Point, counterpoint: AFC or NFC?


!Packers.com Editor Vic Ketchman says the AFC is the better conference.

The AFC is the better of the NFL's two conferences because it has had the two-best quarterbacks in the game for a long time and it has a wave of young quarterbacks ready to replace the old masters.

It's that simple, folks. Pro football is all about the quarterback and even though the NFC might have the best quarterback in the game, the NFC doesn't have as many good ones as the AFC does.

Seven of the NFL's 10-highest rated passers last season are AFC quarterbacks. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have long been the position's standard-bearers, but they are supported by young guns such as Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub, Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez, a raw and rising talent that has impressively won four postseason games in his first two seasons.

Dominance at the position allowed the AFC to score a 34-30 series edge in interconference games last season. The AFC not only leads the all-time series, 1,129-1,008-11, it has so dominated the series since 1970 that only four AFC teams have a losing record in interconference games.

"I think you can tie the success or failure to who has the best quarterbacks," Gil Brandt said. Brandt is the former Cowboys personnel whiz who now works as an analyst for NFL Network.

Brandt was with the Cowboys when the AFC enjoyed its greatest advantage in the interconference series, 36-16 in 1979. The AFC was dominant then for the same reason it is dominant now: It had the better quarterbacks.

The 1970s was the AFC's heyday. From 1972-80, the AFC won every Super Bowl but one. The NFC dominated the Super Bowl in the 1980s and into the '90s. The AFC resumed its place at the top in the late '90s, beginning with Denver's win over the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. Since then, the AFC has won nine of the last 14 Super Bowls.

Want more proof that the AFC is the better conference?

The AFC dominated the 2000s all-decade team.

An AFC running back, Arian Foster of the Houston Texans, claimed the NFL rushing title last season, and four of the league's top five rushers are AFC backs.

The game's best deep receiver, Mike Wallace, who owns a whopping 21.0 yards-per-reception average, plays in the AFC.

Darrelle Revis plays in the AFC.

The league's top three interceptors play in the AFC.

Brady and Troy Polamalu, the NFL's offensive and defensive players of the year respectively, play in the AFC.

The league's number one offense and its top three defenses belong to AFC teams.

Jake Long and Joe Thomas, considered by many to be the two-best left tackles in the game, play in the AFC.

The league had to pass legislation to stop one AFC team from hitting people too hard.

Bill Belichick coaches in the AFC.

Bill Polian works in the AFC.

OK, Spofford, show me what you got.

!Packers.com Staff Writer Mike Spofford makes the case for the NFC.

I'll take the NFC yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Historically, who can forget the NFC's 13 straight Super Bowl victories, from XIX to XXXI? Not only was the run of wins impressive, but only two of those triumphs were decided by fewer than 10 points – on Montana-to-Taylor in XXIII and Norwood's miss in XXV. The rest were handled with relative ease, including six by at least three touchdowns.

The AFC's longest streak of Super Bowl wins was just five, and it ended three-and-a-half decades ago (VII to XI). None of those victories came by three touchdowns and, in fact, the AFC has commanded a Super Bowl by that margin only twice, one of those (Oakland over Washington, XVIII) being the only blip preventing the NFC's 13-year run from reaching 16 years.

Sticking with the focus on championships in the present day, the NFC has won three of the last four Super Bowls and two of those were particularly compelling. Last season, the NFC's No. 6 seed, Green Bay, was good enough to beat the AFC's No. 2 seed, Pittsburgh, while a few years prior, the NFC's No. 5, the New York Giants, knocked off the AFC's No. 1 and undefeated Patriots.

It's not just about championships, though. Look at the rivalries. The AFC has Patriots-Colts and Steelers-Ravens, and they have produced some great theater, no doubt, but Jets-Dolphins and Raiders-Chiefs are yesterday's news.

Packers-Bears and Giants-Eagles are still going strong, Falcons-Saints is gaining steam, and when the Cowboys play any of their NFC East brethren, it's worth watching. Heck, if the Lions keep trending upward, a lot more NFC North games are going to attract big attention, too.

As for the future, it's a quarterback-driven league and the NFC looks stronger at the position for longer.

Taking the top five quarterbacks in each conference (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Joe Flacco in the AFC; Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman and Michael Vick in the NFC), only one of the AFC's top guns has been drafted since 2005 (Flacco in '08), while three careers are still in their infancy in the NFC (Rodgers was drafted in '05, Ryan in '08 and Freeman in '09).

Moreover, of the two quarterbacks in each conference drafted at least 10 years ago, Manning's decorated career is on the back end, while Vick may have more juice left than the average 31-year-old after missing two full seasons.

The black eye for the NFC is the West, with a 7-9 "champion" a year ago. That's awful. No getting around it.

Regardless of the record of the NFC West winner, two teams in the conference won 10 games a year ago and didn't make the playoffs. That sounds like a strong conference to me.

OK, fans, so who's right?

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