American Football Conference
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The American Football Conference (AFC) is one of the two
conferences A conference is a meeting A meeting is when two or more people A people is a plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self ...
of the
National Football League The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rect ...
(NFL), the highest professional level of American football in the United States. This conference currently contains 16 teams organized into 4
divisions Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics) Division is one of the four basic operations of arithmetic, the ways that numbers are combined to make new numbers. The other operations are addition, subtraction, and multi ...
, as does its counterpart, the
National Football Conference The National Football Conference (NFC) is one of the two conferences A conference is a meeting of people who "confer" about a topic. Conference types include: Physical * Academic conference, in science and academic, a formal event where researc ...
(NFC). Both conferences were created as part of the 1970 merger between the National Football League, and the
American Football League The American Football League (AFL) was a major professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a re ...
(AFL). All ten of the AFL teams, and three NFL teams, became members of the new AFC, with the remaining thirteen NFL teams forming the NFC. A series of league expansions and division realignments have occurred since the merger, thus making the current total of 16 teams in each conference. The current AFC champions are the
Kansas City Chiefs The Kansas City Chiefs are a professional American football team based in Kansas City, Missouri. They compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's American Football Conference (AFC) AFC West, West division. The t ...

Kansas City Chiefs
, who defeated the
Buffalo Bills The Buffalo Bills are a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular American ...
in the 2020
AFC Championship Game The AFC Championship Game is the annual championship game of the American Football Conference The American Football Conference (AFC) is one of the two Athletic conference, conferences of the National Football League (NFL), the highest professio ...
for their second consecutive conference championship.


Teams

Like the NFC, the conference has 16 teams organized into four
divisions Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics) Division is one of the four basic operations of arithmetic, the ways that numbers are combined to make new numbers. The other operations are addition, subtraction, and multi ...
each with four teams: East,
North North is one of the four compass points or cardinal directions. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to East and West. ''North'' is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating Direction (geometry), direction or geography. Etymology The ...
,
South South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Germa ...

South
and
West 250px, A compass rose with west highlighted in black West or Occident is one of the four cardinal directions or points of the compass The points of the compass are the vectors by which planet-based directions are conventionally defined. A co ...
.


Season structure

This chart of the 2020 season standings displays an application of the NFL scheduling formula. The Chiefs in 2020 (highlighted in green) finished in first place in the
AFC West The American Football Conference – Western Division or AFC West is one of the four Division (sport), divisions of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The division comprises the Denver Broncos, Kansas C ...
. Thus, in 2021, the Chiefs are scheduled to play two games against each of its division rivals (highlighted in light blue), one game against each team in the
AFC North The American Football Conference – Northern Division or AFC North is one of the four divisions Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics) Division is one of the four basic operations of arithmetic, the ways th ...
and
NFC East The National Football Conference – Eastern Division or NFC East is one of the four division Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics), the inverse of multiplication *Division algorithm, a method for computing the ...
(highlighted in yellow), and one game each against the first-place finishers in the
AFC East The American Football Conference – Eastern Division or AFC East is one of the four division Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics), the inverse of multiplication *Division algorithm, a method for computing the ...
and
AFC South The American Football Conference – Southern Division or AFC South is one of the four division Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics), the inverse of multiplication *Division algorithm, a method for computing t ...

AFC South
(highlighted in orange).
Currently, the thirteen opponents each team faces over the 16-game regular season schedule are set using a pre-determined formula: Each AFC team plays the other teams in their respective division twice (home and away) during the regular season, in addition to 10 other games assigned to their schedule by the NFL. Two of these games are assigned on the basis of a particular team's final divisional standing from the previous season. The remaining 8 games are split between the roster of two other NFL divisions. This assignment shifts each year and will follow a standard cycle. Using the 2012 regular season schedule as an example, each team in the AFC West plays against every team in the AFC North and NFC South. In this way, non-divisional competition will be mostly among common opponents – the exception being the two games assigned based on the team's prior-season divisional standing. At the end of each season, the four division winners and three
wild cards ''Wild Cards'' is a series of science fiction File:Imagination 195808.jpg, Space exploration, as predicted in August 1958 in the science fiction magazine ''Imagination (magazine), Imagination.'' Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi ...
(non-division winners with best regular season record) in the AFC qualify for the
playoffs The playoffs, play-offs, postseason or finals of a sports league A sports league is a group of sports team A sports team is a group of individuals who play sport Sport pertains to any form of Competition, competitive physical activi ...
. The AFC playoffs culminate in the
AFC Championship Game The AFC Championship Game is the annual championship game of the American Football Conference The American Football Conference (AFC) is one of the two Athletic conference, conferences of the National Football League (NFL), the highest professio ...
, with the winner receiving the
Lamar Hunt Lamar Hunt (August 2, 1932 – December 13, 2006) was an American businessman most notable for being one of the sons of H.L. Hunt. Lamar made a name for himself by his promoting of American football American football, referred to simpl ...
Trophy. The AFC Champion then plays the NFC Champion in the
Super Bowl The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL). It has served as the final game of every NFL season since 1966, replacing the NFL Championship Game. Since 2004, the game has been played on the first Sunday ...
.


History

Both the AFC and the NFC were created after the NFL
merged In corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are transactions in which the ownership of Company, companies, other business organizations, or their operating units are transferred or Consolidation (business), consolidated with other entit ...
with the
American Football League The American Football League (AFL) was a major professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a re ...
(AFL) in 1970. The AFL began play in 1960 with eight teams, and added two more expansion clubs (the
Miami Dolphins The Miami Dolphins are a professional American football team based in the Miami metropolitan area. They compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member team of the league's American Football Conference (AFC) AFC East, East division. The ...

