Who's the be-atch now?
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 09, 2005
From the mid 1980s to mid 1990s, the NFC bitch-slapped a sad-sack series of AFC pretenders all over the field in the Super Bowl, the biggest showcase in North American sports.
If this period of NFL championship history were a porn movie, the AFC would be handcuffed to a radiator in a South Bronx crack house, working hard for its high before being pistol-whipped and tossed out into a dumpster. Yeah, it was that ugly.
The NFL's senior circuit won an amazing 13 straight Super Bowls from January 1985 to January 1997, and they did it in resounding fashion, running away in the title game by a three-touchdown average (20.8 PPG). The most thorough and humiliating beatings in Super Bowl history all came during this period. Washington beat Denver, 42-10 (1988); Dallas whupped Buffalo, 52-17 (1993); Chicago mauled New England, 46-10 (1986); and, in the most lopsided championship match of the Super Bowl era, San Francisco destroyed Denver, 55-10 (1990).
Of course, the NFL looks quite a bit different these days. Suffice it to say, the dirty crack whore is back with a big gun, a bad attitude and – surprise! – a clean bill of health from the community clinic.
While Super Bowl XXXIX turned out to be a fairly competitive contest – the AFC's Patriots edged the NFC's Eagles by three points – 2004 was the most dominant season by one conference over another in the post-merger history of the NFL (since 1970). The AFC went 44-20 against the NFC, a .687 winning percentage.
The AFC has won six of the past eight Super Bowls and last came up on the short end of interconference play back in 1995, when the NFC won 33 of 60 games.
But the interconference record tells only half the story. The rest is found in the utter ineptitude of the NFC last year. It was, by any measure, the worst all-around year by an entire conference in post-merger history.
A long list of NFC teams did everything in their power to miss the playoffs last year. Despite their worst efforts, the league continued its pesky insistence on sending six teams from each conference into the postseason. In 2004, that resulted in the NFC producing the weakest field of playoff contenders in the 85-year history of the NFL:
- Only five times in league history had a .500 team appeared in the postseason. Yet the NFC sent two .500 teams into the postseason last year (Minnesota and St. Louis).
- Never in the history of the NFL had a .500 team won a postseason game. Yet both .500 NFC teams won playoff games last year.
- Only twice in the entire history of the league had teams that surrendered more points than they scored appeared in the postseason. Yet the NFC sent two such teams to the postseason last year: St. Louis (319 PF, 393 PA) and Seattle (371 PF, 373 PA).
- Conference finalist Atlanta posted the second-best record in the NFC last year (11-5). Despite their standing as one of the two most dominant teams in the conference, the Falcons scored just three more points than they surrendered all season (340-337).
- Conference finalist Atlanta was also on the wrong end of the worst beating of the 2004 season, a 56-10 facial smackdown at the hands of AFC also-ran Kansas City.
Things look even worse when we take a gander at the performances of NFC teams against quality opponents last season:
- Only two NFC teams, Atlanta and Philly, had winning records against quality opponents in the regular season.
- Including the postseason, Super Bowl representative Philly was the only NFC team to end the season with a winning record against quality opponents (3-2).
- St. Louis, a .500 team last year, had more quality wins than any NFC team (five, versus five losses).
- Green Bay won the NFC North with a 10-6 record – the third best overall record in the entire conference. But the Packers failed to beat a single team all year with a winning record (0-3). In other words, in a season that included 17 games (with the postseason), the Packers played 14 games against teams that were .500 or worse.
- In those three games against quality opponents, division-winning Green Bay was outscored by 15.7 points per game.
- Half of the AFC (eight teams) recorded at least as many quality wins last year (three) as NFC Super Bowl representative Philly.
- NFC teams posted 17 wins against quality opponents last season. AFC teams posted 48 wins against quality opponents.
History tells us it's unlikely the AFC will be as dominant in 2005 as it was in 2004. After all, last year was one for the interconference-play record books. It's not reasonable to expect it to happen again. But we do know this: the early money out of our pocket is on the AFC to reign supreme in 2005 and in Super Bowl XL.
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