AFC, NFC even par in the NFL?

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.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Couch Potato Alert: 8/29

Labor Day has traditionally been the last weekend to wear white, but it is now time to don your school colors for the start of the college football season.

– Al Groh wishes he still had Chris Long anchoring his defensive front this weekend. His Cavaliers could still give USC some trouble if they can exploit the young, inexperienced Trojan offensive line. University of Virginia will host Southern Cal on Saturday in front of a nationally televised audience on ABC beginning at 3:30 p.m. EST.

– All eyes will be on The Big House on the University of Michigan campus, as the Rich Rodriquez era begins in Maize and Blue. This game might depend on whether or not Utah’s inexperienced front seven can control Michigan’s playmakers at the line of scrimmage. The Wolverines will host the Runnin’ Utes late Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. EST on ESPNU.

– A In a classic border war, Illinois travels to the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis to play host Missouri. Heisman Trophy candidate QB Chase Daniels will show off his throwing skills in the primetime matchup, and he will have a lot of firepower to throw to on the Tigers side of the ball. But do not underestimate the Missouri defense, which has 10 starters returning. The Fighting Illini will miss the leadership of Rashard Mendenhall this season, as they rely on freshman WR Regis Benn to lead their offense. Check local listings on which ESPN/ABC family of channels will be broadcasting this game on Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. EST.

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