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Is the NFL's Balance of Power Finally Shifting from NFC to AFC?

September 22, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) runs against San Francisco 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown (25) during the third quarter at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Chris TrapassoAnalyst ISeptember 23, 2013

The balance of conference power is shifting in the NFL

Three weeks into the 2013 season, the AFC is 12-2 against the NFC. Although the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, four of the previous five Vince Lombardi Trophies recipients have been representatives from the NFC. 

In 2012, the NFC went 39-25 against the AFC. 

Let's take a closer look at how the AFC is becoming the league's power conference. 

 

Quarterback Play

Everyone knows sound quarterback play is key in today's NFL. With Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Colin Kaepernick, Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, there shouldn't have been much wonder as to why the NFC was thought to be the superior conference heading into this season.

Through three games, though, as a whole, the NFC's elite signal-callers have simply not been themselves.

Here's a look at their current statistics compared to last year's numbers:

While we haven't seen a major dip from all of the NFC's finest quarterbacks, their collective averages are down through three weeks, which is surprising based on some of the track records in that group.

On paper, the AFC simply doesn't have nearly as many established quarterbacks, and Tom Brady hasn't gotten off to a Tom Brady-esque start. But Peyton Manning has 12 touchdowns and no interceptions in his first three games. 

The premier AFC quarterbacks are playing better as a whole:

In 2012, the NFC had a clear advantage at the quarterback position over the AFC, but that advantage hasn't been nearly as distinct as it was due to a relative regression from the NFC's top gunslingers. 

Of the charted quarterbacks, Wilson has the only win against the AFC thus far. Rodgers, Kaepernick, Romo, Ryan and Manning are all 0-1.

 

Stingy Defenses

Nine of the top 15 scoring defenses reside in the AFC. Ten of the top 15 sack-accumulating teams are in the AFC. 

Six of the top 10 yards-allowed-per-rush leaders are AFC clubs.

There are only five AFC teams that've allowed a quarterback rating higher than 90; there are eight NFC teams. Conversely, 12 secondaries are surrendering a quarterback rating below 80—four NFC and eight AFC.

Sep 19, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs players Derrick Johnson (56), Justin Houston (50) and Kendrick Lewis (23) at Lincoln Financial Field. The Chiefs defeated the Eagles 26-
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Offense rules today's NFL, but having a sound defense can be extremely beneficial, especially when it comes to rushing the quarterback and defending the pass.

There hasn't been an abundance of inter-conference action yet, but the AFC seems to be the stingier conference. 

If the relative struggles of the NFC's elite quarterbacks continue and the AFC maintains its defensive dominance, the latter has a legitimate chance to stake its claim as the better NFL conference in 2013. 

 

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