AFC Championship Game

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AFC Championship Game
AFC Championship Game logo
AFC Championship logo
First played 1971
Trophy Lamar Hunt

Recent and upcoming games
2015 season
Sports Authority Field at Mile High
January 24, 2016
New England Patriots 18, Denver Broncos 20

The American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game (also unofficially referred to as the AFC Title Game) is one of the two semi-final playoff games of the National Football League (NFL), 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 (AFC). 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,[1] 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.

History[edit]

The first AFC Championship Game was played following the 1970 regular season after the merger between the NFL and the American Football League. 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.[2] Since the pre-merger NFL consisted of six more teams than the AFL, a realignment was done as part of the merger to create two conferences with an equal number of teams: The NFL's Baltimore Colts, the Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers joined the ten former AFL teams to form the AFC; while the remaining 13 pre-merger NFL clubs formed the NFC.

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[edit]

For more details on this topic, see National Football League playoffs.
Lamar Hunt Trophy

At the end of each regular season, a series of playoff games involving the top six teams in the AFC are conducted. In the current (since 2002–03 season) NFL playoff structure, this consists of the four division champions and two wild card teams (those clubs that possess the two best won-loss records after the regular season yet fail to win their division). The two teams remaining following the Wild Card round (first round) and the divisional round (second round) play 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 based on the regular season won-loss record, with the highest surviving seed hosting the game. 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[edit]

Beginning with 1984–85 season,[1] 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.

For the 2010–11 NFL playoffs, the Lamar Hunt Trophy and the George Halas Trophy, which is awarded to the NFC Champion, were redesigned by Tiffany & Co. at the request of the NFL, in an attempt to make both awards more significant.[3] 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.[4]

List of AFC Championship Games[edit]

