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20 best regular season games in NFL history

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While it’s more common to remember playoff games, the best NFL regular season games can be just as memorable. We’re talking about the timeless classics that hardcore fans will want to watch over and over again. Whether there was a playoff spot on the line, an amazing comeback, or something else that’s worth remembering, there’s no forgetting the best NFL regular season games of all time. 

Best NFL regular season games of all time

But what are the best NFL regular season games to rewatch? In many ways, that depends on your favorite team. But the best NFL regular season games are the ones that every fan can remember fondly regardless of their allegiance.

That being said, there are countless games worth considering. But we did our homework and were able to get it down to a list of the 20 greatest NFL regular season games ever.

20. Saints 23, Falcons 3 (2006)

This game made our list because of its historical significance. This was the Monday night game that welcomed football back to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina.

The atmosphere in New Orleans was unlike any other game, allowing this night to take on special significance. The Saints also took care of business against their NFC South rivals.


19. Patriots 38, Giants 35 (2007)

The Patriots got more than they bargained for in the regular-season finale in 2007, as the Giants fought and scratched with the hope of keeping New England from a 16-0 record. The G-Men led 28-23 heading into the final quarter, only to concede a 65-yard touchdown reception by Randy Moss to give the Patriots the lead.

The Giants pulled within three points with a late touchdown but fell short. Of course, they would get a second crack at the Patriots in the Super Bowl, winning that game and keeping the Patriots from achieving perfection.

18. Cowboys 16, Giants 13 (1994)

This game was the regular-season finale with the NFC East title on the line, so the stakes couldn’t be much higher. The Cowboys took a 13-0 lead into halftime, only for the Giants to score the only 13 points of the second half, forcing overtime.

In the end, Emmitt Smith’s 168 rushing yards on 32 carries was enough to put the Cowboys over the top, as an Eddie Murray field goal in overtime gave Dallas the win and the division, setting up the Cowboys in a good position to repeat as Super Bowl champs.

17. Packers 26, Vikings 20 (2000)

This was a great Monday night rivalry game that was as close as they got. The fourth quarter was scoreless, sending the game to overtime tied at 20. Of course, the game-winning play in overtime is why this is one of the best regular season games ever.


Minnesota cornerback Cris Dishman thought he had broken up a Brett Favre pass to Antonio Freeman. But the ball hit off Freeman’s back and he caught it before it hit the ground, got up without being touched, and ran for a 43-yard touchdown to win the game.

16. Eagles 19, Giants 17 (1978)

Any game between the Eagles and the Giants has a chance to turn into a classic, but this one did because of the way it ended. The Giants took an early 14-0 lead and later looked poised to run out the clock with a 17-12 lead. But instead of taking a knee, the Giants tried to run a play with quarterback Joe Pisarcik botching the handoff. Herm Edwards, who would later coach the Jets and Chiefs, picked up the ball and ran it back 26 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

It was a humiliating loss for the Giants that ended the career of offensive coordinator Bob Gibson, who was fired after the game and never got another job in the NFL.

15. Raiders 21, Chargers 20 (1978)

This game became an instant classic in this AFC West rivalry because of a shocking and unlikely ending. Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler had an up and down game, throwing for over 300 yards and two touchdowns but also throwing three interceptions. That put the Raiders behind 20-14 with 10 seconds left.

Stabler then fumbled the ball, only for the ball to bounce around and multiple Raiders to knock it forward into the end zone, where Dave Casper recovered it for the game-winning touchdown.

The refs ruled that the ball wasn’t intentionally pushed forward during the fumble, which is why the touchdown was allowed to stand. However, several Oakland players confessed after the game that they purposefully batted it forward, leading to a rules change, but not before the Raiders claimed a one-point victory.

14. Raiders 43, Jets 32 (1968)

A little more than a month after this game, the Raiders and Jets would meet in the AFL Championship Game with the Jets winning that game before Joe Namath’s guarantee in Super Bowl III. But the regular season appetizer between the Raiders and Jets was a good one too.

