The National Football League seems to go through spurts in which one conference
is overall superior to the other.

For much of my early time as a football fan, I did not see the AFC win a single
Super Bowl. From 1985 until 1997, the NFC won every Super Bowl. Those thirteen
Championships were won by only six teams - the San Francisco 49ers, the Chicago
Bears, the New York Giants, the Washington Redskins, the Dallas Cowboys and the
Green Bay Packers. Prior to that era, the AFC had been the more dominant
conference, winning 12 of the first 18 Super Bowls, with the Pittsburgh
Steelers winning four times, the Oakland/L.A. Raiders winning three and the
Dolphins twice.

Since 1998, the power has shifted back over to the AFC, with that conference
winning nine of the last twelve Super Bowls, The Patriots have three
championships, the Steelers two and the Broncos two during that span. The Colts
and Ravens have also each won a single title during this era of AFC dominance.
The NFC teams that won, (Rams, Buccaneers and Giants) each only won once. The
AFC has really had three dominant teams this decade in the Patriots, Steelers
and Colts, who have filled 11 out of the possible 18 AFC Championship slots in
the span from 2000 to 2008.

This season, however, I'm sensing a bit of a shift. Though the Colts are still
at a perfect 12-0, the New Orleans Saints have the same record, and the
Minnesota Vikings are two steps behind them at 10-2. The Patriots have faced
both the Colts and the Saints, and though familiarity was likely a factor, they
fared much better in losing to the Colts than they did the Saints. The Saints
looked unstoppable. They had a bit of a letdown against the Redskins last
weekend, but still managed to get the job done. The Vikings have rolled through
their schedule with the only hiccups being a loss to the Super Bowl Champion
Pittsburgh Steelers, and a road loss last weekend to the defending NFC champion

The AFC powers from this decade, even with the Colts 12-0 record, just seem a
bit weaker this year than they have for some time. Would you be shocked if they
went 16-0 and then lost their first playoff game? Right now the many in the
media are picking the Chargers as the trendy choice to come out of the AFC, and
a further decline from the AFC trio of power wouldn't be out of the question
going forward. The Patriots are suddenly on a fast decline according to many,
with an aging offense with Tom Brady and Randy Moss coupled with a young
defense that hasn't made the plays it has needed. The Colts and Steelers too
have a few key pieces that are getting up there in age. How these team s handle
the transition to the young players will determine the shape of the AFC over
the next 5 years or so.

If those teams falter, could the NFC jump up and be the dominant conference for
the next decade? It was only one game, but comparing the shakedown by the
Saints of the Patriots, to how the Patriots played the Colts, it certainly
seemed like the NFC could be considered a favorite to win the Super Bowl this
season. As outlined earlier, these things seem to run in trends, and if history
is any indication, the NFC has another run in them coming up at some point.

Bruce Allen is the creator of Boston Sports Media Watch,
which has recently been recognized by as one of the best non-corporate
sports web site's on the Internet


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