|Duration||September 4 – December 28, 2003|
|Start date||January 3, 2004|
|AFC Champions||New England Patriots|
|NFC Champions||Carolina Panthers|
|Super Bowl XXXVIII|
|Date||February 1, 2004|
|Site||Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas|
|Champions||New England Patriots|
|Date||February 8, 2004|
The 2003 NFL season was the 84th regular season of the National Football League (NFL).
The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football league consisting of 32 teams, divided equally between the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). The NFL is one of the four major professional sports leagues in North America, and the highest professional level of American football in the world. The NFL's 17-week regular season runs from early September to late December, with each team playing 16 games and having one bye week. Following the conclusion of the regular season, six teams from each conference advance to the playoffs, a single-elimination tournament culminating in the Super Bowl, which is usually held in the first Sunday in February, and is played between the champions of the NFC and AFC.
Regular-season play was held from September 4, 2003, to December 28, 2003. Due to damage caused by the Cedar Fire, Qualcomm Stadium was used as an emergency shelter, and thus the Miami Dolphins–San Diego Chargers regular-season match on October 27 was instead played at Sun Devil Stadium, the home field of the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cedar Fire was a massive wildfire which burned 273,246 acres (1,106 km2) of land in San Diego County, California, during October and November 2003. The fire's rapid growth was driven by the Santa Ana winds, causing the fire to spread at a rate of 3,600 acres (15 km2) per hour. By the time the fire was fully contained on November 4, it had destroyed 2,820 buildings and killed 15 people, including one firefighter. Hotspots continued to burn within the Cedar Fire's perimeter until December 5, 2003.
The Miami Dolphins are a professional American football team based in the Miami metropolitan area. The Dolphins compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's American Football Conference (AFC) East division. The Dolphins play their home games at Hard Rock Stadium in the northern suburb of Miami Gardens, Florida, and are headquartered in Davie, Florida. The Dolphins are Florida's oldest professional sports team. Of the four AFC East teams, they are the only team in the division that was not a charter member of the American Football League (AFL).
The 2003 San Diego Chargers season was the franchise's 34th season in the National Football League (NFL), its 44rth overall and the second under head coach Marty Schottenheimer. They finished the campaign last in their division with only four wins and earned the #1 pick in the 2004 NFL draft. They played one “home” game during the season, against the Miami Dolphins, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona where the Arizona Cardinals played, due to the Cedar Fire. The team declined from the previous season, as the Chargers won four games and surrendered the second most points per game (27.6), trailing only the Arizona Cardinals during the season.
The playoffs began on January 3, 2004. The NFL title was won by the New England Patriots when they defeated the Carolina Panthers, 32–29, in Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, on February 1.
The 2003 New England Patriots season was the franchise's 34th season in the National Football League, the 44th overall and the 4th under head coach Bill Belichick. They finished with a league-best 14–2 record before advancing to and winning Super Bowl XXXVIII.
The 2003 Carolina Panthers season was the franchise's 9th season in the National Football League and the 2nd under head coach John Fox. They improved on their 7–9 record from 2002, and made it to the playoffs for the second time in franchise history.
Super Bowl XXXVIII was an American football game between the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Carolina Panthers and the American Football Conference (AFC) champion New England Patriots to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 2003 season. The Patriots defeated the Panthers by a score of 32–29. The game was played at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, on February 1, 2004. At the time, this was the most watched Super Bowl ever with 144.4 million viewers.
This was the last season until the 2016 NFL season where neither of the previous Super Bowl participants made the playoffs.
The 2016 NFL season was the 97th season in the history of the National Football League (NFL). The season began on September 8, 2016, with the defending Super Bowl 50 champion Denver Broncos defeating the Carolina Panthers 21–20 in the NFL Kickoff Game. The season concluded with Super Bowl LI, the league's championship game on February 5, 2017, at NRG Stadium in Houston with the New England Patriots defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34–28 in overtime.
