|Duration||September 7 – December 22, 1980|
|Start date||December 28, 1980|
|AFC Champions||Oakland Raiders|
|NFC Champions||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Super Bowl XV|
|Date||January 25, 1981|
|Site||Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Date||February 1, 1981|
Prior to the season in March 1980, fellow NFL owners voted against the proposed move by the Raiders from Oakland, California to Los Angeles. Raider team owner Al Davis along with the Los Angeles Coliseum sued the NFL charging that they had violated antitrust laws. A verdict in the trial would not be decided until before the 1982 NFL season; however, the planned move to Los Angeles went through that very season.
Meanwhile, the season ended at Super Bowl XV played on January 25, 1981, in New Orleans, Louisiana, with these same Oakland Raiders defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 27–10, making them the first Wild Card team ever to win the Super Bowl.
Oakland Raiders announce future move to Los Angeles in defiance of NFL vote
In 1979, Raider owner Al Davis announced his intention to move the Raiders to Los Angeles. Negotiations between Davis and the Oakland Coliseum regarding potential improvements to the facility came to an end in February 1980. At the NFL's annual meeting on March 10, 1980, team owners voted 22-0 against allowing the move, with the Raiders not participating and five teams abstaining. Davis announced he would ignore the vote and move the team anyway.
The Raiders played the entire 1980 season in Oakland. At a Monday Night Football game against the Denver Broncos on December 1, 1980, Raider fans protested by entering the Oakland Coliseum five minutes after the start of the game and holding up signs stating "Save Our Raiders" at each half's 2-minute warning. By some estimates, “almost two-thirds” of the Coliseum's seats had been empty at the game's kickoff.
The announced move was involved in four lawsuits: the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission sued the NFL charging antitrust violations, the NFL sued the Raiders charging breach of contract, Raider season ticket holders filed a class-action lawsuit, and the City of Oakland filed for eminent domain of the team.
In May 1982, a jury ruled that the NFL had violated antitrust law by attempting to prevent the move. In April 1983, after the team's first season in Los Angeles, a separate jury awarded the Raiders $35 million in damages.
The league added a 15th officiating crew, promoting Bob McElwee to referee. The league previously had 15 crews in 1976 (when the league expanded to 28 teams) and 1977. After referee Bernie Ulman retired after the 1977 season, the league used only 14 crews for the 1978 and 1979 seasons, requiring all 14 of them to be on hand for the weekly workload of 14 games.
Major rule changes
- A ten-second runoff will be implemented when a team commits the following actions to conserve time within the last minute of either half or overtime (with the half/game ending automatically if 10 or less seconds remain on the game clock; this was changed to after the two-minute warning in the 2017 NFL season):
- Fouls by either team that prevents the snap (e.g. false start, encroachment, etc.)
- Intentional grounding
- Illegal forward pass thrown from beyond the line of scrimmage
- Throwing a backward pass out of bounds
- Spiking or throwing the ball in the field of play after a down has ended, except after a touchdown
- Any other intentional foul that causes the clock to stop.
- Any excess time-out taken for injuries by either team.
Teams can take a time-out (if available) to prevent the runoff.
- Players are prohibited from striking, swinging, or clubbing to the head, face, or neck. The personal foul could be called whether or not the initial contact was made below the neck.
- A "Guidelines for Captains" section was added to the rules.
From 1978 to 1989, ten teams qualified for the playoffs: the winners of each of the divisions, and two wild-card teams in each conference. These are the leaders for each playoff slot, week by week. Teams listed in Week 16 indicate playoff participants.
National Football Conference
|Week||NFC East||NFC Central||NFC West||Wild Card||Wild Card|
|1||3 teams||1–0||4 teams||1–0||San Francisco||1–0|
|2||Philadelphia||2–0||Detroit, Tampa Bay||2–0||San Francisco||2–0|
|3||Philadelphia||3–0||Detroit||3–0||San Francisco||3–0||Dallas, Tampa Bay, Minnesota||2–1|
|4||Philadelphia, Dallas||3–1||Detroit||4–0||San Francisco||3–1||Philadelphia, Dallas||3–1||4 teams||2–2|
|5||Philadelphia, Dallas||4–1||Detroit||4–1||San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta||3–2||Philadelphia, Dallas||4–1||San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta||3–2|
|6||Philadelphia, Dallas||5–1||Detroit||5–1||Los Angeles||4–2||Philadelphia, Dallas||5–1||Minnesota, San Francisco, Atlanta||3–3|
|8||Philadelphia||7–1||Detroit||5–3||Los Angeles, Atlanta||5–3||Dallas||6–2||Los Angeles, Atlanta||5–3|
|9||Philadelphia||8–1||Detroit||6–3||Los Angeles, Atlanta||6–3||Dallas||7–2||Los Angeles, Atlanta||6–3|
