Monday, September 23, 2013

Are We In For A New NFC Dominance? Or Maybe Not

I am 38 years old, so I distinctly remember the time from the 1984 season through the 1996 season when the NFC won all 13 Super Bowls.  Not only did the NFC teams win, but they usually won in dominant fashion.  The NFC had Super Bowl wins by 45, 36, 35, 32, 23, 22, 19 and 17 during that time frame and only Super Bowls XXIII and XXV were decided by less than 10 points. 

You had some dominant NFC teams in the 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, Giants and Bears.  Yet, starting with Super Bowl XXXII, the AFC would then go on to win 8 of the next 10 Super Bowls.

When I look at the league right now, I can see that this kind of trend could be coming back.  No, I certainly don't think that the NFC is going to reel off that kind of impressive streak.  But the NFC looks strong.  Young and strong.

First, let's look at the AFC.  In the AFC, the Denver Broncos are one of the favorites to win the conference.  After that, it is ... New England?  Cincinnati?  Baltimore?  It's hard to say.  Not only is there not the quality of teams there usually is in the conference, most of the elite teams aren't built for the long run.  Denver is in a win-now mode with Peyton Manning.  As is the New England Patriots with Tom Brady.  To me, that makes a team like Cincinnati a team that could be in the mix for the long term.

Below those three teams, you have Pittsburgh and Baltimore ... teams who have had guys leave for various reasons and aren't as strong (though both have great front offices).  The Houston Texans have been in that "right there" spot for a few years and the Indianapolis Colts certainly have a bright future with Andrew Luck.

I'm not saying the AFC sucks by any means.  Remember in those 13 years the NFC won in the mid-80s to mid-90s there were some great AFC teams.  Those Buffalo Bills teams were great.  Denver went to five Super Bowls from 1986-1998 seasons.  There were solid teams in Cincinnati, Houston, Kansas City and Cleveland. 

Over in the NFC, there is a lot of youth that could rise the conference to the next level.  All the buzz is around RGIII (Redskins), Colin Kaepernick (49ers), Russell Wilson (Seahawks) and Cam Newton (Panthers).  The first three led their teams to the playoffs last year with Kaepernick nearly pulling off a Super Bowl championship.  You also have great young-ish QBs in Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford and Drew Brees.  And some guy named Eli Manning has already cashed in a couple of Super Bowls already.

Of course, I can point to those 13 dominant NFC seasons again for some perspective.  The AFC had guys like Dan Marino, John Elway, Jim Kelly, Boomer Esiason, Bernie Kosar and Warren Moon.  Besides Hall Of Famers Brett Favre, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Troy Aikman, these NFC quarterbacks won Super Bowls during that stretch: Jim McMahon, Phil Simms, Doug Williams, Jeff Hostetler and Mark Rypien. 

Plus, who knows what happens long term anymore.  In those days, free agency and salary caps certainly aren't the same as it is today.  It would be extremely hard for those stacked teams to be able to stay stacked in today's climate.  And with the mobility of the QBs in the NFC, they are one big hit away from having their star gone (just ask the Redskins on that). 

The NFC has won 3 of the last 4 Super Bowls and 4 of the last 6.  In the last 16 Super Bowls (the games after the NFC's streak), 12 different franchises have represented the NFC (only the Redskins, Cowboys, Vikings and Lions didn't make a Super Bowl in that span).  Conversely, the AFC has had only 7 teams represent the AFC (Broncos, Titans, Ravens, Patriots, Raiders, Steelers and Colts).. 

During the 13-championship streak, only six (49ers, Redskins, Giants, Cowboys, Bears and Packers) repped the NFC.  And, again, only 7 different teams represented the AFC (Dolphins, Patriots, Broncos, Bengals, Bills, Chargers and Steelers).

Who knows what this season will hold.  Well, except in Jacksonville where the season has pretty much been written.

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