Thursday, January 15, 2009

NFL: Division Rivals in the Conference Championship

As I remarked in the post about winning 3 times in a row, it's moderately unusual for teams from the same division to meet in the playoffs.

It's actually happend a fair number of times in the championship game. In the 40 seasons since 1969, there have been 17 Conference Championship† Games played by teams in the same division:

I'm going to ignore the fact that the 1969 Chiefs @ Raiders was before the AFL-NFL merger, and so it was the final League Championship game for the AFL. The playoffs after the 1970 season featured the first AFC Championship game (not listed).

YearDivisionGameCC Winner in SB
1969AFL WestChiefs @ Raiders(Chiefs won SB)
1971AFC EastColts @ Dolphins(Dolphins lost SB)
1972NFC EastCowboys @ Redskins(Redskins lost SB)
1977AFC WestRaiders @ Broncos(Broncos lost SB)
1978AFC CentralOilers @ Steelers(Steelers won SB)
1979AFC CentralOilers @ Steelers(Steelers won SB)
1980AFC WestRaiders @ Chargers(Raiders won SB)
1980NFC EastCowboys @ Eagles(Eagles lost SB)
1982NFC EastCowboys @ Redskins(Redskins won SB)
1982AFC EastJets @ Dolphins(Dolphins lost SB)
1983AFC WestSeahawks @ Raiders(Raiders won SB)
1985AFC EastPatriots @ Dolphins(Patriots lost SB)
1986NFC EastRedskins @ Giants(Giants won SB)
1989NFC WestRams @ 49ers(49ers won SB)
1992AFC EastBills @ Dolphins(Bills lost SB)
1999AFC CentralTitans @ Jaguars(Titans lost SB)
2008AFC NorthRavens @ Steelers(Steelers won SB)


  • The probability of a same-division matchup seems to be much more likely in the AFC (12 examples, counting 1969 AFL) than it is in the NFC (5 examples).

  • The home team is 11-5 in these games, which is not good news for the Ravens.

  • However, the winning team is 9-8 in the Super Bowl, which suggests this situation is no special advantage to the winning team once advancing to the Super Bowl.