a look back at the nfls most historic new years eve and new years day games

For many families, holiday festivities are synonymous with food and football. 

Watching football on Thanksgiving, in particular, has become an annual tradition for sports fans. 

While college football is typically king around the New Year holiday with bowl season, NFL games on New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve are more of a coincidence. 

Football is often played on holidays. (Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

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Historically, most NFL games on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day have been played on Sundays, although there have been a handful of games on other days of the week. 

Prior to 1961, the season wasn’t long to reach into the New Year. After the first New Year’s Eve championship game was played between the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants in 1961, there have been numerous games played around the occasion. 

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The Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs playing in Super Bowl I

The Green Bay Packers were the first Super Bowl champions.  (Fred Roe/Getty Images)

Jan. 1, 1967: The ticket to Super Bowl I 

During the 1966 NFL season, there was a playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys Jan. 1, 1967. The Packers defeated the Cowboys in that New Year’s Day game, earning them a ticket to the Super Bowl. 

On Jan. 15, 1967, the Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in the first Super Bowl.

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Dec. 31, 1967: The Ice Bowl 

On Sunday, Dec. 31, 1967, the Green Bay Packers were crowned champions of the NFL for a third straight year after their victory against the Cowboys. 

This game is known as “The Ice Bowl” due to the game’s frigid conditions. 

The game was played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, where the temperature was 13 degrees below zero. The cold conditions didn’t keep fans at home. Over 50,000 turned out to cheer on their team. 

The Packers advanced to the Super Bowl Jan. 14, 1968, where they beat the AFL champions, the Oakland Raiders. 

Vince Lombardi among fans

Coaches, players and fans had to bundle up for “The Ice Bowl” in 1967.  (Getty Images )

Dec. 31, 1978: New Year’s Eve divisional games 

In 1978, there were two divisional NFL playoff games to ring in the New Year. The first game was between the Houston Oilers and the New England Patriots. The Oilers won 31-14. 

The second game of the day was between the Los Angeles Rams and the Minnesota Vikings. The Rams won this battle 34-10. 

Dec. 31, 1983 and Jan. 1, 1984: Two days of doubleheaders

NFL fans got four playoff games on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day during the 1983 season. 

On Saturday, Dec. 31, 1983, the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Miami Dolphins 27-20 in Seahawks head coach Chuck Knox’s first season. 

The second game of the day was between the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions. The 49ers beat the Lions by a single point. 

Seattle Seahawks vs Miami Dolphins

The Seattle Seahawks won their New Year’s Eve game in 1983, the first year they were coached by Chuck Knox.  (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

The following day, the Washington Redskins beat the Los Angeles Rams 51-7, and the Los Angeles Raiders beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 38-10. 

The Redskins played the Raiders Jan. 22, 1984, in the Super Bowl. The Raiders took home the Lombardi Trophy by a 38-9 score. 

Dec. 31, 1989: Wild-card games 

On Sunday, Dec. 31, 1989, there were two wild-card games played. The first featured the Rams against the Philadelphia Eagles. Quarterback Jim Everett and the Rams defeated Randall Cunningham and the Eagles 21-7. 

The second wild-card game of the day was between the Steelers and the Oilers, and the Steelers won this game 26-23. 

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Dec. 31, 1990: ‘Monday Night Football’ 

“Monday Night Football” featured a New Year’s Eve matchup for the final regular-season game of the season, and the New Orleans Saints defeated the Rams 20-17. 

Dec. 31, 2005 and Jan. 1, 2006: Football Sunday surprise 

Fans got an unusual treat during the 2005 season with two days of football, including a full schedule on New Year’s Day. 

Football fans cheering

NFL fans sometimes get to enjoy games on New Year’s.  (iStock)

On New Year’s Eve, two regular-season games were played. On Jan. 1, 2006, 14 regular-season games were played before the playoffs began. 

In more recent news … 

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In more recent years, there have been New Year’s Day games during the 2016 and 2022 seasons. New Year’s Eve games were played in 2017 and will be played again in 2023. 

On Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, there is a full slate of NFL football scheduled.

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