The Dawn of AFC Domination?
I can remember when I was young how dominant the NFC was over the AFC teams. The National Football Conference won 13 straight Super Bowls from the 1984 season all the way through to the 1996 season. It began with Joe Montana and the 49ers taking down Dan Marino and the Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX. The streak ended in the 1997 season when John Elway finally got the Super Bowl ring he deserved in a thrilling game between the Broncos and Packers that came down to the wire. The last NFC team to win the 13th consecutive championship were those Brett Favre led Packers crew who beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.
Other than the New England Patriots six Super Bowl victories since 2001, the AFC and NFC have been pretty evenly matched over the past two decades. But it looks like the balance beam may be tipping towards the AFC side.
Before this season started, many of us thought the NFC had the most dominant teams. For a while we may have been right but after we saw the show that Mahomes and Allen gave us, the retirement of Tom Brady, the blossoming of Joe Burrow and the confusion surrounding Aaron Rodgers future in football turns the radar detector pointing towards the AFC.
courtesy of The Wall Street Journal
First just think about the quarterbacks in both conferences:
AFC - Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, Mac Jones, Derek Carr and maybe Aaron Rodgers to Denver or Pittsburgh
NFC - Matthew Stafford, Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Jalen Hurts, Daniel Jones
Now even imagine if Trevor Lawrence becomes the #1 draft pick he was destined for since birth. How about the #2 pick, Zach Wilson who played on a terrible Jets team like Lawrence in Jacksonville but showed some promise. Then picture DeShaun Watson returning to the NFL, not in a Texans jersey but perhaps another AFC uniform like the Miami Dolphins.
Not to say the NFC doesn't have any good quarterbacks, however they don't measure up to what we see in the AFC. The Bucs lost Brady this year. The Saints lost Brees the year before. Aaron Rodgers is likely out of Green Bay and Russell Wilson isn't entirely happy in Seattle. Matthew Stafford helped get the Rams to the Super Bowl but when you look at that team and take the salary cap into the equation, they can't keep all this talent together for too long.
So is the future of the NFL residing towards the many AFC contenders or the few NFC hopefuls? As time goes by we'll see. The best quarterbacks in the NFC are Stafford, Murray, Prescott and Russell Wilson. While Stafford is in good shape at the moment, the future of the Rams has a big question mark next to it.
courtesy of Stats Pros
If the Cardinals want to win with Murray then they'll need to find a new head coach. The same can be said about Dak in Dallas. Wilson and the Seahawks are deteriorating right before our eyes. These other NFC teams are going to have to hit it big in the draft when it comes to the QB position. As of this moment, the Rams are the only solid team from top to bottom in the NFC.
If Rodgers and company come back to Green Bay then of course they'll be a force. But who else? Perhaps Trey Lance can propel this 49ers team and do what Jimmy Garoppolo can't. Maybe things come together for Justin Fields in Chicago to turn that Bears franchise around. These are "maybe" statements. The fact statement is that the AFC is stacked with talent at the QB position.
However there is one caveat in this entire equation. Football is the ultimate team sport and a quarterback cannot win by themselves. However, looking back, history tells us you need a solid starting quarterback in order to lift the Lombardi Trophy at seasons end.
So the question I ask you is; will the AFC dominate over the next decade or does the NFC have more to offer than I am proposing?