There have been a lot of changes in place here. Four Super Bowls had been played, and the league now held twenty-six teams in its fifty-first season of existence. The eight original, two expansion AFL teams, and three NFL teams joined to form the new American Football Conference (AFC).
The remaining thirteen NFL teams now joined the National Football Conference (NFC).
Facts About the 1970 Merger
Ten AFL teams formed the AFC, with the division alignments as follows:
Boston Patriots, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Colts*
Houston Oilers, Cincinnati Bengals**, Cleveland Browns*, Pittsburgh Steelers*
Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders
*Would’ve been in the NFC, but switched conferences to the AFC to balance the number of teams per conference.
**Expansion team since the 1968 season.
As you can see, there would’ve been a huge imbalance between the two conferences, so the Baltimore Colts willingly joined the AFC since they were in dire need of the $3 million the NFL was willing to pay three NFL franchises for making the switch, joining the AFC East.
Cleveland Browns’ owner Art Modell’s rival, Paul Brown, who served as the founding coach of the Browns between 1946 and 1962, now owned the Cincinnati Bengals. Therefore, due to Modell’s insistence for an in-state rivalry with Brown, the Browns joined the AFC.
Forced to choose between continuing one of his biggest rivalries while terminating another, Steelers’ owner Art Rooney believed more would be made to continue his team’s rivalry with the Browns and beginning a rivalry with the Bengals, he also chose to move the Steelers to the AFC. Some state that Modell did some lobbying at this point as well to fully convince Rooney to join. While this shut out a rivalry with the Philadelphia Eagles, the 1970s would ironically spark a rivalry between the Steelers and another one of the Eagles’ rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, where both teams would meet in three Super Bowls over the next twenty-six seasons.
Now, the NFC had a tough time choosing where to place the remaining thirteen teams. They relegated five options to a drawing, and the results were as followed:
Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, St. Louis Cardinals
Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions
Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints**, Atlanta Falcons
**Expansion team since the 1967 season.
So, who wore what in the 1970 NFL Season?
Scroll down for more information.
The Baltimore Colts won the first ever AFC East title, easily defeating most of their AFL rivals except for Miami, a team that would dominate over the next few seasons. Fun fact: The entire division wore white helmets at the time. This would become of utmost importance later on.
In just their third season of existence, the Bengals took the AFC Central. It wasn’t a sign of things to come, however, as the 1970s progressed. If you think it’s strange seeing the Bengals and Browns finishing one-two, don’t worry, anyone born after 1990 thinks the same.
The Raiders took the inaugural AFC West Championship and no, that’s not a typo, the Chargers literally finished three games in a tie. There were a total of eight ties in the entire AFC West that season. New lids for both the Chargers and Broncos. Actual facemask styles of the era resembled what the Broncos’ helmet design looked like. If I can locate each team’s helmet with that design, I’d definitely be in for a revamp.
The Cowboys would dominate the NFC over the decade and the 1970 season was a foreshadowing. New helmets for both the Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins since my 1966 article.
The Vikings, the final winners of the now-defunct NFL Championship, took the first NFC Central title. Slight changes to the Packers’ helmet. One note to make that what you’re seeing as of now is the Lions’ 1962 to 1968 helmet; the actual 1970 version consists of white down the center stripe of the crown, as well as a white outline around the lion. Once I’m able to locate, I’ll be able to update.
The 49ers took the first NFC West title, but it would be the Rams dominating most of the decade in the West. Note a slight inconsistency here; the Falcons actually removed gold from the helmet stripe after 1969; so the actual 1970 version consists of just the white and black crown stripes. Like Detroit above them, once I’m able to locate, I’ll replace.
Baltimore Colts: 27
Oakland Raiders: 17
Dallas Cowboys: 17
San Francisco 49ers: 10
Super Bowl V
Baltimore Colts: 16
Dallas Cowboys: 13
While the Cowboys took a 13-6 lead into halftime, it was the Colts who eventually came out on top, scoring a touchdown with seven minutes remaining in the fourth
quarter before winning the game on a last-second field goal attempt to avenge the team’s Super Bowl III loss to the New York Jets two seasons prior.
The Colts would win just one more playoff game in 1971 before going winless in the playoffs until 1995 while the Cowboys would become one of the Teams of the Decade along with a few others, winning two Super Bowls in the 1970s and three more in the 1990s, the last Super Bowl coming with the Colts falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers just one game out of the Super Bowl, which would’ve brought about a rematch of Super Bowl V.