Numbers in parentheses in the table are AFC Championships. Bold indicates team won Super Bowl that year.
Season Winning Team Score Losing Team Score Location Stadium
1970–71 Baltimore Colts (1) 27 Oakland Raiders 17 Baltimore Memorial Stadium
1971–72 Miami Dolphins (1) 21 Baltimore Colts 0 Miami Miami Orange Bowl
1972–73 Miami Dolphins (2) 21 Pittsburgh Steelers 17 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Three Rivers Stadium
1973–74 Miami Dolphins (3) 27 Oakland Raiders 10 Miami Miami Orange Bowl
1974–75 Pittsburgh Steelers (1) 24 Oakland Raiders 13 Oakland, California Oakland Coliseum
1975–76 Pittsburgh Steelers (2) 16 Oakland Raiders 10 Pittsburgh Three Rivers Stadium
1976–77 Oakland Raiders (1) 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 7 Oakland, California Oakland Coliseum
1977–78 Denver Broncos (1) 20 Oakland Raiders 17 Denver Mile High Stadium
1978–79 Pittsburgh Steelers (3) 34 Houston Oilers 5 Pittsburgh Three Rivers Stadium
1979–80 Pittsburgh Steelers (4) 27 Houston Oilers 13 Pittsburgh Three Rivers Stadium
1980–81 Oakland Raiders (2) 34 San Diego Chargers 27 San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium
1981–82 Cincinnati Bengals (1) 27 San Diego Chargers 7 Cincinnati Riverfront Stadium
1982–83 Miami Dolphins (4) 14 New York Jets 0 Miami Miami Orange Bowl
1983–84 Los Angeles Raiders (3) 30 Seattle Seahawks 14 Los Angeles Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
1984–85 Miami Dolphins (5) 45 Pittsburgh Steelers 28 Miami Miami Orange Bowl
1985–86 New England Patriots (1) 31 Miami Dolphins 14 Miami Miami Orange Bowl
1986–87 Denver Broncos (2) 23a[›] Cleveland Browns 20 Cleveland Cleveland Municipal Stadium
1987–88 Denver Broncos (3) 38 Cleveland Browns 33 Denver Mile High Stadium
1988–89 Cincinnati Bengals (2) 21 Buffalo Bills 10 Cincinnati Riverfront Stadium
1989–90 Denver Broncos (4) 37 Cleveland Browns 21 Denver Mile High Stadium
1990–91 Buffalo Bills (1) 51 Los Angeles Raiders 3 Orchard Park, New York Ralph Wilson Stadium
1991–92 Buffalo Bills (2) 10 Denver Broncos 7 Orchard Park, New York Ralph Wilson Stadium
1992–93 Buffalo Bills (3) 29 Miami Dolphins 10 Miami[fn 1] Joe Robbie Stadium
1993–94 Buffalo Bills (4) 30 Kansas City Chiefs 13 Orchard Park, New York Ralph Wilson Stadium
1994–95 San Diego Chargers (1) 17 Pittsburgh Steelers 13 Pittsburgh Three Rivers Stadium
1995–96 Pittsburgh Steelers (5) 20 Indianapolis Colts 16 Pittsburgh Three Rivers Stadium
1996–97 New England Patriots (2) 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 6 Foxborough, Massachusetts Foxboro Stadium
1997–98 Denver Broncos (5) 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 21 Pittsburgh Three Rivers Stadium
1998–99 Denver Broncos (6) 23 New York Jets 10 Denver, Colorado Mile High Stadium
1999–00 Tennessee Titans (1) 33 Jacksonville Jaguars 14 Jacksonville, Florida Jacksonville Municipal Stadium
2000–01 Baltimore Ravens (1) 16 Oakland Raiders 3 Oakland, California Oakland Coliseum
2001–02 New England Patriots (3) 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 17 Pittsburgh Heinz Field
2002–03 Oakland Raiders (4) 41 Tennessee Titans 24 Oakland, California Network Associates Coliseum
2003–04 New England Patriots (4) 24 Indianapolis Colts 14 Foxborough, Massachusetts Gillette Stadium
2004–05 New England Patriots (5) 41 Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Pittsburgh Heinz Field
2005–06 Pittsburgh Steelers (6) 34 Denver Broncos 17 Denver Invesco Field at Mile High
2006–07 Indianapolis Colts (2) 38 New England Patriots 34 Indianapolis RCA Dome
2007–08 New England Patriots (6) 21 San Diego Chargers 12 Foxborough, Massachusetts Gillette Stadium
2008–09 Pittsburgh Steelers (7) 23 Baltimore Ravens 14 Pittsburgh Heinz Field
2009–10 Indianapolis Colts (3) 30 New York Jets 17 Indianapolis Lucas Oil Stadium
2010–11 Pittsburgh Steelers (8) 24 New York Jets 19 Pittsburgh Heinz Field
2011–12 New England Patriots (7) 23 Baltimore Ravens 20 Foxborough, Massachusetts Gillette Stadium
2012–13 Baltimore Ravens (2) 28 New England Patriots 13 Foxborough, Massachusetts Gillette Stadium
2013–14 Denver Broncos (7) 26 New England Patriots 16 Denver Sports Authority Field at Mile High
2014–15 New England Patriots (8) 45 Indianapolis Colts 7 Foxborough, Massachusetts Gillette Stadium
2015–16 Denver Broncos (8) 20 New England Patriots 18 Denver Sports Authority Field at Mile High

^ a: Sudden-death overtime

AFC Championship Game appearances 1970–present[edit]

Num Team W L PCT PF PA Last appearance Last championship Home games Home wins Home losses Home Win Pct. Away games Away wins Away losses Away Win Pct.
15 Pittsburgh Steelers 8 7 .533 332 303 2010 2010 11 6 5 .545 4 2 2 .500
12 New England Patriots 8 4 .667 310 229 2015 2014 6 5 1 .833 6 3 3 .500
11 Los Angeles/Oakland Raidersd[›] 4 7 .364 202 253 2002 2002 5 3 2 .600 6 1 5 .167
10 Denver Broncos 8 2 .800 235 200 2015 2015 7 6 1 .857 3 2 1 .667
7 Miami Dolphins 5 2 .714 152 115 1992 1984 6 4 2 .667 1 1 0 1.000
7 Baltimore/Indianapolis Coltse[›] 3 4 .429 132 178 2014 2009 3 3 0 1.000 4 0 4 .000
5 Buffalo Bills 4 1 .800 130 54 1993 1993 3 3 0 1.000 2 1 1 .500
4 Baltimore Ravens 2 2 .500 78 62 2012 2012 0 0 0 —– 4 2 2 .500
4 Houston Oilers/
Tennessee Titans
f[›]
1 3 .250 75 116 2002 1999 0 0 0 —– 4 1 3 .250
4 San Diego Chargers 1 3 .250 63 95 2007 1994 1 0 1 .000 3 1 2 .333
4 New York Jets 0 4 .000 46 91 2010 N/A 0 0 0 —– 4 0 4 .000
3 Cleveland Browns 0 3 .000 74 98 1989 N/A 1 0 1 .000 2 0 2 .000
2 Cincinnati Bengals 2 0 1.000 48 17 1988 1988 2 2 0 1.000 0 0 0 —–
2 Jacksonville Jaguars 0 2 .000 20 53 1999 N/A 1 0 1 .000 1 0 1 .000
1 Kansas City Chiefs 0 1 .000 13 30 1993 N/A 0 0 0 —– 1 0 1 .000
1 Seattle Seahawksb[›] 0 1 .000 14 30 1983 N/Ab[›] 0 0 0 —– 1 0 1 .000
0 Houston Texans 0 0 —– --- --- N/A N/A 0 0 0 —– 0 0 0 —–
0 Tampa Bay Buccaneersc[›] 0 0 —– --- --- N/A N/A 0 0 0 —– 0 0 0 —–

