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AFC Championship Game
AFC Championship Game logo
AFC Championship logo
First played 1970
Trophy Lamar Hunt

AmericanFootball current event.svg.png Recent and upcoming games

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.

Since 1984, 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.

HistoryEdit

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.[1] 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.

Playoff structureEdit

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 TrophyEdit

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.[2] 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.[3]

List of AFC Championship GamesEdit

Numbers in parentheses in the table are AFC Championships
File:AFC Championship logo old.svg
Season Winning Team Score Losing Team Score LocationStadium
1970–71 Baltimore Colts (1) 27 Oakland Raiders 17 Baltimore, Maryland Memorial Stadium
1971–72 Miami Dolphins (1) 21 Baltimore Colts 0 Miami, Florida 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, Florida 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, Pennsylvania Three Rivers Stadium
1976–77Oakland Raiders (1) 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 7 Oakland, California Oakland Coliseum
1977–78 Denver Broncos (1) 20 Oakland Raiders 17 Denver, Colorado Mile High Stadium
1978–79 Pittsburgh Steelers (3) 34 Houston Oilers 5 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Three Rivers Stadium
1979–80 Pittsburgh Steelers (4) 27 Houston Oilers 13 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Three Rivers Stadium
1980–81 Oakland Raiders (2) 34 San Diego Chargers 27 San Diego, California Qualcomm Stadium
1981–82 Cincinnati Bengals (1) 27 San Diego Chargers 7 Cincinnati, Ohio Riverfront Stadium
1982–83 Miami Dolphins (4) 14 New York Jets 0 Miami, Florida Miami Orange Bowl
1983–84 Los Angeles Raiders (3) 30 Seattle Seahawks 14 Los Angeles, California Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
1984–85 Miami Dolphins (5) 45 Pittsburgh Steelers 28 Miami, Florida Miami Orange Bowl
1985–86 New England Patriots (1) 31 Miami Dolphins 14 Miami, Florida Miami Orange Bowl
1986–87 Denver Broncos (2) 23a[›] Cleveland Browns 20 Cleveland, Ohio Cleveland Municipal Stadium
1987–88 Denver Broncos (3) 38 Cleveland Browns 33 Denver, Colorado Mile High Stadium
1988–89 Cincinnati Bengals (2) 21 Buffalo Bills 10 Cincinnati, Ohio Riverfront Stadium
1989–90 Denver Broncos (4) 37 Cleveland Browns 21 Denver, Colorado 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, Florida[4] 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, Pennsylvania Three Rivers Stadium
1995–96Pittsburgh Steelers (5) 20 Indianapolis Colts 16 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Three Rivers Stadium
1996–97 New England Patriots (2) 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 6 Foxboro, Massachusetts Foxboro Stadium
1997–98 Denver Broncos (5) 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 21 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Three Rivers Stadium
1998–99Denver 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, Pennsylvania Heinz Field
2002–03 Oakland Raiders (4) 41 Tennessee Titans 24 Oakland, California Oakland Coliseum
2003–04 New England Patriots (4) 24 Indianapolis Colts 14 Foxboro, Massachusetts Gillette Stadium
2004–05 New England Patriots (5) 41 Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Heinz Field
2005–06 Pittsburgh Steelers (6) 34 Denver Broncos 17 Denver, Colorado Invesco Field at Mile High
2006–07 Indianapolis Colts (2) 38 New England Patriots 34 Indianapolis, Indiana RCA Dome
2007–08 New England Patriots (6) 21 San Diego Chargers 12 Foxboro, Massachusetts Gillette Stadium
2008–09 Pittsburgh Steelers (7) 23 Baltimore Ravens 14 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Heinz Field
2009–10 Indianapolis Colts (3) 30 New York Jets17 Indianapolis, Indiana Lucas Oil Stadium
2010–11 Pittsburgh Steelers (8) 24 New York Jets 19 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Heinz Field

^ a: Sudden-death overtime

AFC Championship Game appearances 1970–presentEdit

NumTeamWLPCTPFPALast appearanceLast championshipHOME gamesHome winsHome lossesHome Win Pct.ROAD gamesRoad winsRoad lossesRoad Win Pct.
15Pittsburgh Steelers87.533332303201020101165.545422.500
11Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders 47.36420225320022002532.600615.167
8Denver Broncos62.75018916620051998541.800321.667
7New England Patriots61.857195128200720073301.000431.750
7Miami Dolphins52.71415211519921984642.6671101.000
6Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts33.500125133200920093301.000303.000
5Buffalo Bills41.80013054199319933301.000211.500
4Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans13.2507511620021999000---413.250
4San Diego Chargers13.250639520071994101.000312.333
4New York Jets04.00046912010N/A**000---404.000
3Cleveland Browns03.00074981989N/A*101.000202.000
2Cincinnati Bengals201.0004817198819882201.000000---
2Baltimore Ravens11.500302620082000000---211.500
2Jacksonville Jaguars02.00020531999N/A101.000101.000
1Kansas City Chiefs01.00013301993N/A***000---101.000
1Seattle Seahawksc[›]01.00014301983N/A000---101.000
0Houston Texans00---------N/AN/A000---000---

*last NFL title - 1964

**last AFL title - 1968

***last AFL title - 1969

^ c: The Seattle Seahawks were members of the AFC from 1977 until 2002, and hold a combined 1-1 record between both Conference Championship Games.

AFC Championship Game recordsEdit

File:AFCChampionship2005.png

*Tied for Conference Championship Record

**Conference Championship record

TV ratingsEdit

  • 2010: 42.352 million viewers
  • 2009: 42 million viewers

FootnotesEdit

  1. "Playoff". NFL Record and Fact Book 2009. Time Inc Home Entertainment. ISBN 978-1-60320-809-3.
  2. Chicago Sun-Times. http://www.suntimes.com/sports/3411365-418/trophy-halas-lombardi-nfl-silver.html.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The Raiders won only one of those five, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-7 in 1976 en route to victory in Super Bowl XI.
  6. However it should be noted the franchise was founded in 2002.
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