The Super Bowl was getting a bad reputation. Most of the games in its 23-year history had failed to live up to even reasonable expectations and the last five had been complete blowouts. The San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals rematched their 1981 battle when they met in Miami and they finally gave the fans a game to remember, a terrific conclusion to the 1988 NFL season.
That great game in Miami was just one part of a fascinating season. The series of articles below covers all of the most consequential NFL teams from 1988. Beyond the 49ers and Bengals, that includes…
*The Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings, who each spent time with the look of a Super Bowl team and each made the playoffs. But both teams were dismantled by Joe Montana in the Niners in the end.
*The Buffalo Bills made the playoffs for the first time with the combination of Marv Levy at head coach and Jim Kelly playing quarterback. It started a run that lead the Bills to become an AFC dynasty.
*The Houston Oilers and Cleveland Browns each gave Cincinnati a run in the old AFC Central, each made the playoffs and then played a Round 3 with each other on Christmas Eve.
*The Seattle Seahawks won the first division title in franchise history and the Philadelphia Eagles returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1980, the fruit of Buddy Ryan’s successful rebuilding job.
*The Los Angeles Rams went on a wild roller-coaster ride, from looking like the league’s best to seemingly out of the playoffs, to finally making it back in and ending their crazy up and down year safely in the middle.
The articles below take you on a game-by-game narrative of each team’s season. Look back on their key players, their big moments and when it seemed like the season might get away from them. It’s a great way to see how the 1988 NFL season looked as it unfolded, from the eyes of its best teams.