^ b: The Seahawks were members of the NFC in 1976 and then members of the AFC from 1977 to 2001, before rejoining the NFC in 2002. Including their appearances in the NFC Championship Game (3–0), they hold a combined 3–1 record between both Conference Championship Games.

^ c: The Buccaneers were members of the AFC in 1976 before moving to the NFC in 1977.

^ d: Includes appearances during their first tenure in Oakland (the 1970 merger until 1981), where they went 2–5 in AFC Championship Games; their period as the Los Angeles Raiders (1982–1994), where they were 1–1 in AFC Championship Games; and their current tenure in Oakland (1995–present), where they have gone 1–1 in AFC Championship Games.

^ e: Includes appearances as the Baltimore Colts (the 1970 merger to 1983), where they went 1–1 in AFC Championship Games. Since moving to Indianapolis in 1984, the Colts are 2–3 in AFC Championship Games

^ f: Includes appearances as the Houston Oilers (the 1970 merger to 1996), where they went 0–2 in AFC Championship Games. Since moving to Tennessee in 1997, they are 1–1 in AFC Championship Games.

AFC Championship Game records[edit]

AFC Championship Game logo, 2001–2005
AFC Championship Game logo, 2005–2010

*Tied for Conference Championship Record

**Conference Championship record

TV ratings[edit]

  • 1982: 51.6 million viewers [1]
  • 2002:
  • 2003: 41.5 million
  • 2004:
  • 2005: 44.3 million
  • 2006: 39 million viewers [2]
  • 2007: 46.7 million viewers (6:44-10:23pm) [3]
  • 2008:
  • 2009: 42 million viewers [4]
  • 2010: 42.352 million viewers
  • 2011: 54.9 million viewers[5]
  • 2012: 48.7 million viewers[6][7]
  • 2013: 47.7 million viewers[8]
  • 2014: 51.3 million viewers [5]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Joe Robbie Stadium, now Sun Life 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.
  2. ^ The Raiders won only one of those five, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-7 in 1976 en route to victory in Super Bowl XI.
  3. ^ The Miami Dolphins won 5 AFC Championships before losing their first championship game. The New England Patriots equaled that record before losing a championship game.
  4. ^ The franchise was founded in 2002.
  5. ^ The Jets won Super Bowl III as the 1968 AFL Champion.
  6. ^ The Chiefs won Super Bowl IV as the 1969 AFL Champion

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Patriots Blog: AFC Championship Trophy In The House". WBZ-TV. January 18, 2012. Retrieved August 16, 2014. The Lamar Hunt Trophy, given to the winners of the AFC Championship since 1984 
  2. ^ "Playoff". NFL Record and Fact Book 2009. Time, Inc. Home Entertainment. ISBN 978-1-60320-809-3. 
  3. ^ "NFC's Halas trophy has new look". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  4. ^ Bell, Jarrett (January 25, 2011). "NFL Replay: Gritty Steelers aren't pretty, but they are Super". USA Today. 
  5. ^ "NFL passes new records in TV ratings". USA Today. 1 February 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "NFL Ratings Spike: 48.7 Million Watch AFC Title Game, NFC Game Draws 57.6 Mil". Deadline Hollywood. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "AFC Championship Ratings". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  8. ^ "Astonishing Chart Shows How The NFL Dominates TV Ratings". Business Insider. 17 December 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2014.