Is the AFC still the NFL’s dominant conference? Probably not. The reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants reside in the NFC. Two of the AFC’s best players (New England Patriots QB Tom Brady and San Diego Chargers LB Shawne Merriman) are lost for the entire season. And the NFC is 4-2 vs. the AFC in interconference play after two weeks of the season.
The NFC has not had a winning record against the AFC since 1995. Last season, the conferences were even (32-32) in head-to-head competition for the first time since 2001. And entering last season’s Super Bowl, the AFC had won six of the last seven title games.
Improved offensive play is a big reason why the NFC is flourishing once again, as 13 of the 16 NFC teams are averaging 20 or more points per game this season. A few star players in the conference have successfully returned from injury this season. Donovan McNabb is healthy, rejuvenated, and the Philadelphia Eagles are once again one of the top scoring teams in the league. And Jake Delhomme has brought his signature enthusiasm and gunslinger personality back to the undefeated Carolina Panthers after missing all of last season due to ligament-replacement surgery in his right elbow.
Scoring has been a staple in the AFC, thanks largely to the play of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Historically, the AFC has always been considered “the conference of the quarterback, “and on most Sundays they will have more first-round starting quarterbacks than their NFC rivals. But Brady’s season-ending knee injury and the struggles of Carson Palmer have hurt the QB quality in the AFC.
Typically, the NFC has been a conference that features strong defenses and solid running games. But that philosophy could be changing, as some NFC teams are copying the AFC formula: basing their success on the play from the quarterback position. The statistical numbers do not lie; Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, and Drew Brees are all having hot starts to their seasons. The passing numbers haven’t been this good in the NFC since the Kurt Warner era in St. Louis. And during this recent AFC’s domination, Brett Favre and McKnabb have been only premier quarterbacks the NFC had to offer in competition.
The supremacy of the AFC could be ending this season, as the gap seems to be closing between the two conferences. Perhaps now the NFC will get the respect it deserves.
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Tags: Aaron Rodgers, AFC, B, Brett Favre, Carolina Panthers, Carson Palmer, Donovan McKnabb, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Jake Delhomme, Kurt Warner, New England Patriots, New York Giants, NFC, Peyton Manning, Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, Shawne Merriman, St. Louis, Super Bowl, Tom Brady, Tony Romo