Statitudes Statitudes


Top of the heap

Regular-season powers rarely meet in Super Bowl

Posted: Tuesday January 22, 2002 2:07 AM

Meeting at the Top
Super Bowls that included
the top seed in each conference
Year  AFC  NFC 
1993  Buffalo  Dallas  
1991  Buffalo  Washington
1989  Denver  San Fran  
1984  Miami  San Fran  
1983  L.A.   Washington 
1981  Cincinnati  San Fran  
1977  Denver  Dallas  
1976  Oakland   Minnesota 
Note: Winning teams in bold.

By Jacob Luft,

The Steelers and Rams dominated their conferences during the regular season. They earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, rolled to second-round victories last week and are one game away from meeting in the Super Bowl.

As likely as a Pittsburgh-St. Louis matchup may seem, having the top seeds in each conference advance to the Super Bowl has been the exception rather than the norm in recent years. The best regular-season AFC and NFC clubs have not met in the Super Bowl since 1993.

From 1933-74, sites for league or conference championship games alternated by division, not according to regular-season record. The NFL changed the format in 1975 to give home-field advantage to teams with the best records. Since then, the top seeds in each conference have met in the Super Bowl eight times out of a possible 26 matchups. The NFC has a 6-2 advantage in those meetings.

In general, top dogs from the NFC have been dominant in Super Bowl play. Of the 16 No. 1 seeds from the NFC to advance to the Super Bowl, 13 took home the the Lombardi Trophy, including a stretch of four in a row from 1993-96. Only five of the AFC's 14 top seeds to make it to the Super Bowl have won.

Combined, the conference's top seeds account for 18 of the past 26 Super Bowl champions, so even though the No. 1 teams don't always meet in the big game, their regular-season success gives them a much better chance of winning it all.

A breakdown of conference titles in the AFC since seeding began in 1975:
Seed  Titles  Teams, Years 
14  *Denver '98, Buffalo '93, Buffalo '91, Buffalo '90, Denver '89, Cincinnati '88, Denver '87, Miami '84, *Los Angeles '83, Cincinnati '81, *Pittsburgh '78, Denver '77, *Oakland '76, *Pittsburgh '75 
*Pittsburgh '79, Miami '82, Denver '86, San Diego '94, Pittsburgh '95, New England '96 
*Baltimore '00, Tennessee '99, *Denver '97, Buffalo '92, *Oakland '80 
New England '85 
* Indicates Super Bowl champion
A breakdown of conference titles in the NFC since seeding began in 1975:
Seed  Titles  Teams, Years 
16  New York '00, *St. Louis '99, *Green Bay '96, *Dallas '95, *San Francisco '94, *Dallas '93, *Washington '91, *San Francisco '89, *New York '86, *Chicago '85, *San Francisco '84, Washington '83, *Washington '82, *San Francisco '81, *Dallas '77, Minnesota '76 
Atlanta '98, Green Bay '97, *Dallas '92, *New York '90, *San Francisco '88, Philadelphia '80, Dallas '78 
*Washington '87, Los Angeles '79 
Dallas '75 
5, 6    
* Indicates Super Bowl champion

Related information
Stories's Donovan: NFL's Final Four
SI's Super Bowl archive
Complete 2002 playoffs coverage
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