The following is a list of regular season games that have been canceled by the National Football League since 1933. While canceling games was extremely common prior to this date, since that year, the NFL has only seen four instances in which games have been canceled and not been rescheduled. In the first case (1974) and, to date, the most recent (2011), only one preseason game was canceled, while seven weeks of regular season games were lost in 1982 and one week of regular season games was lost in 1987. In all four seasons, the cancellations were the results of labor disputes between the league and the National Football League Players Association.
In addition to this game, one other game (albeit an exhibition) was canceled for reasons other than a labor dispute: the China Bowl, which was originally scheduled to take place in 2007, was postponed to 2009 and eventually canceled due to an economic recession.
Canceling games was far more common in the 1920s and early 1930s, in the founding years of the league. When a team did not want to play a game, they could cancel without any punishment or penalty. Several years after league schedules were standardized in 1933, cancellations were effectively banned, and teams would have to forfeit the game or postpone if a cancellation was due to issues outside the team's control. There have been no forfeits in the league's history; a 1921 game between the Rochester Jeffersons and the Washington Senators is occasionally listed as a forfeit, but because of the lax cancellation rules of the time, is listed in modern records as a cancellation. The November 17, 1935 Boston Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles game was canceled due to rain and snow.
In 1982, players began a 57-day strike following the completion of the second week of the regular season. As a result of the impasse, games were simply canceled until a settlement was reached. Upon reaching that settlement, the NFL announced that the games originally scheduled for the third week of the season would be played following the completion of the resumed regular season, which saw weeks 11–16 played as scheduled. This meant the 1982 shortened season would include only nine regular season contests played by each club. This was followed by an expansion of the playoffs from 10 to 16 teams.
In order to ensure as many teams had played their division opponents, the ninth week was designed to ensure as many teams had played their division opponents during the season. All but two contests (New York Jets-Kansas City and Dallas-Minnesota) matching opponents from the same division.
As a result of the NFL attempting to ensure each team had played their division rivals (not used for the season) once to ensure maximum attendance, the NFL used most such division rivalries to be assigned as Week Nine games. The Giants-Philadelphia Monday Night game originally scheduled for Week Seven was moved to Sunday, while the Dallas-Minnesota game originally scheduled for Week Three on Sunday was moved to Monday.
In 1987, the players went on strike for a second time in-season, again following the second week of the campaign. However, unlike 1982, the owners took the bold step of using replacement players. After missing just one week of action, the NFL resumed with replacement players for Week 4. By the time Week 6 had rolled around, enough players had crossed the picket lines and forced an agreement. The canceled games of Week 3 simply weren't made up, and the league counted the three weeks of game results featuring the replacement players as regular season games toward each team's final standings. By Week 7, the teams had all players back in action, with all teams completing a 15-game schedule. Also unlike 1982, there was no change to the playoff format that season.
In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the NFL postponed the games for Week 2 of the 2001 season (originally scheduled for September 16 – 17) until the end of the regular season. All playoff games following the 2001 regular season, including Super Bowl XXXVI, and the 2002 Pro Bowl were re-scheduled one week later.
On July 22, 2011, the NFL announced that that year's Pro Football Hall of Fame Game (originally set for August 7 of that year between Chicago and St. Louis) had been canceled, due to an ongoing lockout that had been in place since March of that year. The league approved a new collective bargaining agreement on July 21, but at the same time announced the cancellation of the game, citing the fact that the players would not have enough time in training camp to prepare before the game.
The NFL also had contingency plans to cancel and/or postpone regular season games (up to eight) if a labor agreement could not be reached by the start of the regular season. The league did not have to implement the plans, since the players association agreed to terms with the NFL on July 25, ending the lockout.
Effects due to severe weather and natural disasters
In the modern era, severe weather or natural disasters have affected some games, but none have been canceled outright – they were either switched to a different location, or to a different date in the schedule.
In 2010, a severe storm in Minnesota deposited over 17 inches (43cm) of snow on the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which caused the roof to collapse about 24 hours later, early in the morning of December 12. The Minnesota Vikings had been scheduled to host the New York Giants that afternoon. Prior to the collapse, the game had already been postponed to Monday night, December 13, due to the concerns of stadium officials. The game was relocated to Ford Field in Detroit, still played Monday night. The Vikings' December 20 game against Chicago was moved to TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. The collapse affected no further NFL games, as the rest of the Vikings' 2010 season consisted of road games, and the team had already been eliminated from playoff contention.
Effects of shared stadiums and sports complexes
There have also been rare occasions in which games had to be pushed back one night because of a last-minute scheduling conflict in the facility of those games, most notably when an NFL team has shared a home stadium with a team from Major League Baseball and the baseball team has needed the building for a post-season game. This was a frequent occurrence when there were several shared stadiums across the country, but since 2012 only one such venue remains: O.co Coliseum in Oakland, home of the NFL Raiders and the MLB Athletics; both teams are in the process of exploring a new stadium.
Sunday World Series games in 1987 (Denver Broncos at Minnesota Vikings) and 1997 (Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins) have forced Vikings and Dolphins to play their originally home games on the following night. The 1987 World Series also caused the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to switch home dates for their two games that season in order to avoid another scheduling conflict with the World Series that year. In 2001, a potential Oakland Athletics baseball playoff game forced the Raiders to play their contest against the Dallas Cowboys two weeks in advance to avoid a possible conflict, when both clubs originally had their bye week (as it turned out, the Athletics ended up getting eliminated a few days before the originally scheduled date of the Cowboys-Raiders game). In at least another case, a 2013 baseball playoff game forced the Raiders to postpone their originally scheduled Sunday afternoon game against the San Diego Chargers from 4:25 pm Eastern/1:25 pm Pacific to a far late-night start time of 11:35 Eastern/8:35 Pacific.
Although NFL/MLB-shared stadiums are now rare instead of the norm, there are several current NFL stadiums that share the same parking lots and other ancillary facilities with an adjacent MLB ballpark, thus also preventing both teams from playing simultaneously. There has been at least one case where an NFL game was pushed back because the baseball team needed the entire complex for a post-season game: a New York Giants–Philadelphia Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field was moved from 4:15 pm to 1:00 pm to accommodate the Philadelphia Phillies hosting Game 4 of the 2009 World Series at adjacent Citizens Bank Park.