It’s not a big secret that the AFC has been the stronger conference in the NFL, although the last three Super Bowls and four of the last five have been won by the NFC. The big arguing case about parity and disparity? Only 3 AFC teams have made the big game for the last nine years, while 8 teams from the NFC have made it.
The Indianapolis Colts, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New England Patriots. That’s it. Nine years, three teams. In the NFC? Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers.
The last Super Bowl without one of the three AFC teams was SB XXXVII, after the 2002 season, with the Oakland Raiders getting dismantled by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It’s not surprising to find that according to our decade (2002-2011) rankings, the Colts, Steelers and Patriots have been the best teams in the NFL, not just in the AFC, according to their playoff accomplishments.
The New England Patriots reached the Super Bowl four times in that time period – Winning in two consecutive times, both by three points. First on February 1, 2004 against the Panthers, winning 32-29, and a year later on February 6, 2005, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21. Three years later, after a 16-0 regular season, they met with the New York Giants on February 3, 2008, losing 17-14. Four years pass, and against the Giants beat the Patriots, this time 21-17.
The Pittsburgh Steelers made the Super Bowl three times in six seasons. First after the 2005 NFL Season in a controversial final against the Seattle Seahawks, with a few very weird officiating calls going the Steelers’ way. Pittsburgh won 21-10, winning their first big one since 1980. Three years pass and the Steelers meet the Arizona Cardinals for one of the greatest Super Bowl games ever, becoming the first team to win six in NFL history with a 27-23 victory. Two years later came the loss to the Green Bay Packers in another great game, this time 31-25.
For the Colts, it’s “only” been two visits. First after the 2006 season, beating the Chicago Bears 29-17 and three years later, losing to the New Orleans Saints 31-17. The New York Giants are the only NFC team to make the Super Bowl twice during that time span, both under Tom Coughlin, beating the Patriots twice.