The American Football Conference (AFC) has dominated recent instalments of the Super Bowl, beating their National Football Conference (NFC) adversaries in three of the last four years.
The Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos have done the business for the AFC and all will be hopeful of being their Conference’s representatives at Super Bowl LI, which is being held at the NRG Stadium in Houston on Sunday February 5th.
But what does a franchise have to accomplish during the regular season to secure their participation in the showpiece?
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What is immediately noted is that the standards are set much higher in the AFC, where more regular season victories (13 to 12), more home wins (seven to six), more road successes (5.9 to 5.5) and more Conference triumphs (9.4 to 8.5) have been required to reach the Super Bowl in the last ten years.
In the three seasons between 2007 and 2009, the AFC entrants (New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts) topped their respective Division with a perfect record of six victories.
The AFC also seems the more exciting Conference, with a greater focus on offence over defence.
More points-per-game on average are scored and conceded across Super Bowl-reaching franchises, with the same being true of yards gained and allowed.
Through six matches of the current NFL season, the Patriots are the most dominant force in the AFC with six victories, alongside making more offensive yards. New England are the 11/4 favourites to win Super Bowl LI.
In the more competitive NFC, the Minnesota Vikings went 100% through their opening five matches as they chase a first Super Bowl appearance since 1976 and a first ever victory in what would be a fifth attempt, yet were finally beaten last time out by the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Vikings’ main competition is likely to arrive from the Seattle Seahawks, who have participated in the showpiece in two of the last three years and are chasing a second triumph.