The AFC Championship Game is one of the two semi-final matches of the National Football League. The game is currently played on the penultimate Sunday in January and determines the champion of the American Football Conference. The winner receives the Lamar Hunt Trophy and advances to face the winner of the NFC Championship Game in the Super Bowl on the first Sunday in February. The current AFC Champions are the Indianapolis Colts.
It began in 1970 after the merger between the NFL and the American Football League. The AFC was formed by joining the 10 former AFL teams with 3 NFL teams: the then-Baltimore Colts, the Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game (also unofficially referred to as the AFC Title 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. 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.
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. 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. The Pittsburgh Steelers have the most appearances in the AFC Championship Game at 15, with 11 of those games being in Pittsburgh, the most for either conference.
- For more details on this topic, see National Football League playoffs.
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 Trophy
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. The trophies are now a new, silver design with the outline of a hollow football positioned on a small base to more closely resemble the Vince Lombardi Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl.
List of AFC Championship Games
- Numbers in parentheses in the table are AFC Championships. Bold indicates team won Super Bowl that year.
^ a: Sudden-death overtime
Game wins 1970–present
|Team||W||L||PCT||PF||PA||Last appearance||Last championship||Home games||Home wins||Home losses||Home Win Pct.||Away games||Away wins||Away losses||Away Win Pct.|
|New England Patriots||11||4||.733||371||280||2018||2018||8||7||1||.875||7||4||3||.571|
|Los Angeles/Oakland Raidersd[›]||4||7||.364||202||253||2002||2002||5||3||2||.600||6||1||5||.167|
|Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers||1||3||.250||63||95||2007||1994||1||0||1||.000||3||1||2||.333|
|Kansas City Chiefs||1||2||.333||78||91||2019||2019||2||1||1||.500||1||0||1||.000|
|New York Jets||0||4||.000||46||91||2010||N/A||0||0||0||—||4||0||4||.000|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneersc[›]||0||0||—||—||—||N/A||N/A||0||0||0||—||0||0||0||—|
^ b: The Seahawks were members of the NFC in 1976 and then members of the AFC from 1977 to 2001, before rejoining the NFC in 2002. Including their appearances in the NFC Championship Game (3–0), they hold a combined 3–1 record between both Conference Championship Games.
^ c: The Buccaneers were members of the AFC in 1976 before moving to the NFC in 1977.
^ d: Includes appearances during their first tenure in Oakland (the 1970 merger until 1981), where they went 2–5 in AFC Championship Games; their period as the Los Angeles Raiders (1982–1994), where they were 1–1 in AFC Championship Games; and their current tenure in Oakland (1995–present), where they have gone 1–1 in AFC Championship Games.
^ e: Includes appearances as the Baltimore Colts (the 1970 merger to 1983), where they went 1–1 in AFC Championship Games. Since moving to Indianapolis in 1984, the Colts are 2–3 in AFC Championship Games
^ f: Includes appearances as the Houston Oilers (the 1970 merger to 1996), where they went 0–2 in AFC Championship Games. Since moving to Tennessee in 1997, they are 1–1 in AFC Championship Games.
AFC Championship Game records
- Most Victories – 8*; Pittsburgh Steelers (1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1995, 2005, 2008, 2010)
- Most Losses – 7*; (tie) Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1970, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1990, 2000); Pittsburgh Steelers, (1972, 1976, 1984, 1994, 1997, 2001, 2004)
- Most Appearances – 15**; Pittsburgh Steelers (1972, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1984, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010)
- Most Consecutive Appearances – 5**; Oakland Raiders (1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977)
- Most Consecutive Victories – 4**; Buffalo Bills (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993)
- Most Victories Without A Loss- 2 Cinncinati Bengals (1981, 1988)
- Most Defensive Shutouts – 2**; Miami Dolphins (1971, 21-0 vs Colts & 1982, 14-0 vs Jets)
- Most Consecutive Losses – 3*; Oakland Raiders (1973, 1974, 1975)
- Most Games Hosted – 11**; Pittsburgh Steelers (1972, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2004, 2008, 2010)
- Most Numerous Matchup – 3 (tie); Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders 1974, 1975, 1976, Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos 1986, 1987, 1989
- Most points scored – 51**; January 20, 1991 (1990 season) – Buffalo Bills vs. Los Angeles Raiders
- Largest margin of victory – 48 points**; January 20, 1991 (1990 season) - Buffalo Bills (51) vs. Los Angeles Raiders (3)
- Fewest points scored, winning team – 10; January 12, 1992 (1991 season) - Buffalo Bills vs. Denver Broncos
- Fewest points scored – 0*; (tie) Jan 2, 1972 (1971 season) Baltimore Colts 0 vs Dolphins 21 , Jan 23, 1983 (1982 season) NY Jets 0 vs Dolphins 14
- Most points scored, losing team – 34**; January 21, 2007 (2006 season) - New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts
- Most aggregate points scored – 73**; January 6, 1985 (1984 season) - Miami Dolphins (45) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (28)
- Fewest aggregate points scored – 14; January 23, 1983 (1982 season) - Miami Dolphins (14) vs. New York Jets (0)
- Longest game – 65 minutes, 38 seconds; January 11, 1987 (1986 season) - Denver Broncos (23) @ Cleveland Browns (20), OT
- Current AFC teams which have never appeared in a Conference Championship Game – Houston Texans
- Current AFC teams which have never won a Conference Championship – Cleveland Browns (0-3), Houston Texans (0-0), Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2), New York Jets (0-4) and Kansas City Chiefs (0-1)
- Longest drought without appearing in an AFC Championship Game – 24 years**; Cincinnati Bengals (last appearance - 1988)
- Longest drought without an AFC Championship – 43 years**: New York Jets, and Kansas City Chiefs
- Largest Comeback in a Conference Championship Game – Indianapolis Colts: 18 points (38-34 Final Score)**; January 21, 2007 (2006 season) - New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts
- Highest attendance – 91,445; Los Angeles Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks in Los Angeles on January 8, 1984 (1983 season).
*Tied for Conference Championship Record
**Conference Championship record
- 2010: 42.352 million viewers
- 2009: 42 million viewers
- NFL Record and Fact Book 2009,. Time Inc Home Entertainment. ISBN 978-1-60320-809-3.
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- Bell, Jarrett. "NFL Replay: Gritty Steelers aren't pretty, but they are Super", USA Today, January 25, 2011.
- Joe Robbie Stadium, now Sun Life 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.
- The Raiders won only one of those five, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-7 in 1976 en route to victory in Super Bowl XI.
- The Miami Dolphins won 5 AFC Championships before losing their first championship game. The New England Patriots equalled that record before losing a championship game.
- However it should be noted the franchise was founded in 2002.
- The Jets won Super Bowl III as the 1968 AFL Champion.
- The Chiefs won Super Bowl IV as the 1969 AFL Champion
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