AFC Championship Game

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AFC Championship Game
AFC Championship Game logo
AFC Championship logo
First played1970
TrophyLamar Hunt

Recent and upcoming games
2011 season
New England Patriots 23, Baltimore Ravens 20
 
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AFC Championship Game
AFC Championship Game logo
AFC Championship logo
First played1970
TrophyLamar Hunt

Recent and upcoming games
2011 season
New England Patriots 23, Baltimore Ravens 20

The American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game (also unofficially referred to as the AFC Title Game) is one of the two final playoff matches of the National Football League, the largest professional American football league in the United States. The game is played on the penultimate Sunday in January and determines the champion of the American Football Conference. The winner then advances to face the winner of the National Football Conference (NFC) Championship Game in the Super Bowl.

The game was established as part of the 1970 merger between the NFL and the American Football League (AFL), with the merged league realigning into two conferences. Since 1984, each winner of the AFC Championship Game has also received the Lamar Hunt Trophy, named after the founder of the AFL and longtime leader of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Contents

History

The first AFC Championship Game was played in 1970 after the merger between the NFL and the AFL. The game is considered the successor to the former AFL Championship, and its game results are listed with that of its predecessor in the annual NFL Record and Fact Book.[1] The original AFC was formed by joining the ten former AFL teams with three pre-merger NFL teams: the Baltimore Colts, the Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The realignment was done in order to create two conferences with an equal number of teams, as the pre-merger NFL consisted of six more teams than the AFL.

Every AFC team except the Houston Texans has played in an AFC Championship Game at least once. The Seattle Seahawks, who have been members in both the AFC and the NFC, hold the distinction of appearing in both conference title games. The Pittsburgh Steelers have the most appearances in the AFC Championship Game at 15, with 11 of those games being in Pittsburgh, the most for either conference.

Playoff structure

At the end of each football season, a series of playoff games involving the top six teams in the AFC are conducted, consisting of the four division champions and two wild card teams. After two rounds of play, the two teams remaining face in the AFC Championship game.

Initially, the site of the game was determined on a rotating basis. Since the 1975-76 season, the site of the AFC Championship has been based on playoff seeding, with the highest surviving seed hosting. A wild card team can only host the game if both participants are wild cards, in which case the fifth seed would host the sixth seed. Such an instance has never occurred in the NFL.

Lamar Hunt Trophy

Since 1984, the winner of the AFC Championship Game has received the Lamar Hunt Trophy, named after the founder of the AFL. The original design consisted of a wooden base with a sculpted AFC logo in the front and a sculpture of various football players in the back.

It, and the George Halas Trophy that is awarded to the NFC Champion, were redesigned for the 2010–11 NFL playoffs by Tiffany & Co. at the request of the NFL in an attempt to make both awards more significant.[2] The trophies are now a new, silver design with the outline of a hollow football positioned on a small base to more closely resemble the Vince Lombardi Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl.[3]

List of AFC Championship Games

Numbers in parentheses in the table are AFC Championships
AFC Championship Game logo, 2005–2010
SeasonWinning TeamScoreLosing TeamScoreLocationStadium
1970–71Baltimore Colts (1)27Oakland Raiders17Baltimore, MarylandMemorial Stadium
1971–72Miami Dolphins (1)21Baltimore Colts0Miami, FloridaMiami Orange Bowl
1972–73Miami Dolphins (2)21Pittsburgh Steelers17Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaThree Rivers Stadium
1973–74Miami Dolphins (3)27Oakland Raiders10Miami, FloridaMiami Orange Bowl
1974–75Pittsburgh Steelers (1)24Oakland Raiders13Oakland, CaliforniaOakland Coliseum
1975–76Pittsburgh Steelers (2)16Oakland Raiders10Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaThree Rivers Stadium
1976–77Oakland Raiders (1)24Pittsburgh Steelers7Oakland, CaliforniaOakland Coliseum
1977–78Denver Broncos (1)20Oakland Raiders17Denver, ColoradoMile High Stadium
1978–79Pittsburgh Steelers (3)34Houston Oilers5Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaThree Rivers Stadium
1979–80Pittsburgh Steelers (4)27Houston Oilers13Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaThree Rivers Stadium
1980–81Oakland Raiders (2)34San Diego Chargers27San Diego, CaliforniaQualcomm Stadium
1981–82Cincinnati Bengals (1)27San Diego Chargers7Cincinnati, OhioRiverfront Stadium
1982–83Miami Dolphins (4)14New York Jets0Miami, FloridaMiami Orange Bowl
1983–84Los Angeles Raiders (3)30Seattle Seahawks14Los Angeles, CaliforniaLos Angeles Memorial Coliseum
1984–85Miami Dolphins (5)45Pittsburgh Steelers28Miami, FloridaMiami Orange Bowl
1985–86New England Patriots (1)31Miami Dolphins14Miami, FloridaMiami Orange Bowl
1986–87Denver Broncos (2)23a[›]Cleveland Browns20Cleveland, OhioCleveland Municipal Stadium
1987–88Denver Broncos (3)38Cleveland Browns33Denver, ColoradoMile High Stadium
1988–89Cincinnati Bengals (2)21Buffalo Bills10Cincinnati, OhioRiverfront Stadium
1989–90Denver Broncos (4)37Cleveland Browns21Denver, ColoradoMile High Stadium
1990–91Buffalo Bills (1)51Los Angeles Raiders3Orchard Park, New YorkRalph Wilson Stadium
1991–92Buffalo Bills (2)10Denver Broncos7Orchard Park, New YorkRalph Wilson Stadium
1992–93Buffalo Bills (3)29Miami Dolphins10Miami, Florida[4]Joe Robbie Stadium
1993–94Buffalo Bills (4)30Kansas City Chiefs13Orchard Park, New YorkRalph Wilson Stadium
1994–95San Diego Chargers (1)17Pittsburgh Steelers13Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaThree Rivers Stadium
1995–96Pittsburgh Steelers (5)20Indianapolis Colts16Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaThree Rivers Stadium
1996–97New England Patriots (2)20Jacksonville Jaguars6Foxborough, MassachusettsFoxboro Stadium
1997–98Denver Broncos (5)24Pittsburgh Steelers21Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaThree Rivers Stadium
1998–99Denver Broncos (6)23New York Jets10Denver, ColoradoMile High Stadium
1999–00Tennessee Titans (1)33Jacksonville Jaguars14Jacksonville, FloridaJacksonville Municipal Stadium
2000–01Baltimore Ravens (1)16Oakland Raiders3Oakland, CaliforniaOakland Coliseum
2001–02New England Patriots (3)24Pittsburgh Steelers17Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaHeinz Field
2002–03Oakland Raiders (4)41Tennessee Titans24Oakland, CaliforniaOakland Coliseum
2003–04New England Patriots (4)24Indianapolis Colts14Foxborough, MassachusettsGillette Stadium
2004–05New England Patriots (5)41Pittsburgh Steelers27Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaHeinz Field
2005–06Pittsburgh Steelers (6)34Denver Broncos17Denver, ColoradoInvesco Field at Mile High
2006–07Indianapolis Colts (2)38New England Patriots34Indianapolis, IndianaRCA Dome
2007–08New England Patriots (6)21San Diego Chargers12Foxborough, MassachusettsGillette Stadium
2008–09Pittsburgh Steelers (7)23Baltimore Ravens14Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaHeinz Field
2009–10Indianapolis Colts (3)30New York Jets17Indianapolis, IndianaLucas Oil Stadium
2010–11Pittsburgh Steelers (8)24New York Jets19Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaHeinz Field
2011–12New England Patriots (7)23Baltimore Ravens20Foxborough, MassachusettsGillette Stadium

