List of AFC champions

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Tom Brady has won 9 AFC Championships with the New England Patriots, a NFL record.

The American Football Conference (AFC) is one of two conferences within the National Football League, the National Football Conference (NFC) being the other. The AFC has its roots in the American Football League (AFL), which began to play in 1960. In 1970, the AFL merged with the NFL. As part of the merger, the former AFL teams, plus three former NFL teams (the Baltimore Colts, the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers), were placed into the AFC. The remaining former NFL teams were placed in the NFC.

Background[edit]

The AFL or AFC champion is not necessarily the team with the best record in the regular season. Rather, the champion is decided by the AFC Championship Game (formerly the AFL Championship Game) as part of the post-season playoffs involving the teams with the best regular season records. The Houston Oilers won the first two AFL championships, in 1960 and 1961.[1] The only other team to win two consecutive AFL championships prior to the merger was the Buffalo Bills, who won in 1964 and 1965 with future United States Congressman, HUD Secretary and Vice-Presidential nominee Jack Kemp at quarterback.[1][2] The first team to win three consecutive AFL or AFC championships was the Miami Dolphins in 1971 through 1973.[1] The only team to win four consecutive AFL or AFC championships was the Buffalo Bills in 1990 through 1993.[1] The New England Patriots are the only other AFC team to win three consecutive championships, from 2016 through 2018.[1]

Through the 2018-2019 season, the most AFL or AFC championships won by any team is eleven, by the Patriots. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos each have eight AFC championships. The Buffalo Bills won six AFL or AFC championships and the Miami Dolphins and Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders have each won five AFL or AFC championships.[1] The Raiders have also been the AFL or AFC runner up, as a result of losing the AFL or AFC Championship Game, a record nine times.[3] The Steelers have been the runner up eight times, while the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers have been the runner up seven times.[4][5]

The record for the most regular season wins by an AFL or AFC champion is 16, by the 2007 New England Patriots, with a perfect 16–0 record. No AFL or AFC champion has won exactly 15 games. Seven AFL or AFC champions have won 14 games, including two Miami Dolphins teams and two New England Patriots teams. Six of the teams that won 14 games did so in a 16-game season. Only the 1972 Miami Dolphins won 14 games in a 14-game season, with their perfect 14–0 record.[1]

Bill Belichick has won nine AFC Championships as a head coach.

Bill Belichick has been the head coach for nine AFC championship teams, which is a record. Belichick coached the New England Patriots to AFC championships in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.[6] Don Shula has been the head coach of five AFC championship teams. Shula coached the Miami Dolphins to AFC championships in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1982 and 1984.[7] Chuck Noll and Marv Levy each coached four AFC champions.[4][8] Hank Stram and Dan Reeves each coached three AFL or AFC champions.[9][10]

Tom Brady has been the starting quarterback for nine AFC championship teams, more than any other quarterback. Brady was the starting quarterback for the 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018 New England Patriots.[6] John Elway was the starting quarterback for five AFC champions. Elway was the starring quarterback for the 1986, 1987, 1989, 1997 and 1998 Denver Broncos.[10] Terry Bradshaw, Jim Kelly and Peyton Manning were each the starting quarterback for four AFC champions.[4][8] Manning started for 2 two championships each for two different franchises, the Indianapolis Colts and the Broncos.[10][11]

Franco Harris and Thurman Thomas were each the leader in rushing yards for an AFC champion four times.[4][8] Larry Csonka was the leader in rushing yards for an AFC champion three times.[7] Andre Reed was the leader in receiving yards for an AFC champion four times.[8] Paul Warfield and Julian Edelman have been the leader in receiving yards for an AFC champion three times.[7][6]

The 1973 Miami Dolphins had seven first team All-Pros, more than any other AFC champion since the NFC/AFC merger. The 1971 Miami Dolphins, 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers and 2007 New England Patriots each had five 1st team All-Pros. The 1970 Baltimore Colts, 1982 Miami Dolphins, 1987 Denver Broncos and 1996 and 2001 New England Patriots did not have any 1st team All-Pros. Jack Ham is the only defensive player to be named as a 1st team All-Pro for four AFC champions. Ham was a 1st team All-Pro for the 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers. Troy Polamalu was a defensive 1st team All-Pro for three AFC champions with the Steelers between 2005 and 2010. Larry Little is the only offensive lineman to be named as a 1st team All-Pro for three AFC champions, the 1971–1973 Miami Dolphins. Rob Gronkowski is the only tight end to be named a 1st team All-Pro for three AFC champions, for the Patriots between 2011 and 2017. Garo Yepremian is the only kicker to be named as a 1st team All-Pro for two AFC champions, the 1971 and 1973 Miami Dolphins.

