American Football Conference (AFC)

The American Football Conference (AFC) teams

You can learn more about each division or team by clicking each link below:

History of the AFC

Both the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC) were created after the NFL merged with the American Football League (AFL) in 1970.  

The AFL began play in 1960 with eight teams and added two more expansion clubs (the Miami Dolphins in 1966 and the 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 BrownsPittsburgh Steelers, and the then-Baltimore Colts) joined the ten former AFL teams to form the AFC. 

The two AFL divisions AFL East and AFL West 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 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 realignment. 

The expansion Jacksonville Jaguars joined the AFC in 1995. There have been five teams that have relocated at least once. In 1984, the Baltimore Colts relocated to Indianapolis to become the Indianapolis Colts. In 1995, the Cleveland Browns had attempted to move to Baltimore; the resulting 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 to become the Las Vegas Raiders, while the San Diego Chargers returned to Los Angeles in 2017 after 56 years in San Diego to become the Los Angeles Chargers. The 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 mentioned relocations since that time, the divisional setup has remained static ever since.

Super Bowl success

Between 1995 and 2019, the AFC has sent only half of its 16 teams to the Super Bowl: New England Patriots (10 times), Denver Broncos (4 times), Pittsburgh Steelers (4 times), Baltimore Ravens (2 times), Indianapolis Colts (2 times), 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 missing out on an appearance in the Super Bowl. 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.

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