^ a: Sudden-death overtime

AFC Championship Game appearances 1970–present

NumTeamWLPCTPFPALast appearanceLast championshipHOME gamesHome winsHome lossesHome Win Pct.ROAD gamesRoad winsRoad lossesRoad Win Pct.
15Pittsburgh Steelers87.533332303201020101165.545422.500
11Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders47.36420225320022002532.600615.167
8New England Patriots71.857218148201120114401.000431.750
8Denver Broncos62.75018916620051998541.800321.667
7Miami Dolphins52.71415211519921984642.6671101.000
6Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts33.500125133200920093301.000303.000
5Buffalo Bills41.80013054199319933301.000211.500
4Houston Oilers/
Tennessee Titans
13.2507511620021999000—–413.250
4San Diego Chargers13.250639520071994101.000312.333
4New York Jets04.000469120101968**000—–404.000
3Cleveland Browns03.000749819891964*101.000202.000
3Baltimore Ravens12.333504920112000000—–312.333
2Cincinnati Bengals201.0004817198819882201.000000—–
2Jacksonville Jaguars02.00020531999N/A101.000101.000
1Kansas City Chiefs01.000133019931969***000—–101.000
1Seattle Seahawksc[›]01.00014301983N/A000—–101.000
0Houston Texans00—–------N/AN/A000—–000 —–

*last NFL title - 1964

**last Super Bowl win - Super Bowl III 1968-69 season

***last Super Bowl win - Super Bowl IV 1969-70 season

^ c: The Seattle Seahawks were members of the AFC from 1977 until 2002, and hold a combined 1-1 record between both Conference Championship Games.

AFC Championship Game records

AFC Championship Game logo, 2001–2005

*Tied for Conference Championship Record

**Conference Championship record

TV ratings

Footnotes

  1. ^ "Playoff". NFL Record and Fact Book 2009. Time Inc Home Entertainment. ISBN 978-1-60320-809-3.
  2. ^ Chicago Sun-Times. http://www.suntimes.com/sports/3411365-418/trophy-halas-lombardi-nfl-silver.html.
  3. ^ Bell, Jarrett (January 25, 2011). "NFL Replay: Gritty Steelers aren't pretty, but they are Super". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/steelers/2011-01-25-nfl-replay-steelers_N.htm.
  4. ^ Joe Robbie Stadium, now Dolphin Stadium, is located in Miami Gardens. However the city was not incorporated until 2003. Prior to that, the area was an unincorporated area of Miami-Dade County, and the stadium used a Miami address.
  5. ^ The Raiders won only one of those five, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-7 in 1976 en route to victory in Super Bowl XI.
  6. ^ The Miami Dolphins won 5 AFC Championships before losing their first championship game. The New England Patriots equalled that record before losing a championship game.
  7. ^ However it should be noted the franchise was founded in 2002.
  8. ^ The Browns won an NFL Championship in the 1964 season.
  9. ^ The Jets won Super Bowl III as the 1968 AFL Champion.
  10. ^ The Chiefs won Super Bowl IV as the 1969 AFL Champion