The 2003 Cincinnati Bengals season was the team's 36th year in professional football and its 34th with the National Football League. The Bengals hired first year head coach Marvin Lewis, replacing Dick LeBeau, who was fired following the 2002 season after the worst season in Bengals history. The Bengals had the first overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft with which they selected 2002 Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer. After a slow start, the Bengals got hot winning at midseason, winning four straight games to stand at 7–5, entering a key Week 14 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens with a chance to win the division. However in the key showdown for first place the Bengals showed they were not quite ready for primetime as they were beaten 31–13. The Bengals would rebound to win their next game against the San Francisco 49ers, but at 8–6 the Bengals could not get that ninth win, losing their last two games to spoil an effort to earn their first winning season in 13 years, finishing at 8–8.
Marvin Ronald Lewis is a former American football coach and commentator, best known for his 16 seasons as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League (NFL). He came to prominence as the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens from 1996 to 2001, whose defense in 2000 set the record for the fewest points allowed in a 16-game season and helped the franchise win their first Super Bowl title in Super Bowl XXXV over the New York Giants. This success led to Lewis being named the Bengals' head coach, where he served from 2003 to 2018. He is currently a commentator for the Alliance of American Football (AAF).
Charles Richard LeBeau is an American football coach and former cornerback, who was last an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League (NFL). He was active at field level in the NFL for 59 consecutive seasons – 14 as a player with the Detroit Lions and 45 as a coach. He is considered to be one of the greatest defensive coordinators of all time. Considered an “innovator” and “defensive football genius”, LeBeau popularized the "zone blitz" when he was defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals in the late 1980s.
Within each conference, the four division winners and the two wild card teams (the top two non-division winners with the best overall regular season records) qualified for the playoffs. The four division winners are seeded 1 through 4 based on their overall won-lost-tied record, and the wild card teams are seeded 5 and 6. The NFL does not use a fixed bracket playoff system, and there are no restrictions regarding teams from the same division matching up in any round. In the first round, dubbed the wild-card playoffs or wild-card weekend, the third-seeded division winner hosts the sixth seed wild card, and the fourth seed hosts the fifth. The 1 and 2 seeds from each conference then receive a bye in the first round. In the second round, the divisional playoffs, the number 1 seed hosts the worst surviving seed from the first round (seed 4, 5 or 6), while the number 2 seed will play the other team (seed 3, 4 or 5). The two surviving teams from each conference's divisional playoff games then meet in the respective AFC and NFC Conference Championship games, hosted by the higher seed. Although the Super Bowl, the fourth and final round of the playoffs, is played at a neutral site, the designated home team is based on an annual rotation by conference.
|1||New England Patriots (East winner)||Philadelphia Eagles (East winner)|
|2||Kansas City Chiefs (West winner)||St. Louis Rams (West winner)|
|3||Indianapolis Colts (South winner)||Carolina Panthers (South winner)|
|4||Baltimore Ravens (North winner)||Green Bay Packers (North winner)|
|5||Tennessee Titans (wild card)||Seattle Seahawks (wild card)|
|6||Denver Broncos (wild card)||Dallas Cowboys (wild card)|
|Jan. 3 – Bank of America Stadium||Jan. 10 – Edward Jones Dome|
|3||Carolina||29||Jan. 18 – Lincoln Financial Field|
|Jan. 4 – Lambeau Field||3||Carolina||14|
|Jan. 11 – Lincoln Financial Field|
|4||Green Bay||33*||Feb. 1 – Reliant Stadium|
|Wild card playoffs|
|Jan. 4 – RCA Dome||N3||Carolina||29|
|Jan. 11 – Arrowhead Stadium|
|6||Denver||10||Super Bowl XXXVIII|
|3||Indianapolis||41||Jan. 18 – Gillette Stadium|
|Jan. 3 – M&T Bank Stadium||3||Indianapolis||14|
|Jan. 10 – Gillette Stadium|
The following teams and players set all-time NFL records during the season:
|Record||Player or team||Date/Opponent||Previous record holder|
