Even though the AFC can send only one team to the Super Bowl, it seems that statistics and history make it seem like three teams: The San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots are all going to the Super Bowl this season.
The Chargers, who are 2-2 so far this season, rely on the recent trend of Super Bowl winners all playing against the Philadelphia Eagles on the Eagles’ home opener for the last four seasons. As already discussed, the Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints all played at Lincoln Field as the first team the Eagles host since. All of them have gone on to win the Super Bowl that season, and the Ravens showed you don’t even have to beat the Eagles in order for this ‘curse’ to come true.
The Chargers did quite well on their visit to Philadelphia this season, winning 33-30 thanks to a field goal by Nick Novak with 7 second left in the game.
As for the New England Patriots, they haven’t looked too impressive in the first three games of the season, but their win over the Falcons puts them at 4-0, and finally showed us Tom Brady connecting with someone other than Julian Edelman.
The case for their Super Bowl bid? The Patriots have started 4-0 twice before under Bill Belichick. The first was in the 2004 season, which saw them finish the season at 14-2 and go on to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl, and the other was in 2007, having the perfect 16-0 regular season and 18-0 run before losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl. In any case, when the Pats start this well, they make it to the Super Bowl.
But the Broncos actually look like Super Bowl contenders, and also have history on their side. They’ve had five different seasons of 4-0 starts. Only once, in 2009, the Broncos failed to reach the Super Bowl after such a start. In fact, they had a 6-0 start that season, only to win only twice in the final 10 games.
The four times they did make it? In both Super Bowl winning seasons of 1998 and 1997 the Broncos had a great start, including going 14-0 in 1998, which is usually an excellent indicator for being a strong team (obvious, we know). Also in seasons with unhappy endings – 1986 (6-0 start) and 1977 (6-0) start, the Broncos managed to reach the Super Bowl, only to lose against the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys respectively.