Miami Dolphins
in 1966 and the
Cincinnati Bengals The Cincinnati Bengals are a professional American football franchise based in Cincinnati. The Bengals compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's American Football Conference (AFC) AFC North, North division. T ...

Cincinnati Bengals
in 1968) before the merger. In order to equalize the number of teams in each conference, three NFL teams that predated the AFL's launch (the
Cleveland Browns The Cleveland Browns are a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular American ...
,
Pittsburgh Steelers The Pittsburgh Steelers are a professional American football team based in Pittsburgh. The Steelers compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the American Football Conference (AFC) AFC North, North division. Founded in , ...
, and the then-
Baltimore Colts Baltimore ( , locally: ) is the most populous city The United Nations uses three definitions for what constitutes a city, as not all cities in all jurisdictions are classified using the same criteria. Cities may be defined as the city prope ...
) joined the ten former AFL teams to form the AFC. The two AFL divisions AFL East and
AFL West The American Football Conference – Western Division or AFC West is one of the four Division (sport), divisions of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The division comprises the Denver Broncos, Kansas C ...
were more or less intact, while the NFL's Century Division, in which the Browns and the Steelers had played since 1967, was moved from the NFL to become the new AFC Central. Upon the completion of the merger of the AFL and NFL in 1970, the newly minted American Football Conference had already agreed upon their divisional setup along mostly geographical lines for the 1970 NFL season, 1970 season; the National Football Conference, however, could not agree upon their setup, and one was chosen from a fishbowl on January 16, 1970. Since the merger, five expansion teams have joined the AFC and two have left, thus making the current total 16. When the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers joined the league in 1976, they were temporarily placed in the NFC and AFC respectively. This arrangement lasted for one season only before the two teams switched conferences. The Seahawks eventually returned to the NFC as a result of the 2002 NFL season#Expansion and realignment, 2002 realignment. The expansion Jacksonville Jaguars joined the AFC in 1995. There have been five teams that have relocated at least once. In 1984, the History of the Baltimore Colts, Baltimore Colts Baltimore Colts relocation to Indianapolis, relocated to Indianapolis. In 1995, the
Cleveland Browns The Cleveland Browns are a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular American ...
had attempted to move to Baltimore; the resulting Cleveland Browns relocation controversy, dispute between Cleveland and the team led to Modell establishing the Baltimore Ravens with the players and personnel from the Browns, while the Browns were placed in suspended operations before they were reinstated by the NFL. The Ravens were treated as an expansion team. In California, the Oakland Raiders relocated to Los Angeles in 1982, back to Oakland in 1995, and then to Las Vegas in 2020, while the History of the San Diego Chargers, San Diego Chargers returned to Los Angeles in 2017 after 56 years in San Diego. The History of the Houston Oilers, Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1997, where they were renamed the Tennessee Oilers. The team would change its name again, two years later, to the Tennessee Titans. The NFL would again expand in 2002, adding the Houston Texans to the AFC. With the exception of the aforementioned relocations since that time, the divisional setup has remained static ever since. Between 1995 and 2019, the AFC has sent only half of its 16 teams to the
Super Bowl The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL). It has served as the final game of every NFL season since 1966, replacing the NFL Championship Game. Since 2004, the game has been played on the first Sunday ...
: New England Patriots (10 times), Denver Broncos (4 times),
Pittsburgh Steelers The Pittsburgh Steelers are a professional American football team based in Pittsburgh. The Steelers compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the American Football Conference (AFC) AFC North, North division. Founded in , ...
(4 times), Baltimore Ravens (2 times), Indianapolis Colts (2 times),
Kansas City Chiefs The Kansas City Chiefs are a professional American football team based in Kansas City, Missouri. They compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's American Football Conference (AFC) AFC West, West division. The t ...

Kansas City Chiefs
(1 time), Las Vegas Raiders (1 time), and Tennessee Titans (1 time). By contrast, the NFC has sent 13 of the 16 NFC teams during that same time frame with only the Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, and Washington Football Team missing out on an appearance in the
Super Bowl The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL). It has served as the final game of every NFL season since 1966, replacing the NFL Championship Game. Since 2004, the game has been played on the first Sunday ...
. 16 of the last 19 AFC champions have started one of just three quarterbacks - Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger - in the Super Bowl. The AFC has started 6 quarterbacks in the last 19 Super Bowls, while the NFC has started 16.


Logo

The merged league created a new logo for the AFC that took elements of the old AFL logo, specifically the "A" and the six stars surrounding it. The AFC logo basically remained unchanged from 1970 to 2009. The 2010 NFL season introduced an updated AFC logo, with the most notable revision being the removal of two stars (leaving four representing the four divisions of the AFC), and moving the stars inside the letter, similar to the NFC logo.


Television

NFL on NBC, NBC aired the AFC's Sunday afternoon and playoff games from 1970 through the 1997 season. From 1998 to 2013, NFL on CBS, CBS was the primary broadcast rightsholder to the AFC; in those years, all interconference games in which the AFC team was the visiting team were broadcast on either NBC or CBS. Since 2014, the cross-flex policy allows select AFC games (that involve them playing an NFC team at home or intraconference games) to be moved from CBS to Fox. Since 1990, select AFC playoffs games have been seen on ABC or ESPN.


References

{{Navboxes, list= {{Baltimore Ravens {{Buffalo Bills {{Cincinnati Bengals {{Cleveland Browns {{Denver Broncos {{Houston Texans {{Indianapolis Colts {{Jacksonville Jaguars {{Kansas City Chiefs {{Las Vegas Raiders {{Los Angeles Chargers {{Miami Dolphins {{New England Patriots {{New York Jets {{Pittsburgh Steelers {{Tennessee Titans National Football League American Football League, Conference Sports organizations established in 1970