I'm not normally one to make big, bold predictions, because they're generally wrong.
In fact, by making a prediction, I suspect my prediction may doom itself to failure in some sort of weird karmic retribution.
Because they're playing the AFC East this season.
At this point, you might be asking yourself why that matters.
It matters because the NFC champion has come from the division that has played the AFC East for seven consecutive seasons:
- 2006: NFC North—Chicago Bears
- 2007: NFC East—New York Giants
- 2008: NFC West—Arizona Cardinals
- 2009: NFC South—New Orleans Saints
- 2010: NFC North—Green Bay Packers
- 2011: NFC East—New York Giants
- 2012: NFC West—San Francisco 49ers
So what is it about playing the AFC East that helps so much? I think there are two reasons.
First, the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins collectively have not been very good since that streak began. Their combined record in that time is 145–191 (0.431). They've played only slightly better than that against NFC teams in the same span, going 38–46 (0.452).
Top teams in the NFC get to feast on some relatively weaker competition, which helps them boost their records and their playoff position as a result. In fact, every team in the above list won at least two of their three games against the Bills, Jets and Dolphins that year.
That helps. After all, playing the AFC East also means playing the New England Patriots.
The Patriots have played at a much higher level over that time span than their AFC East brethren. In fact, their record over the last seven seasons is 88–24 (0.785)—14 wins more than any other team in that span.
Therefore, it's not entirely surprising that Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson described the team's 2012 regular-season matchup against the Patriots as the "biggest game in the history of the franchise," as reported by CSN Houston.
It's obviously quite possible that this will be the year the streak ends, but I wouldn't count on it.