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AFC Teams Should Get Used to Playing for Second Place: Fan’s Take
On January 9, 1969 Joe Namath made his famous guarantee that his AFL team, the New York Jets, would beat the heavily favored Colts, of the NFL, in Super Bowl III. The Jets did win that game and by doing so they also started something bigger. The victory by Namath's Jets proved that the AFL could compete with the NFL and shortly after that the merger between the two leagues was completed.
It also started something else: a run of dominance by the AFC. Starting with the Jets victory the AFC won eleven of thirteen Super Bowls. The run of success for the AFC ended after the 1981 season when the San Francisco 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals and ushered in a run of dominance by the NFC. Teams from the NFC won fifteen of the next sixteen Super Bowls including thirteen in a row. The run by the NFC would be ended by back-to-back Super Bowl victories by the Broncos. The pendulum would then swing back to the AFC. Starting with those Bronco victories the AFC won nine of the next twelve. This leads us to today. The NFC has already won two in a row and three out of the last four. It appears the NFC is ready for a run of dominance again and it might last for a while.
Here are three reasons why:
Technically, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. However, Rodgers is playing at such a high level he practically deserves a category all to himself. He is only 28 years old and appears to be getting better and better. As far as the rest of his team goes, at the time of the 53 man roster cut at the beginning of the year the packers were the second youngest team in the NFL. When the Packers made their Super Bowl run last season they had several players on IR. Those players are back and contributing. As scary as it could be for the rest of the NFL the Packers have a lot of room to get better and a lot of years to do it.
The NFC is young and good
Including the Packers seven of the ten youngest teams reside in the NFC. Six of those teams either went to the playoffs last year, won ten games last year, or are going to the playoffs this year. The other team is the Carolina Panthers. Despite the Panthers poor record this season you would be hard pressed to find a fan base more excited about the future of their team than Carolina's. Cam Newton and his Offensive Rookie of the Year level of play create the excitement for the Panthers this season. Not counting specialists (Long snapper, Kicker, Punter) the San Francisco 49ers are the fourth youngest team and have the second best record in the league. And finally the Saints, who won the Super Bowl only two years ago, are in the middle of the league in age so they should have several more years before their window for success closes.
The AFC is old
Only five teams won the nine Super Bowls by the AFC during the most recent run. The Broncos teams that started it are long gone. The next victory went to the Baltimore Ravens who are the ninth oldest team in the league. The Patriots won three of those Super Bowls and they are the eighth oldest. The Steelers won two and they are the very oldest team in the entire league. The Colts won a Super Bowl during that run and went to another and they are only the thirteenth oldest team. However, their success (as this season has clearly demonstrated) is solely based on the thirty-seven year old, three neck surgery having, Payton Manning. The other team that has been a stalwart of the AFC playoffs over the last several years has been the San Diego Chargers. They are the third oldest team. The runners up in the last two AFC Championships, the New York Jets, are the seventh oldest. It has been a good run for the AFC but the window seems to be closing quickly.
All is not lost for the AFC though. There are a few slivers of hope. This is the NFL and anything can happen. Aaron Rodgers has been concussion prone and could miss games or a season at any moment. The AFC still has Tom Brady and the Patriots. The Steelers are still the Steelers. The Bengals, Dolphins, and Texans are young and improving. However, that pales in comparison to the dominance that is brewing in the NFC. The pendulum tends to swing back and forth in terms of Super Bowl winners and it looks like the NFC is about to enjoy some time on the top. Led by the Packers the NFC is poised to hoist the Lambardi Trophy for the foreseeable future and the AFC is going to be playing for second place.
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