The Dallas Cowboys were already seen as a time on the rise, having steadily improved each of the two previous years under head coach Jimmy Johnson. The Cowboys were seen as a team ready to knock on the door of a Super Bowl. What they weren’t seen was as a team that would break that door down. But that’s exactly what Dallas did and the 1992 NFL season was the start of a dynasty run that saw the Cowboys win three titles in four years.
Dallas’ two main foils were the Buffalo Bills and the San Francisco 49ers. The Bills won the AFC title for the third straight year. But this excellent team just couldn’t get the last win of the season and the loss to the Cowboys was Buffalo’s third straight Super Bowl defeat. As for the 49ers, they got an MVP year from Steve Young and entered the postseason as the team to beat before falling at home in the NFC Championship Game.
The AFC race had been balanced throughout the season and the Bills were actually a wild-card coming into the postseason. The Miami Dolphins nipped Buffalo for the AFC East title. The Pittsburgh Steelers earned the 1-seed in the playoffs in the first year under Bill Cowher. The San Diego Chargers overcame an 0-4 start to win the AFC West and enter the playoffs as hot as anyone.
And then there was the Houston Oilers. A consistent playoff team in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Oilers had made a habit of flirting with greatness and then breaking hearts. Never was that more apparent than in 1992. They went up to Buffalo for the wild-card game and had the Bills buried—a 35-3 lead in the second half. And still lost.
The AFC’s playoff bracket was rounded out by Kansas City. The Chiefs had to face the Denver Broncos in a de facto elimination game in the regular season’s final week. Normally a big game between KC head coach Marty Schottenheimer and Denver quarterback John Elway didn’t work out too well for Marty. But this year was different and the Chiefs sent the Broncos home.
While the NFC was dominated by Dallas and San Francisco at the top, there were the rumblings of change within their conference going underneath. The Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins were perennial contenders. In fact, the Redskins were the defending Super Bowl champs. But for both franchises, 1992 marked the end of an era.
The Redskins scraped into the playoffs and won a game, but their great head coach Joe Gibbs called it quits after the season. The franchise has never been the same. Ditka’s Bears collapsed and he also stepped down. There was room for a new power to emerge.
1992 proved to be a seminal year for the historic Green Bay Packers franchise. After a decade out of the playoffs and 25 years removed from any type of consistent contention, the Packers found their quarterback—a guy named Brett Favre. They narrowly missed the playoffs, but the Pack was back.
Minnesota was also returning to contention after a couple bad years. Their new head coach, Dennis Green, was the one who captured the division title in his first season and set the stage for consistent contenders over the next several years.
The Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints were two teams that had been consistent contenders, but both had been lacking in playoff success. Both had steady seasons and returned to the postseason. They met head-to-head in the Superdome. It was the Eagles who got off the playoff schneid and advanced.
The stories of the 15 teams referenced here form the heart of the 1992 NFL season. The links below take you to articles about each team—their key players and then a game-by-game ride through their seasons. Taken collectively, the articles are the best way to recapture the memories of the ’92 NFL campaign, through the eyes of its best teams.