At the end of the 1966 season, the Super Bowl began to be played between the AFL champion and the NFL champion. After the AFL/NFL merger in 1970, the Super Bowl continued to be played between the AFC champion and the NFC champion. The AFL champion lost the first two Super Bowls. The 1968 AFL champion New York Jets with Joe Namath at quarterback became the first AFL team to win the Super Bowl. Starting with that Super Bowl, the AFL or AFC champion won 11 out of 13 Super Bowls. However, the AFC champion lost 13 consecutive Super Bowls, from the 1984 AFC champion Miami Dolphins through the 1996 AFC champion New England Patriots. Overall, the AFL or AFC champion has won 26 of the 53 Super Bowls played through the end of the 2018 season.[1]

Key[edit]

Joe Namath was the quarterback for the 1968 AFL champion New York Jets, the first AFL team to win the Super Bowl.
Season Each year is linked to an article about that particular AFL or NFL season.
Team Name of AFL or AFC Championship team, linked to the team's championship season
Record Championship team's regular season record wins–losses; if the team played any tie games the record is shown as wins–losses–ties
Head Coach Championship team's head coach; if the team had multiple head coaches for the season they are shown in decreasing order of number of regular season wins
Quarterback Name of quarterback with most passing attempts for the AFL/AFC champion during the regular season
Leading Rusher Name of player with most rushing yards for the AFL/AFC champion during the regular season
Leading Receiver Name of player with most receiving yards for the AFL/AFC champion during the regular season
All-Pros List of All-Pros on that season's AFL/AFC champion
Runner Up Name of team that lost the AFL or AFC Championship Game
Super Bowl Champion
* Member of Pro Football Hall of Fame

AFL/AFC championship teams[edit]

