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The American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game is one of the two final playoff matches of the National Football League, 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. 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. The first AFC Championship Game was held on January 3, 1971, with the Baltimore Colts defeating the Oakland Raiders, 27-17. The most recent game was played on January 23, 2011, with the Pittsburgh Steelers defeating the New York Jets, 24-19.
The first AFC Championship Game was played in 1970 after the merger between the NFL and the AFL. 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. The original AFC was formed by joining the ten former AFL teams with three pre-merger NFL teams: the Baltimore Colts, the Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The realignment was done in order to create two conferences with an equal number of teams, as the pre-merger NFL consisted of six more teams than the AFL.
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.
At the end of each football season, a series of playoff games involving the top six teams in the AFC are conducted, consisting of the four division champions and two wild card teams. After two rounds of play, the two teams remaining face 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, with the highest surviving seed hosting. 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
Since 1984, 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.
It, and the George Halas Trophy that is awarded to the NFC Champion, were redesigned for the 2010–11 NFL playoffs by Tiffany & Co. at the request of the NFL in an attempt to make both awards more significant. The trophies are now a new, silver design with the outline of a hollow football positioned on a small base to more closely resembles the Vince Lombardi Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl.
List of AFC Championship Games
- Numbers in parentheses in the table are AFC Championships
^ a: Sudden-death overtime
AFC Championship Game appearances 1970–present
|Num||Team||W||L||PCT||PF||PA||Last appearance||Last championship||HOME games||Home wins||Home losses||Home Win Pct.||ROAD games||Road wins||Road losses||Road Win Pct.|
|11||Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders||4||7||.364||202||253||2002||2002||5||3||2||.600||6||1||5||.167|
|7||New England Patriots||6||1||.857||195||128||2007||2007||3||3||0||1.000||4||3||1||.750|
|4||Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans||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|
|1||Kansas City Chiefs||0||1||.000||13||30||1993||N/A***||0||0||0||---||1||0||1||.000|
***last AFL title - 1969
AFC Championship Game records
- Most Victories – 8*; Pittsburgh Steelers (1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1995, 2005, 2008, 2010)
- Most Losses – 7*; (tie) Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1970, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1990, 2000); Pittsburgh Steelers, (1972, 1976, 1984, 1994, 1997, 2001, 2004,)
- Most Appearances – 15**; Pittsburgh Steelers (1972, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1984, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010)
- Most Consecutive Appearances – 5**; Oakland Raiders (1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977)
- Most Games Hosted – 11**; Pittsburgh Steelers (1972, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2004, 2008, 2010)
- Most Consecutive Victories – 4**; Buffalo Bills (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993)
- Most Consecutive Losses – 3*; Oakland Raiders (1973, 1974, 1975)
- Most Numerous Matchup – 3 (tie); Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders 1974, 1975, 1976, Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos 1986, 1987, 1989
- Highest attendance – 91,445; Los Angeles Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks in Los Angeles on January 8, 1984 (1983 season).
- Most points scored – 51**; January 20, 1991 (1990 season) – Buffalo Bills vs. Los Angeles Raiders
- Largest margin of victory – 48 points**; January 20, 1991 (1990 season) - Buffalo Bills (51) vs. Los Angeles Raiders (3)
- Fewest points scored, winning team – 10; January 12, 1992 (1991 season) - Buffalo Bills vs. Denver Broncos
- Most points scored, losing team – 34**; January 21, 2007 (2006 season) - New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts
- Most aggregate points scored – 73**; January 6, 1985 (1984 season) - Miami Dolphins (45) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (28)
- Fewest aggregate points scored – 14; January 23, 1983 (1982 season) - Miami Dolphins (14) vs. New York Jets (0)
- Longest game – 65 minutes, 38 seconds; January 11, 1987 (1986 season) - Denver Broncos (23) @ Cleveland Browns (20), OT
- Current AFC teams which have never appeared in a Conference Championship Game – Houston Texans
- Current AFC teams which have never won a Conference Championship – Cleveland Browns (0-3), Houston Texans (0-0), Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2), New York Jets (0-4) and Kansas City Chiefs (0-1)
- Longest drought without appearing in an AFC Championship Game – 22 years**; Cincinnati Bengals (last appearance - 1988)
- Longest drought without an AFC Championship – 42 years*: New York Jets
- Largest Comeback in a Conference Championship Game – Indianapolis Colts: 18 points (38-34 Final Score)**; January 21, 2007 (2006 season) - New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts
*Tied for Conference Championship Record
**Conference Championship record
- 2010: 42.352 million viewers
- 2009: 42 million viewers
- "Playoff". NFL Record and Fact Book 2009. Time Inc Home Entertainment. ISBN 978-1-60320-809-3.
- Chicago Sun-Times. http://www.suntimes.com/sports/3411365-418/trophy-halas-lombardi-nfl-silver.html.
- Bell, Jarrett (January 25, 2011). "NFL Replay: Gritty Steelers aren't pretty, but they are Super". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/steelers/2011-01-25-nfl-replay-steelers_N.htm.
- Joe Robbie Stadium, now Dolphin 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.
- The Raiders won only one of those five, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-7 in 1976 en route to victory in Super Bowl XI.
- However it should be noted the franchise was founded in 2002.