|11||Philadelphia||10–1||Detroit, Minnesota||6–5||Atlanta||8–3||Dallas||8–3||Los Angeles||7–4|
|13||Philadelphia||11–2||Detroit, Minnesota||7–6||Atlanta||10–3||Dallas||10–3||Los Angeles||9–4|
|14||Philadelphia, Dallas||11–3||Minnesota||8–6||Atlanta||11–3||Philadelphia, Dallas||11–3||Los Angeles||9–5|
American Football Conference
|Week||AFC East||AFC Central||AFC West||Wild Card||Wild Card|
|1||3 teams||1–0||Pittsburgh||1–0||San Diego, Oakland||1–0|
|3||Buffalo||3–0||Pittsburgh, Houston||2–1||San Diego||3–0||Pittsburgh, Houston, Miami, New England, Oakland||2–1|
|4||Buffalo||4–0||Pittsburgh, Houston||3–1||San Diego||4–0||Pittsburgh, Houston, Miami, New England||3–1||Baltimore, Cleveland, Oakland, Seattle||2–2|
|5||Buffalo||5–0||Pittsburgh||4–1||San Diego||4–1||New England||4–1||Miami, Baltimore, Houston, Seattle||3–2|
|6||Buffalo, New England||5–1||Pittsburgh||4–2||San Diego||4–2||Buffalo, New England||5–1||Baltimore||4–2|
|7||New England||6–1||Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Houston||4–3||San Diego||5–2||Buffalo||5–2||6 teams||4–3|
|8||Buffalo, New England||6–2||Cleveland, Houston||5–3||San Diego, Oakland||5–3||Buffalo, New England||6–2||Cleveland, Houston, San Diego, Oakland||5–3|
|9||New England||7–2||Cleveland, Houston||6–3||San Diego, Oakland||6–3||Buffalo, Cleveland, Houston, San Diego, Oakland||6–3||Baltimore, Pittsburgh||5–4|
|10||Buffalo, New England||7–3||Cleveland, Houston||7–3||Oakland||7–3||Buffalo, New England, Cleveland, Houston||7–3||Pittsburgh, San Diego||6–4|
|11||Buffalo||8–3||Houston||8–3||Oakland||8–3||New England, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, San Diego||7–4||Miami, Baltimore, Denver||6–5|
|12||Buffalo||9–3||Cleveland, Houston||8–4||San Diego, Oakland||8–4||New England, Cleveland, Houston, San Diego, Oakland||8–4||Pittsburgh, Denver||7–5|
|13||Buffalo||9–4||Cleveland||9–4||San Diego, Oakland||9–4||San Diego, Oakland||9–4||New England, Pittsburgh, Houston||8–5|
|14||Buffalo||10–4||Cleveland||10–4||San Diego, Oakland||9–5||San Diego, Oakland, Houston||9–5||New England, Pittsburgh||8–6|
|15||Buffalo||10–5||Cleveland, Houston||10–5||San Diego, Oakland||10–5||Cleveland, Houston, San Diego, Oakland||10–5||New England, Pittsburgh||9–6|
- Cleveland finished ahead of Houston in the AFC Central based on better conference record (8–4 to Oilers’ 7–5).
- San Diego finished ahead of Oakland in the AFC West based on better net points in division games (plus 60 net points to Raiders’ plus 37).
- San Diego was the top AFC playoff seed based on better conference record than Cleveland and Buffalo (9–3 to Browns’ 8–4 and Bills’ 8–4).
- Cleveland was the second AFC playoff seed based on better record against common opponents (5–2 to Bills’ 5–3).
- Oakland was the first AFC Wild Card based on better conference record than Houston (9–3 to Oilers’ 7–5).
- Kansas City finished ahead of Denver in the AFC West based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
- Philadelphia finished ahead of Dallas in the NFC East based on better net points in division games (plus 84 net points to Cowboys’ plus 50).
- Atlanta was the top NFC playoff seed based on head-to-head victory over Philadelphia (1–0).
- Minnesota finished ahead of Detroit in the NFC Central based on better conference record (8–4 to Lions' 9–5).
- Tampa Bay finished ahead of Green Bay in the NFC Central based on better head-to-head record (1–0–1 to Packers' 0–1–1).
- NOTE: The San Diego Chargers (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.
|Jan. 4 – Cleveland Stadium|
|AFC Wild Card Game||AFC Championship|
|Dec. 28 – Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum||Jan. 11 – Jack Murphy Stadium|
|Jan. 3 – Jack Murphy Stadium|
|4||Oakland||27||1||San Diego||27||Super Bowl XV|
|Jan. 25 – Louisiana Superdome|
|Jan. 4 – Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium|
|NFC Wild Card Game||NFC Championship||N2||Philadelphia||10|
|Dec. 28 – Texas Stadium||Jan. 11 – Veterans Stadium|
|Jan. 3 – Veterans Stadium|
|Points scored||Dallas Cowboys (454)|
|Total yards gained||San Diego Chargers (6,410)|
|Yards rushing||Los Angeles Rams (2,799)|
|Yards passing||San Diego Chargers (4,531)|
|Fewest points allowed||Philadelphia Eagles (222)|
|Fewest total yards allowed||Buffalo Bills (4,101)|
|Fewest rushing yards allowed||Detroit Lions (1,599)|
|Fewest passing yards allowed||Washington Redskins (2,171)|
- Baltimore Colts: Mike McCormack replaced the fired Ted Marchibroda.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Forrest Gregg replaced Homer Rice.
- St. Louis Cardinals: Jim Hanifan became the Cardinals' new head coach. Bud Wilkinson was fired after the team started the 1979 season at 3–10, and the team's personal director Larry Wilson served as interim for the last three games.
- The Cincinnati Bengals switched from gray to black face masks
- The Los Angeles Rams switched from gray to blue face masks
- The Minnesota Vikings switched from gray to white face masks
- The New York Giants reverted to the narrow stripping patterns used prior to 1975