Season Team Record Head coach Quarterback Leading rusher Leading receiver All-Pros Runner-up Reference
1960 Houston Oilers 10–4 Lou Rymkus George Blanda* Billy Cannon Bill Groman Jamison, Johnston, Smith Los Angeles Chargers [12]
1961 Houston Oilers 10–3–1 Wally Lemm,
Lou Rymkus[a]
George Blanda* Billy Cannon Charley Hennigan Banfield, Blanda*, Cannon, Groman, Hennigan, Jamison San Diego Chargers [13]
1962 Dallas Texans 11–3 Hank Stram* Len Dawson* Abner Haynes Chris Burford Burford, Dawson*, Hayes, Headrick, Holub, Hunt Houston Oilers [14]
1963 San Diego Chargers 12–2 Sid Gillman* Tobin Rote Paul Lowe Lance Alworth* Alworth*, Faison, Lincoln, Mix*, Rote Boston Patriots [15]
1964 Buffalo Bills 12–2 Lou Saban Jack Kemp Cookie Gilchrist Elbert Dubenion Barber, Gilchrist, Saimes, Sestak, Shaw*, Stratton San Diego Chargers [16]
1965 Buffalo Bills 10–3–1 Lou Saban Jack Kemp Wray Carlton Bo Roberson Byrd, Kemp, Saimes, Sestak, Shaw*, Stratton San Diego Chargers [17]
1966 Kansas City Chiefs 11–2–1 Hank Stram* Len Dawson* Mike Garrett Otis Taylor Arbanas, Bell*, Buchanan*, Budde, Dawson*, Mays, Robinson*, Taylor, Tyrer Buffalo Bills [18]
1967 Oakland Raiders 13–1 John Rauch Daryle Lamonica Hewritt Dixon Fred Biletnikoff* Davidson, Keating, Lamonica, McCloughan, Otto* Houston Oilers [19]
1968 New York Jets 11–3 Weeb Ewbank* Joe Namath* Matt Snell Don Maynard* Namath*, Philbin, Sauer Oakland Raiders [20]
1969 Kansas City Chiefs 11–3 Hank Stram* Len Dawson* Mike Garrett Otis Taylor Bell*, Buchanan*, Budde, Robinson*, Tyrer Oakland Raiders [21]
1970 Baltimore Colts 11–2–1 Don McCafferty Johnny Unitas* Norm Bulaich Roy Jefferson none Oakland Raiders [22]
1971 Miami Dolphins 10–3–1 Don Shula* Bob Griese* Larry Csonka* Paul Warfield* Csonka*, Griese*, Little*, Warfield*, Yepremian Baltimore Colts [23]
1972 Miami Dolphins 14–0 Don Shula* Earl Morrall[b] Larry Csonka*[c] Paul Warfield* Anderson, Little*, Morrall, Stanfill Pittsburgh Steelers [24]
1973 Miami Dolphins 12–2 Don Shula* Bob Griese* Larry Csonka* Paul Warfield* Anderson, Csonka*, Langer*, Little*, Scott, Warfield*, Yepremian Oakland Raiders [25]
1974 Pittsburgh Steelers 10–3–1 Chuck Noll* Terry Bradshaw* Franco Harris* Frank Lewis Greene*, Greenwood, Ham* Oakland Raiders [26]
1975 Pittsburgh Steelers 12–2 Chuck Noll* Terry Bradshaw* Franco Harris* Lynn Swann* Blount*, Greenwood, Ham* Oakland Raiders [27]
1976 Oakland Raiders 13–1 John Madden* Ken Stabler* Mark van Eeghen Cliff Branch Branch, Casper*, Guy* Pittsburgh Steelers [28]
1977 Denver Broncos 12–2 Red Miller Craig Morton Otis Armstrong Haven Moses Alzado, Gradishar, Jackson, Thompson Oakland Raiders [29]
1978 Pittsburgh Steelers 14–2 Chuck Noll* Terry Bradshaw* Franco Harris* Lynn Swann* Bradshaw*, Ham*, Swann*, Webster* Houston Oilers [30]
1979 Pittsburgh Steelers 12–4 Chuck Noll* Terry Bradshaw* Franco Harris* John Stallworth* Ham*, Lambert*, Shell, Stallworth*, Webster* Houston Oilers [31]
1980 Oakland Raiders 11–5 Tom Flores Jim Plunkett Mark van Eeghen Cliff Branch Hayes, Hendricks* San Diego Chargers [32]
1981 Cincinnati Bengals 12–4 Forrest Gregg* Ken Anderson Pete Johnson Cris Collinsworth Anderson, McInally, Munoz* San Diego Chargers [33]
1982 Miami Dolphins 7–2 Don Shula* David Woodley Andra Franklin Jimmy Cefalo none New York Jets [34]
1983 Los Angeles Raiders 12–4 Tom Flores Jim Plunkett Marcus Allen* Todd Christensen Christensen Seattle Seahawks [35]
1984 Miami Dolphins 14–2 Don Shula* Dan Marino* Woody Bennett Mark Clayton Marino*, Newman, Roby, Stephenson* Pittsburgh Steelers [36]
1985 New England Patriots 11–5 Raymond Berry* Tony Eason Craig James Stanley Morgan Hannah*, Tippett* Miami Dolphins [37]
1986 Denver Broncos 11–5 Dan Reeves John Elway* Sammy Winder Mark Jackson Jones, Mecklenburg Cleveland Browns [38]
1987 Denver Broncos 10–4–1 Dan Reeves John Elway* Sammy Winder Vance Johnson none Cleveland Browns [39]
1988 Cincinnati Bengals 12–4 Sam Wyche Boomer Esiason Ickey Woods Eddie Brown Esiason, Krumrie, Munoz* Buffalo Bills [40]
1989 Denver Broncos 11–5 Dan Reeves John Elway* Bobby Humphrey Vance Johnson Mecklenburg Cleveland Browns [41]
1990 Buffalo Bills 13–3 Marv Levy* Jim Kelly* Thurman Thomas* Andre Reed* Hull, Smith*, Thomas* Los Angeles Raiders [42]
1991 Buffalo Bills 13–3 Marv Levy* Jim Kelly* Thurman Thomas* Andre Reed* Hull, Kelly*, Thomas* Denver Broncos [43]
1992 Buffalo Bills 11–5 Marv Levy* Jim Kelly* Thurman Thomas* Andre Reed* Jones Miami Dolphins [44]
1993 Buffalo Bills 12–4 Marv Levy* Jim Kelly* Thurman Thomas* Andre Reed* Smith* Kansas City Chiefs [45]