The problem is that most TVs on the East Coast didn’t see the end because NBC cut away to show the movie Heidi right at 7 p.m. The Jets were close to winning the game, leading 32-29 with 90 seconds left when East Coast viewers were switched off the game.

In that 90 seconds, Mike D’Amato scored a 43-yard touchdown catch and the Jets fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered and returned to the end zone by the Raiders. It was a quick and complete collapse by the Jets with the only silver lining being that most of their fans missed it.

13. Saints 52, Giants 49 (2015)

From an entertainment standpoint, it’s tough to top Eli Manning and Drew Brees both performing at the top of their game. Manning threw for 505 yards and seven touchdowns. But it was 350 yards and six touchdowns by Brees that helped put the Saints over the top.

To their credit, the Giants erased a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter thanks to a pick-six. But Kai Forbath kicked the game’s only field goal as time expired to give New Orleans the win.

12. Broncos 51, Cowboys 48 (2013)

Despite 506 passing yards and five touchdowns from Tony Romo, the Cowboys couldn’t tame the Broncos in this game. Dallas took an early 14-0 lead in this game, only for Denver to lead 35-20 early in the third quarter.

The Cowboys wouldn’t go away and took the lead twice in the fourth quarter. But Peyton Manning and Denver’s historically good offense scored 10 points in the final three minutes to secure an epic 51-48 win.

11. Jets 44, Colts 34 (1972)

Super Bowl III didn’t give us the shootout between Joe Namath and Johnny Unitas that everyone wanted, but this game did.

This turned out to be the final game between the two legendary quarterbacks. Unitas threw for 376 yards and two touchdowns, but he couldn’t keep up with Namath, who threw for 496 yards and six touchdowns, leading the Jets to a win.

10. Dolphins 38, Bears 24 (1985)

This game is memorable largely because it was the only thing that prevented the 1985 Bears from achieving an undefeated season. They finished the regular season with just one loss and then smoked everybody in the playoffs. Fittingly, it was the 1985 Dolphins who did the 1972 Dolphins a favor.

Behind Dan Marino, Miami raced to a 31-10 lead, ultimately holding off the Bears by two touchdowns, keeping the 1972 Dolphins as the only unbeaten team in NFL history. It may not have been the most exciting game after Miami took a big lead. But it’s surely one of the most significant regular-season games in NFL history.

9. 49ers 38, Saints 35 (1980)

It’s important to remember that these two teams once played in the same division and had quite the rivalry. In December 1980, the Saints went to Candlestick Park and shot out to a 35-7 halftime lead.

But that didn’t sit well with Joe Montana, who threw two touchdown passes and ran for another in the second half while the San Francisco defense shut out the Saints during the final 30 minutes. After forcing overtime with 28 unanswered points, the 49ers kicked a field goal in overtime to turn a 35-7 deficit into a 38-35 win.

8. Colts 35, Patriots 34 (2009)

Among regular-season meetings between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, this one sits at the top.

Brady had 375 yards and three touchdown passes while Manning had 327 passing yards and four touchdowns, although the two legends combined for three interceptions.

The Pats tried to keep the ball away from Manning in the close minutes while nursing a 34-28 lead. But New England failed to convert a fourth-and-2 on its own 28-yard-line. Four plays later, Manning threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne.

7. Cowboys 35, Washington 34 (1979)

It was only fitting for Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach to steal the show in what would be the final regular-season game of his career. Staubach and the Cowboys actually erased multiple deficits in this game.

First, they fell behind 17-0, only to take a 21-17 lead. Washington struck back, leading 34-21 with less than four minutes left. However, Staubach threw a 26-yard touchdown to Ron Springs to make it a one-score game.

The Dallas defense then forced a punt to give Staubach the ball back with 1:46 left. That gave Staubach enough time to throw another touchdown pass to Tony Hill to give the Cowboys a one-point over their rivals in comeback style.

6. Dolphins vs Jets (1994)

Fair warning, this isn’t going to be the last Dolphins-Jets game on our list. The second meeting between the AFC Rivals in 1994 is memorable for a number of reasons.

