The American Football League wasn’t the first league to challenge the superiority of the NFL. It wasn’t even the first pro football league to gain a merger with the mighty NFL. That would have been the All-American Football Conference, which existed from 1946-49 and eventually forced the NFL to usurp three of its teams – the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts and San Francisco 49ers. But where the AFL succeeded beyond perhaps even its wildest dreams was that it forced the NFL to accept it as an equal.
When the AFL-NFL merger took effect in 1966, the NFL allowed all 10 AFL teams into its fold. It created an annual title game between the leagues, the Super Bowl, something the AFC lobbied hard for but could never get the NFL to accept.
In 1970, when the AFL ceased to exist, all 10 of its teams were divided into three divisions – the East, Central and West – to form the American Football Conference.
To create balance, three clubs from the 16-team NFL – the Colts, Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers – were moved to the AFC so there would be 13 teams in each conference. Curiously, the Colts and Browns had entered the NFL when the AAFC folded in 1949.
Those three teams from the old NFL helped quickly establish credibility that the AFC would not only compete on even footing with the NFC but would in fact be able to dominate their senior rivals. The Colts won the AFC East title in 1970, posting an AFC-best 11-2-1 record and defeated the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 in Super Bowl V. The Browns won the AFC Central Crown in 1971 and the Colts earned the wildcard playoff position. The Steelers, who never qualified for postseason play as an NFL team, won the AFC Central title in 1972 and between 1974-79, twice won back-to-back Super Bowl titles to become the first NFL team to win four Super Bowls.
What Are The AFC Standings
The up-to-the-minute AFC standings are listed here and when it comes to the AFC, the few tend to win many.
Three quarterbacks – Tom Brady (New England Patriots), Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos) started 14 of 16 Super Bowls for the AFC between 2001-16.
Dynasties are the way of the AFC. The Miami Dolphins played in three straight Super Bowls between 1971-73 and in 1972, were the only Super Bowl winner to post a perfect season.
The Steelers won four Super Bowls in six years from 1974-79 and own a record six Super Bowl victories. New England has played in a record nine Super Bowls. The 1991-94 Buffalo Bills are the only team to play in four straight Super Bowls.
|1||New England Patriots||16||13||3||458||296||0.813|
|5||New Orleans Saints||16||11||5||448||326||0.688|
|6||Los Angeles Rams||16||11||5||478||329||0.688|
|9||Kansas City Chiefs||16||10||6||415||339||0.625|
|11||Los Angeles Chargers||16||9||7||355||272||0.563|
|19||Green Bay Packers||16||7||9||320||384||0.438|
|23||San Francisco 49ers||16||6||10||331||383||0.375|
|25||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||5||11||335||382||0.313|
|27||New York Jets||16||5||11||298||382||0.313|
|31||New York Giants||16||3||13||246||388||0.188|
How To Win AFC Bets
Through the first 51 Super Bowls, the AFC holds a slight edge, 27-24 edge in victories. But when it comes to Super Bowl quarterbacks, the AFC has it all over the NFC.
Five quarterbacks have represented the AFC in at least four Super Bowls – Tom Brady (seven), John Elway (five), Terry Bradshaw (four), Peyton Manning (four) and Jim Kelly (four). Brady owns a record five Super Bowl wins. Joe Montana is the only NFC QB to appear in four Super Bowls.
The Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders own the distinction of playing in five Super Bowls with four different starting quarterbacks – Daryle Lamonica (II), Ken Stabler (XI), Jim Plunkett (XV, XVIII) and Rich Gannon (XXXVII).
If you are looking to wager on someone etching their name into the Super Bowl record book, it’s a good bet to count on it being someone from an AFC team. Tom Brady (New England, seven) and Mike Lodish (Buffalo, Denver, six) rank 1-2 in Super Bowl appearances as a player, while Brady is the only player to start seven Super Bowl games and won a record four MVP awards.
Gale Gilbert (Buffalo, San Diego) appeared in a record five straight Super Bowls, while Peyton Manning (Indianapolis, Denver) is the only starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams. The oldest (Manning, 39) and youngest (Ben Roethlisberger, 23) starting quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl were at the helm of AFC teams.
Pittsburgh’s Franco Harris owns Super Bowl career marks for rushing yards (354) and attempts (101), while Pittsburgh’s Wille Paker (75 yards) set the Super Bowl mark for longest run from scrimmage (75 yards). Denver’s Terrell Davis rushed for a record three touchdowns in Super Bowl XXXII.
If you’re looking for a fantastic finish, you should also bet on the AFC. All three Super Bowl games to be won on the final play of regulation were on field goals booted by AFC kickers – Jim O’Brien of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V and New England’s Adam Vinatieri in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII. And the Patriots were the first team to win the Super Bowl in overtime in Super Bowl LI.