1994 San Diego Chargers 11–5 Bobby Ross Stan Humphries Natrone Means Tony Martin Carney, Seau* Pittsburgh Steelers [46]
1995 Pittsburgh Steelers 11–5 Bill Cowher Neil O'Donnell Erric Pegram Yancey Thigpen Dawson*, Lloyd Indianapolis Colts [47]
1996 New England Patriots 11–5 Bill Parcells* Drew Bledsoe Curtis Martin* Terry Glenn none Jacksonville Jaguars [48]
1997 Denver Broncos 12–4 Mike Shanahan John Elway* Terrell Davis* Rod Smith Davis*, Mobley, Sharpe* Pittsburgh Steelers [49]
1998 Denver Broncos 14–2 Mike Shanahan John Elway* Terrell Davis* Rod Smith Davis*, Sharpe* New York Jets [50]
1999 Tennessee Titans 13–3 Jeff Fisher Steve McNair Eddie George Kevin Dyson Kearse, Matthews* Jacksonville Jaguars [51]
2000 Baltimore Ravens 12–4 Brian Billick Tony Banks[d] Jamal Lewis Shannon Sharpe* Lewis*, Ogden* Oakland Raiders [52]
2001 New England Patriots 11–5 Bill Belichick Tom Brady Antowain Smith Troy Brown none Pittsburgh Steelers [53]
2002 Oakland Raiders 11–5 Bill Callahan Rich Gannon Charlie Garner Jerry Rice* Gannon, Kennedy, Robbins, Woodson Tennessee Titans [54]
2003 New England Patriots 14–2 Bill Belichick Tom Brady Antowain Smith Deion Branch Harrison, Law*, Seymour Indianapolis Colts [55]
2004 New England Patriots 14–2 Bill Belichick Tom Brady Corey Dillon David Givens Seymour, Vinatieri Pittsburgh Steelers [56]
2005 Pittsburgh Steelers 11–5 Bill Cowher Ben Roethlisberger Willie Parker Hines Ward Faneca, Polamalu Denver Broncos [57]
2006 Indianapolis Colts 12–4 Tony Dungy* Peyton Manning Joseph Addai Marvin Harrison* Harrison* New England Patriots [58]
2007 New England Patriots 16–0 Bill Belichick Tom Brady Laurence Maroney Randy Moss* Brady, Light, Moss*, Samuel, Vrabel San Diego Chargers [59]
2008 Pittsburgh Steelers 12–4 Mike Tomlin Ben Roethlisberger Willie Parker Hines Ward Harrison, Polamalu Baltimore Ravens [60]
2009 Indianapolis Colts 14–2 Jim Caldwell Peyton Manning Joseph Addai Reggie Wayne Manning, Clark, Freeney New York Jets [61]
2010 Pittsburgh Steelers 12–4 Mike Tomlin Ben Roethlisberger Rashard Mendenhall Mike Wallace Harrison, Polamalu, Pouncey New York Jets [62]
2011 New England Patriots 13–3 Bill Belichick Tom Brady BenJarvus Green-Ellis Wes Welker Gronkowski, Mankins, Welker, Wilfork Baltimore Ravens [63]
2012 Baltimore Ravens 10–6 John Harbaugh Joe Flacco Ray Rice Anquan Boldin Jones, Leach New England Patriots [64]
2013 Denver Broncos 13–3 John Fox Peyton Manning Knowshon Moreno Demaryius Thomas Manning, Thomas, Vasquez, Prater New England Patriots [65]
2014 New England Patriots 12–4 Bill Belichick Tom Brady LeGarrette Blount Julian Edelman Gronkowski, Revis Indianapolis Colts [66]
2015 Denver Broncos 12–4 Gary Kubiak Peyton Manning Ronnie Hillman Demaryius Thomas Miller New England Patriots [67]
2016 New England Patriots 14–2 Bill Belichick Tom Brady LeGarrette Blount Julian Edelman Slater Pittsburgh Steelers [68]
2017 New England Patriots 13–3 Bill Belichick Tom Brady Dion Lewis Rob Gronkowski Brady, Gronkowski Jacksonville Jaguars [69]
2018 New England Patriots 11–5 Bill Belichick Tom Brady Sony Michel Julian Edelman Gilmore Kansas City Chiefs [70]

Footnotes[edit]

  • a Lou Rymkus began the 1961 season as the Houston Oilers' head coach. After the Oilers started the season with a 1–3–1 record, Wally Lemm took over as head coach. The Oilers won all nine games with Lemm as their head coach and went on to win the 1961 AFL Championship Game.[13]
  • b Bob Griese began the 1972 season as the Miami Dolphins' starting quarterback. After Griese suffered an ankle injury in the 5th game of the season, Morrall became the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season and ended the season with more passing attempts than Griese. Morrall started the AFC Championship game, but Griese replaced him with the Dolphins behind in the second half and led the Dolphins to the victory. Griese then started Super Bowl VII.[24][71][72][73]*
  • c In 1972 both Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris rushed for 1000 or more yards for the Miami Dolphins. Csonka led the team in rushing yardage, making Morris the only player on an AFC (or NFC) championship team to have at least 1000 rushing yards but not lead the team.[24][74]
  • d Tony Banks and Trent Dilfer each started 8 games for the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. Banks is listed here because had 274 passing attempts and Dilfer had 226. But Dilfer was the starting quarterback in the AFC Championship game and in Super Bowl XXXV.[52][75][76]

References[edit]

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