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the NFL
Peter King
November 02, 1992
ROUGHED UP AGAIN
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November 02, 1992

The Nfl

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WOE BE THE AFC
It's bad enough that the NFC has beaten the AFC in eight straight super Bowls by an average score of 37-16, but the NFC's superiority in that span runs even deeper. Since the beginning of the 1984 season, the best teams in the NFC, teams in undisputed possession of first place in their divisions, have dominated their AFC opponents, according to statistics supplied by the Elias Sports Bureau. On the other hand, the AFC division leaders have enjoyed a much narrower margin of success in games against NFC opposition.

SINCE 1984

W-L

PCT.

AVG. SCORE

NFC first-place teams vs. AFC

67-16

.807

25-16

AFC first-place teams vs. NFC

40-28

.588

22-21

SINCE 1990

W-L

PCT.

AVG. SCORE

NFC first-place teams vs. AFC

22-5

.815

23-16

AFC first-place teams vs. NFC

12-11

.522

20-21

ROUGHED UP AGAIN

Another day, another slaughter. Well, not quite. The Cowboys had to brawl for everything they got in the first three quarters of their 28-13 interconference victory over the Raiders in Los Angeles, but the result typified a decade-long trend that shows no sign of abating: NFC teams just keep pounding the heck out of AFC teams. In fact, there's no better tonic for a bumbling and bickering NFC team such as the Giants than to have an AFC team show up for a pasting, as the Seahawks did, losing 23-10 at Giants Stadium in Sunday's other interconference matchup.

Every year the two conferences draft from the same pool of college players, pick through the same crop of free agents and hire from the same collection of coaches. Yet the NFC has won 10 of the last 11 Super Bowls, including the past eight (most by embarrassing scores); year in and year out, the best teams in the NFC are much more dominant in regular-season interconference play than their AFC counterparts (chart, this page); and on a weekly basis the best matchups usually feature NFC teams.

The NFC is so deep that six times in the last four years a team with a 10-6 record has missed the playoffs. In the same period, seven AFC teams with nine wins and one with eight have qualified for postseason play. In the NFC East alone, teams have finished with 10 or more wins 11 times in the last four years. That has happened only 13 times in the entire AFC over the same span.

Signs of AFC inferiority abound. The NFC enjoys a 15-7 advantage in interconference play this year. While Denver can beat 1991 AFC playoff teams Kansas City, Houston and Los Angeles, the Broncos are blown out by NFC strong boys Philadelphia and Washington. The most prevalent theory as to why the NFC holds the upper hand is that the NFC is more battle-tested.

"The bottom line is the NFC has better teams across the board," says Dallas quarterback Steve Beuerlein, who spent three years with the Raiders. "Because there are more good teams, the competition is tougher, so by the time an NFC team gets to the Super Bowl, it's better prepared to succeed."

The AFC does have a couple of terrific wins over NFC teams this year—the Bills beat the 49ers, the Chiefs beat the Eagles—but on the whole its interconference embarrassments persist. Here are three examples from the 1990s that underscore the NFC's superiority.

1) New Orleans 27, L.A. Raiders 0, 1991. Playoff-bound Los Angeles is outgained by 358 yards. In fact, the Saints' Quinn Early, with four catches for 127 yards, exceeds the Raiders' total offensive output by 10 yards.

2) Washadelphia 64, Denver 3, 1992. Mr. Elway goes to Washington and Philadelphia within 22 days. Only three times in the two games combined do the Broncos penetrate the opponent's 35.

3) Philadelphia 13, Houston 6, 1991. The Oilers cough up the ball five times, and two Eagle "greats," quarterback Jeff Kemp and running back James Joseph, finish off Houston at the Astrodome.

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