The 2003 NFL season was the 84th regular season of the National Football League (NFL).
The Philadelphia Eagles opened Lincoln Financial Field.
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 playoffs began on January 3, 2004. The NFL title was eventually won by the New England Patriots when they narrowly defeated the Carolina Panthers 32-29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas on February 1.
Major rule changes
- If an onside kick inside the final five minutes of the game does not go 10 yards, goes out of bounds, or is touched illegally, the receiving team will have the option of accepting the penalty and getting the ball immediately. Previously, the kicking team was penalized, but had another chance to kick again from five yards back.
- League officials encouraged networks to immediately cut to a commercial break if an instant replay challenge review was initiated. Previously networks rarely utilized those stoppages for their prescribed commercial periods.
Final regular season standings
W = Wins, L = Losses, PCT = Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against
Clinched playoff seeds are marked in parentheses and shaded in green. No ties occurred this year.
- a Indianapolis finished ahead of Tennessee in the AFC South based on better head-to-head record (2–0).
- b Denver clinched the AFC 6 seed instead of Miami based on better conference record (9–3 to 7–5).
- c Buffalo finished ahead of N.Y. Jets in the AFC East based on better division record (2–4 to 1–5).
- d Jacksonville finished ahead of Houston in the AFC South based on better division record (2–4 to 1–5).
- e Oakland finished ahead of San Diego in the AFC West based on better conference record (3–9 to 2–10).
- f Philadelphia clinched the NFC 1 seed instead of St. Louis based on better conference record (9–3 to 8–4).
- g Seattle clinched the NFC 5 seed instead of Dallas based on strength of victory (.406 to .388).
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.
- * Indicates overtime victory
- ** Indicates double overtime victory
The following teams and players set all-time NFL records during the season:
||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)|
|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)|
|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|
- ↑ "Records". 2005 NFL Record and Fact Book. NFL. 2005. ISBN 978-1-932994-36-0.
- NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
- NFL History 2001– (Last accessed October 17, 2005)
- Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)