1970s NFL Teams That Peaked Towards the Playoffs

Just as in today’s NFL, the teams of the 1970s all wanted to be playing their best brand of pro football while they were going down the home stretch of their schedule.

They all wanted to be “peaking towards the playoffs.” No team wanted to enter the postseason tournament with a losing streak hovering over them to muffle their chances to advance.

The 1970s saw several teams peak in crucial ways as their regular seasons wore on, and those victories helped to give them playoff berths.


1970 Miami Dolphins

One of those teams was the 1970 Miami Dolphins. Driven by their new head coach, Don Shula, the 1970 Miami team won their final six regular season games to post an impressive 10-4 record and the AFC’s Wild Card berth.

That Dolphin squad could have folded up following their three-game losing streak during the middle of that season. But they summoned up the resolve to play hard, and that determination boosted them to win when it mattered the most.

Another team that put together a crucial winning streak at the best time of the year was the 1972 Oakland Raiders. They had just lost a bitter game to their divisional rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs, in the eighth week of that season.

The Raiders thus stood at 4-3-1. But somehow, someway, they managed to put together a string of six straight victories, which enabled them to return to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. Oakland finished the 1972 season with a strong 10-3-1 record.

Finishing strong. That is the goal of every NFL team, regardless of how well they begin their season. Some teams have terrible starts to a new year, and it typically shows in the standings.

But there are – on occasion – a few teams that do a complete 180 during the second half of their seasons.

1970 Cincinnati Bengals

Perhaps the most obvious example of this was the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals. In 1970, Cincinnati had one of the youngest squads in all pro football. Things did not look good at all for the Bengals during the first half of their 1970 season, however.

They struggled in all phases of play, as they started their year with a dismal 1-6 record. Certainly, nobody at this stage felt with any legitimate amount of confidence that the team could win any more games for the remainder of the year.

But that is exactly what Cincinnati did.

They started winning game after game.

What was also helpful was the fact that the other teams in the competitive AFC Central Division began to lose some of their critical contests. By the time that the Bengals ended their 1970 regular season, they had a seven-game winning streak to their names, and a division championship to boot!

In all the decade of the 1970s, there is no other team that I know of that began a year at 1-6 and ended up finishing that year with an 8-6 record and a division title.

Except for the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals, that is.

1976 Pittsburgh Steelers

One more team that peaked well in their drive for the playoffs during the 1970s was the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, they might be the example of any team during the decade of the 1970s to be at 1-4 to start the year, then surge onward to post a division-clinching 10-4 record.

During their nine-game winning streak, they shut out five teams, three of which came in a row. Their Steel Curtain defense allowed a grand total of just 28 points in their final nine contests. That’s just 3.1 points permitted per game! When you hold an opponent to that meager amount, you’re bound to win a bunch of games.

Although Pittsburgh fell just one win short of going to their third straight Super Bowl in 1976, their surge to their playoffs proved that they were peaking at the right time of the year.

Trivia Question:

What team was the only team to score a touchdown on the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers during the final nine games of that regular season?

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