|Most Touchdowns, Season||Priest Holmes, Kansas City (27)||December 28, vs. Chicago||Marshall Faulk, St. Louis, 2000 (26)|
|Most Rushing Yards Gained, Game||Jamal Lewis, Baltimore (295)||September 14, vs. Cleveland||Corey Dillon, Cincinnati vs. Denver, October 22, 2000 (278)|
|Most Consecutive Field Goals||Mike Vanderjagt, Indianapolis||December 28, at Houston||Gary Anderson, 1997–98 (40)|
|Most Consecutive Road Games Lost||Detroit Lions||December 21, vs. Carolina||Houston Oilers, 1981–84 (23)|
|Most consecutive games with a sack||Tampa Bay Buccaneers (69)||November 9, 2003||Dallas Cowboys (68)|
|Points scored||Kansas City Chiefs (484)|
|Total yards gained||Minnesota Vikings (6,294)|
|Yards rushing||Baltimore Ravens (2,674)|
|Yards passing||Indianapolis Colts (4,179)|
|Fewest points allowed||New England Patriots (238)|
|Fewest total yards allowed||Dallas Cowboys (4,056)|
|Fewest rushing yards allowed||Tennessee Titans (1,295)|
|Fewest passing yards allowed||Dallas Cowboys (2,631)|
|Scoring||Jeff Wilkins, St. Louis (163 points)|
|Touchdowns||Priest Holmes, Kansas City (27 TDs)|
|Most field goals made||Jeff Wilkins, St. Louis (39 FGs)|
|Rushing||Jamal Lewis, Baltimore (2,066 yards)|
|Passing||Steve McNair, Tennessee (100.4 rating)|
|Passing touchdowns||Brett Favre, Green Bay (32 TDs)|
|Pass receiving||Torry Holt, St. Louis (117 catches)|
|Pass receiving yards||Torry Holt, St. Louis (1,696)|
|Pass receiving touchdowns||Randy Moss, Minnesota (17 touchdowns)|
|Punt returns||Dante Hall, Kansas City (16.3 average yards)|
|Kickoff returns||Jerry Azumah, Chicago (29.0 average yards)|
|Interceptions||Brian Russell, Minnesota and Tony Parrish, San Francisco (9)|
|Punting||Shane Lechler, Oakland (46.9 average yards)|
|Sacks||Michael Strahan, New York Giants (18.5)|
|Most Valuable Player||Peyton Manning, quarterback, Indianapolis and Steve McNair, quarterback, Tennessee Titans|
|Coach of the Year||Bill Belichick, New England|
|Offensive Player of the Year||Jamal Lewis, running back, Baltimore|
|Defensive Player of the Year||Ray Lewis, linebacker, Baltimore|
|Offensive Rookie of the Year||Anquan Boldin, wide receiver, Arizona|
|Defensive Rookie of the Year||Terrell Suggs, linebacker, Baltimore|
|NFL Comeback Player of the Year||Jon Kitna, Quarterback, Cincinnati|
|Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year||Will Shields, Guard, Kansas|
|Super Bowl Most Valuable Player||Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England|
The 2003 NFL Draft was held from April 26 to 27, 2003 at New York City's Theater at Madison Square Garden. With the first pick, the Cincinnati Bengals selected quarterback Carson Palmer from the University of Southern California.
The NFL playoffs are a single-elimination tournament held after the National Football League (NFL)'s regular season to determine the NFL champion. Six teams from each of the league's two conferences qualify for the playoffs based on regular season records, and a tie-breaking procedure exists in the case of equal records. The tournament ends with the Super Bowl, the league's championship game, which matches the two conference champions.
The 2004 NFL season was the 85th regular season of the National Football League.
The 2005 NFL season was the 86th regular season of the National Football League.
The 2002 NFL season was the 83rd regular season of the National Football League.
The 2001 NFL season was the 82nd regular season of the National Football League (NFL). In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the NFL's week 2 games were postponed and rescheduled to the weekend of January 6 and 7. In order to retain the full playoff format, all playoff games, including Super Bowl XXXVI, were rescheduled one week later. The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, defeating the St. Louis Rams 20–17 at the Louisiana Superdome.
The 1999 NFL season was the 80th regular season of the National Football League. The Cleveland Browns returned to the field for the first time since the 1995 season, while the Tennessee Oilers changed their name to "Tennessee Titans," with the league retiring the name “Oilers.”
The 2000 NFL season was the 81st regular season of the National Football League. The season ended with Super Bowl XXXV when the Baltimore Ravens defeated the New York Giants 34–7 at the Raymond James Stadium.
The 1996 NFL season was the 77th regular season of the National Football League and the season was marked by notable controversies from beginning to end. The season ended with Super Bowl XXXI when the Green Bay Packers defeated the New England Patriots 35–21 at the Louisiana Superdome.
