In recent years the Western Conference has dominated the National Football League perhaps even more strongly than the National League has ruled baseball, but whereas that sport's pendulum of power seems to be swaying back toward the American League, there is no real evidence that football supremacy is about to shift to the East.
Within the Eastern Conference, the Giants have forsaken the old New York- Cleveland leadership axis and St. Louis and Dallas have come thrusting up. These two are having a lovely race with the Browns (who belted the Cowboys 30-21 on Sunday), but the most important one, as usual, is in the West, where the ultimate winner will be favored to take not only the NFL championship but also the supergame with the AFL.
The weight of history is with the West. Consider these facts:
?The West has won four of the last five NFL championship games, seven of the last 10 and 10 of the last 16.
?The West stands 79-53-5 in 10 years of interconference play, had a 13-1 season in 1965 and a 10-4 year in 1964.
?In 12 of the last 16 years the Western champion has been determined in the final game of the regular season or in a playoff. During the same period the Eastern race has become that heated only seven times. This reflects a better balance in the West, as does the fact that five Western teams have won at least two conference championships since 1950, while only the Browns and the Giants have dominated the East.
?The West leads the East 7-3 in the last 10 Pro Bowl all-star games and also leads 5-1 in the Playoff Bowl.
Just as National League baseball has two great individual and team rivalries, Sandy Koufax vs. Juan Marichal and the Dodgers vs. the Giants—the Western Conference has football's most exciting matchups in Bart Starr vs. Johnny Unitas and the Packers vs. the Colts.
Both Starr and Unitas came into the NFL in 1956, when their teams were among the also-rans, but, while Unitas took command in 1957, Starr did not become No. 1 for Green Bay until three years later. Behind Starr's quarterbacking the Packers have won four conference titles and three league championships in the past six years. With Unitas at quarterback the Colts have won three conference and two NFL titles. During the 10-year Starr-Unitas era, the Packers have an 11-10 record against the Colts.
The tables below show in detail how the two men compare—their lifetime performance through 1965 and the six-year confrontation (1960-1965) after Starr became a regular. They reflect the Colts' great dependence on Unitas' passing—he put the ball into the air 1,200 times more often than Starr. But they also show that Starr ranks ahead of Unitas in completion percentage and percent intercepted.