Cincinnati Bengals: Paul Brown
- Cleveland Browns: Nick Skorich
- Denver Broncos: John Ralston
- Houston Oilers: Bill Peterson
- Kansas City Chiefs: Hank Stram
- Miami Dolphins: Don Shula
- New England Patriots: John Mazur (9 games) and Phil Bengston (5 games)
- New York Jets: Weeb Ewbank
- Oakland Raiders: John Madden
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Chuck Noll
- San Diego Chargers: Harland Svare
National Football Conference
- Atlanta Falcons: Norm Van Brocklin
- Chicago Bears: Abe Gibron
- Dallas Cowboys: Tom Landry
- Detroit Lions: Joe Schmidt
- Green Bay Packers: Dan Devine
- Los Angeles Rams: Tommy Prothro
- Minnesota Vikings: Bud Grant
- New Orleans Saints: J. D. Roberts
- New York Giants: Alex Webster
- Philadelphia Eagles: Ed Khayat
- San Francisco 49ers: Dick Nolan
- St. Louis Cardinals: Bob Hollway
- Washington Redskins: George Allen
- "Owners give offense big seven-yard boost". Rome News-Tribune. Georgia. Associated Press. March 24, 1972. p. 6A.
- NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
- Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
- NFL History 1971–1980 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)