In recent years, the AFC has been noticeably stronger than the NFC.
While the American Football Conference hasn’t come close to achieving the level of dominance that the NFC enjoyed throughout the 1980s and the better part of the '90s (15 out of 16 titles), they have certainly put together their own impressive streak that started with the John Elway-led Broncos in the late '90s. (AFC teams are 9-3 during that span).
Has this recent trend of AFC superiority carried over to this season?
So far, the NFC has held it’s own. And for the first time in several years, the NFC has several teams that could be considered favorites if they make it to the big game.
Before I studied the numbers, I was of the opinion that the NFC might actually be superior this season. While the stats don’t support this theory, they do show that the NFC has pulled even with its rival conference.
At roughly the midway point of the season, the AFC and NFC have played themselves to a 16-16 tie.
The NFC holds nine teams with winning records while the AFC has eight.
The big difference between this year and recent years is that the AFC’s best teams don’t appear to be decidedly better than the leading NFC teams.
The AFC still has the traditional powers in Indy, Pittsburgh and New England. But of the three, only the Colts have looked great at 7-0. The Steelers and Patriots still look very good, but at 5-2, both clubs have shown signs of vulnerability.
Denver may be the surprise team of the conference at 6-1. But I don’t know many people who would view them as dominant.
In the NFC, New Orleans and Minnesota have been very impressive. The two are a combined 14-1 and both have the swagger of a legitimate title contender.
The NFC East also has three very good teams in New York, Dallas and Philadelphia. These three all have their faults, but easily fall into the same category as Pittsburgh and New England.
If you break down the records of winning teams in inter-conference play, the AFC has a slight advantage. Winning AFC teams are 12-3 against the NFC, while the NFC's winners are 15-7 in inter-conference games.
The season has a long way to go, and the AFC could still regain their recent dominance over the NFC.
But if current trends continue, this could be one of the most evenly matched Super Bowls in a while.
Heck, the NFC might even be favored this year.