The 1992 NFL season was the 73rd regular season of the National Football League. Due to the damage caused by Hurricane Andrew, the New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins game that was scheduled for September 6 at Joe Robbie Stadium was rescheduled to October 18. Both teams originally had that weekend off. This marked the first time since the 1966 NFL season and the AFL seasons of 1966 and 1967 that there were byes in week 1; in those years, byes were necessary every week since there were an odd number of teams, which would happen again between 1999 and 2001. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dolphins also had their 2017 season opener postponed due to Hurricane Irma.
The 1990 NFL season was the 71st regular season of the National Football League. To increase revenue, the league changed the regular season so that all NFL teams would play their 16-game schedule over a 17-week period. Furthermore, the playoff format was expanded from 10 teams to 12 teams by adding another wild card from each conference, thus adding two more contests to the postseason schedule; this format remains in use today. During four out of the five previous seasons, at least one team with a 10–6 record missed the playoffs, including the 11–5 Denver Broncos in 1985; meanwhile, the 10–6 San Francisco 49ers won Super Bowl XXIII, leading for calls to expand the playoff format to ensure that 10–6 teams could compete for a Super Bowl win. Ironically, the first ever sixth-seeded playoff team would not have a 10–6 record, but instead, the New Orleans Saints, with a paltry 8–8 record, took the new playoff spot.
The 1988 NFL season was the 69th regular season of the National Football League. The Cardinals relocated from St. Louis, Missouri to the Phoenix, Arizona area becoming the Phoenix Cardinals but remained in the NFC East division. The playoff races came down to the regular season’s final week, with the Seattle Seahawks winning the AFC West by one game, and the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers winning their respective divisions in a five-way tie, with the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants losing the NFC Wild Card berth to the Los Angeles Rams on tiebreakers.
The 1986 NFL season was the 67th regular season of the National Football League. Defending Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears shared the league’s best record with the Giants at 14–2, with the Giants claiming the spot in the NFC by tiebreakers. In the AFC, the Cleveland Browns earned home-field advantage with a record of 12–4, and they hosted the New York Jets in round one of the AFC playoffs. The Jets had started the season at 10–1 before losing their final five contests. The game went to double OT, with the Browns finally prevailing 23–20. The following Sunday, John Elway and the Denver Broncos defeated the Browns by an identical score in a game known for The Drive, where Elway drove his team 98 yards to send the game to overtime to win. The Giants would defeat their rival Washington Redskins in the NFC title game, blanking them 17–0 to advance to their first Super Bowl. The season ended with Super Bowl XXI when the New York Giants defeated the Denver Broncos 39–20 at the Rose Bowl to win their first league title in 30 years.
The 1985 NFL season was the 66th regular season of the National Football League. The season ended with Super Bowl XX when the Chicago Bears defeated the New England Patriots 46–10 at the Louisiana Superdome. The Bears became the second team in NFL history to win 15 games in the regular season and 18 including the playoffs.
The 1983 NFL season was the 64th regular season of the National Football League. The season ended with Super Bowl XVIII when the Los Angeles Raiders defeated the Washington Redskins 38–9 at Tampa Stadium in Florida.
The 1980 NFL season was the 61st regular season of the National Football League.
The 1978 NFL season was the 59th regular season of the National Football League. The league expanded the regular season from a 14-game schedule to 16. Furthermore, the playoff format was expanded from 8 teams to 10 teams by adding another wild card from each conference. The wild card teams played each other, with the winner advancing to the playoff round of eight teams.
The 1975 NFL season was the 56th regular season of the National Football League. It was the first NFL season without a tie game. The league made two significant changes to increase the appeal of the game:
The 1971 NFL season was the 52nd regular season of the National Football League. The season ended with Super Bowl VI when the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Miami Dolphins 24–3 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. The Pro Bowl took place on January 23, 1972, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum; the AFC beat the NFC 26–13.
The 1970 NFL season was the 51st regular season of the National Football League, and the first one after the AFL–NFL merger. The season concluded with Super Bowl V when the Baltimore Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys 16–13 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. The Pro Bowl took place on January 24, 1971, where the NFC beat the AFC 27–6 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The 2006 NFL season was the 87th regular season of the National Football League. Regular season play was held from September 7 to December 31, 2006.