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TGS NFL PLAYOFFS NOTEBOOK...
CONFERENCE TITLE HISTORY

                                    by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

Some of the most compelling viewing in recent NFL seasons has come in Super Bowl prequels, since 1970 contested as AFC and NFC Championship games.  There was a period of time when the conference titles were decidedly non-compelling, however, especially for much of the ‘80s and into the early ‘90s when AFC & NFC title games mirrored Super Bowls of the era and usually featured one-sided results.  That pattern would mostly change into the new millennium, up until the last two years, when we’ve seen three lopsided wins in conference title games and only one nailbiter (Patriots-Jags last season).  Still, those blowouts have been the exception of late in these showdown games, as only seven of the twenty conference title clashes over the past ten seasons have been decided by double-digit margins.

    We have always found it fascinating that the biggest blowout in pro football history occurred in the 1940 NFL title game when George Halas’ Chicago Bears stepped on the throat of the Washington Redskins (who had beaten Halas three years earlier in the championship battle) by a whopping 73-0 count!  (And, no, TGS was not around to cover that game!)   In a four-year span in the mid ’50s, NFL title games producedscorelines of 56-10 (Browns over Lions in 1954), 38-14 (Browns over Rams in 1955), 47-7 (Giants over Bears in 1956), and 59-14 (Lions getting their revenge on the Browns in 1957)It was more of the same throughout much of the 1960s, with NFL title games featuring some romps such as 37-0 (Packers over Giants in 1961), 27-0 (Browns over Colts in 1964), 34-0 (as the Colts gained revenge over the Browns in 1968), and 27-7 (Vikings over the poor Browns again in 1969).  Meanwhile, old AFL title games  featured some lopsided results as well, including wipeouts such as 51-10 (Chargers over Patriots in 1963), 23-0 (Bills over Chargers in 1965), 31-7 (Chiefs over Bills in 1966), and 40-7 (Raiders over Oilers in 1967).

    Results of conference championship games has once again tilted to the home teams the past five years when they would score straight-up wins in each and cover eight of ten of eight (including New England failing to clear the 9-point hurdle vs. Jacksonville last January).  Home underdogs have won twice that span; Denver 20-18 over New England three years ago and Philadelphia 38-7 over Minnesota last season.  The home/favorite trends had not been so pronounced in the preceding years, especially in the NFC, where home teams lost outright in three straight and failed to cover four conference title games in a row prior to 2013. Six years ago, both road teams (Baltimore in the AFC, San Francisco in the NFC) won outright, for the first time in conference title tilts since the 1997 playoffs.

    Though dogs covered both conference title games last season, favorites continue to hold a pointspread edge in these affairs since the merger year of 1970 (52-41-2), although, as mentioned, their dominance has been a bit less pronounced in recent years, with the dogs covering nine of the last fourteen conference title battles over the past seven seasons.  Among pointspread category trends in AFC & NFC championship battles, note that “intermediate/high” chalk (those laying between 7-9½ points) teams still stand 16-8 vs. the number in conference championships since 1970, even with the Patriots falling short a year ago.  Double-digit favorites, however, are only 4-8 vs. the line.  Home teams have won straight up more than two-thirds of the time since the merger (66 of 96).  Conference title “total” trends are not especially pronounced, though have leaned slightly “over” (35-28-1 since 1986; three of four “over” the past two years).  

    Acknowledging the earlier references to historical one-sided results in these games, please note that even with the closer conference title clashes in recent years, almost half of the AFC & NFC championship battles since the 1970 merger (44 of 96) have  been decided by 14 points or more, with nearly two-thirds (60 of 96) being decided by double digits.

    Following is a list of pointspread breakdowns and results of AFC & NFC Championships since 1970.

CATEGORY                                                  RESULT

Favorites/Underdogs (one pick ‘em)                  52-41-2

Favorites straight up                                           64-31

Favored by 1-3 points                                         12-11

Favored by 3½-6½ points                                 20-14-2

Favored by 7-9½ points                                        16-8

Favored by 10 or more                                           4-8

Home teams straight up                                      66-30

Home teams vs. spread                                   54-40-2

Home favorites vs. spread                               44-31-2

Home underdogs vs. spread                                 10-8

Home pick’em vs. spread                                       0-1

Overs/unders (since 1986)                                35-28-1

MARGINS OF VICTORY

1-3 points.............................................................. 13

4-6 points.............................................................. 15

7-10 points............................................................. 13

11-13 points........................................................... 11

14 or more............................................................. 44



                               
 


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