First, the Dolphins trailed 17-0 midway through the third quarter before Dan Marino jump-started a comeback. Even though Marino got things on track, Miami still trailed 24-21 in the final seconds.

The Dolphins got the ball to the eight-yard line with 30 seconds and counting on the clock. Marino yelled out that he was going to spike the ball. But he sensed that the Jets weren’t prepared, so he faked the snap and threw to Mark Ingram in the corner of the end zone for the game-winning score in a timeless classic for everyone but Jets fans.

5. Jets 40, Dolphins 37 (2000)

Whether you want to call it a collapse or a comeback, this is one of the best NFL regular season games ever played.

The Dolphins led 30-7 heading into the fourth quarter and must have figured that the last 15 minutes would be a breeze. But that was before Vinny Testaverde threw three touchdown passes to help the Jets tie the game at 30-30.

Miami responded to re-take a 37-30 lead, only for Testaverde to throw his fourth touchdown pass of the fourth quarter, throwing it to offensive lineman Jumbo Elliott – of all people – who was an eligible receiver on the play and bobbled the ball a little before getting it in his grasp.

That touchdown came in the final minute and forced overtime, where the Jets would get a field goal to complete the comeback win and Miami’s dreadful collapse.

4. Jets 51, Dolphins 45 (1986)

Out of all of the Jets-Dolphins games on our list, this one might be the best. The game went back and forth all day with neither team being able to hold a lead or gain much separation in one of the best shootouts ever seen.

Quarterbacks Dan Marino and Ken O’Brien combined for over 920 passing yards and 10 touchdowns, as each team had two receivers with over 100 yards receiving on the day. It was the Jets who trailed late, only for O’Brien to hit Wesley Walker with a 21-yard touchdown pass on the final play of regulation to tie the game at 45 and force overtime.

In the overtime, O’Brien again found Walker for a 43-yard touchdown to win the game on Walker’s fourth touchdown catch of the game.

3. Chiefs 31, Broncos 28 (1994)

With two legendary quarterbacks dueling it out, it doesn’t get much better than this game, especially on a Monday night. Of course, the Chiefs-Broncos rivalry is among the best in NFL history, but it was even better seeing Joe Montana and John Elway share a field.

Elway thought he had gotten the best of Montana when he ran into the end zone to give Denver a 28-24 lead late in the fourth quarter. But the 89 seconds left on the clock was more than enough time for Montana to march the Chiefs down the field.

Montana found Willie Davis for a five-yard touchdown pass to put the Chiefs back in the lead with eight seconds left, a fitting ending to an amazing and memorable game.

2. Rams 54, Chiefs 51 (2018)

Heading into this game, there was plenty of hype, as these were two of the best teams in the league and each had a prolific offense. But the real thing somehow exceeded those expectations, becoming one of the highest-scoring games in NFL history.

It was the first time in NFL history that both teams scored at least 50 points. The kicker is that it was a Monday night game and the highest-scoring Monday night game ever. To be fair, both teams scored a defensive touchdown, which helped.

But this was all about the quarterbacks putting on a show, as Patrick Mahomes threw for 478 yards and six touchdowns, only to be bested by the Rams, who got 413 passing yards and four touchdowns from Jared Goff, including a nine-yard pass to Gerald Everett for the game-winning score in the final minute.

1. Raiders 35, Chargers 32 (2021)

While it’s fresh in everyone’s mind, there is a good chance that the regular-season finale to the 2021 season will stand the test of time and end up being one of the best NFL regular season games ever played.

It was essentially a playoff to get into the playoffs, although each team could have settled for a tie and both qualified. The Chargers also overcame a 15-point deficit in the final five minutes of the game to force overtime, facing a potentially game-ending fourth down on multiple occasions.

Late in the overtime, the clock nearly ran out, which would have been good news for both teams. But Josh Jacobs picked up 11 yards on a simple running play, setting up the game-winning field goal to send the Raiders to the playoffs and send the rival Chargers home without a playoff birth in a bitter loss.

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