From 1960 to 1968, the American Football League determined its champion via a single playoff game between the winners of its two divisions (although ties in the standings during the 1963 and 1968 seasons necessitated a divisional playoff game).
In 1969, the final year of the independent AFL, a four-team playoff was held, with the second-place teams in each division playing the winner of the other division in what were called the "Interdivisional" playoffs. These playoffs were not, and are not considered to have been, "wildcard" playoffs since the two best non-division winners did not automatically qualify. (Had the 1969 playoffs been true wildcard playoffs, the Western Division's third-place team, San Diego, would have qualified while the Eastern Division's second-place team, Houston, would not have.) The 1969 playoffs were only the second time a major professional football league allowed teams other than the first place teams to compete in post-season playoffs (the other instance being the All-America Football Conference's 1949 four-team playoff).
Prior to the advent of the Super Bowl for the 1966 season, the AFL went to great lengths to avoid scheduling its playoffs head-to-head with the NFL. In 1960, the NFL's game was held on Monday, December 26; the AFL had that week off, and played its title contest on Sunday, January 1st. In 1961 and 1962, the AFL played its game during the off-week between the end of the NFL's regular season and its title game (thus resulting in the AFL holding championship games on December 24, 1961 and December 23, 1962, a week before the NFL's games of December 31, 1961 and December 30, 1962). In 1963, the AFL held its Eastern Division tiebreaker playoff on Saturday, December 28, 1963, thereby avoiding the Sunday, December 29, 1963 NFL playoff (the AFL then held its 1963 Championship Game a week later). In 1964, pro football had a championship weekend, with the AFL's title game held on Saturday, December 26, 1964 and the NFL's championship contest being held on Sunday, December 27, 1964. For 1965, the AFL tried to return to the practice of playing its game on a Sunday during the off-week between the NFL playoff, slating its championship contest for December 26, 1965 while the NFL's game wasn't held until January 2, 1966; unfortunately, the Colts and Packers required a Western Conference tiebreaker on the December 26, 1965 date --- and since that game went overtime, the TV audience for the Bills-Chargers game in San Diego was diminished considerably. Even in 1966, the AFL originally scheduled its championship game for the off-week, planning to hold its playoff on Monday, December 26, 1966, six days before the NFL's scheduled playoff of January 1, 1967.
Negotiations prior to the first Super Bowl, during early December 1966, resulted in the two leagues agreeing to have championship doubleheaders for the next four years, with each league holding its title game on the same day but at a different time that day. Thus the final four AFL playoffs were held on the same day as the NFL championship game was (January 1, 1967; December 31, 1967; December 29, 1968; and January 4, 1970).
The Chargers championship win is noted for being the only and most recent major sports championship won for the city of San Diego. No other city with at least two professional sports teams has a championship drought as long, as of 2012 (49 years). This is also the only time that the Chargers have beaten the Patriots in a postseason game.
This was the last AFL Championship Game before the Super Bowl era began the following season and the last time a final pro football championship game was played in December. It was also the most recent championship won by a Buffalo-based professional sports team.
The Bills went into the 1966 AFL Championship having already won the game the previous two years. Though the game was to be played in Buffalo, the visiting Kansas City Chiefs were three-point favorites, mainly because of their explosive and innovative offense led by Head Coach Hank Stram. The Bills were a more conventional team with a solid defensive line and a running mindset on offense.
A Bills fumble on the opening kickoff gave the Chiefs a short field to work with, and Quarterback Len Dawson immediately took advantage of it, hitting Fred Arbanas for the game's first score. Jack Kemp's first pass for the Bills was a 69 yard score to Elbert Dubenion. Late in the second quarter and trailing 14-7, Kemp led the Bills to the Kansas City 10. Bobby Crockett was open in the endzone, but Kemp's pass was intercepted by Johnny Robinson, who returned the ball 72-yards, setting up a Mike Mercer field goal to close out the first half.
Buffalo found no offensive rhythm in the second half, and the Chiefs closed the game out in the fourth quarter with Dawson found Chris Burford for a 45 yard gain, setting up a one foot touchdown run by rookie Mike Garrett. Garrett scored his second touchdown less than two minutes later following another Bills fumble.
OAK - Kocourek 17 pass from Lamonica (Blanda kick)
OAK - Lamonica 1 run (Blanda kick)
OAK - Field goal Blanda 40
OAK - Field goal Blanda 42
HOU - Frazier 5 pass from Beathard (Wittenborn kick)
OAK - Field goal Blanda 36
OAK - Miller 12 pass from Lamonica (Blanda kick)
The Oakland Raiders were ten and a half point favorites over the Houston Oilers in the 1967 AFL Championship Game. Quarterback Daryle Lamonica, acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Bills in the offseason, led the Raiders to a 13-1 record, throwing 30 touchdown passes in the process. The Oilers went from last place in the Eastern Conference in 1966 to first in '67, beating out the New York Jets by a game. Most of the Oilers' offense centered on big fullback Hoyle Granger, and a midseason quarterback trade for the shifty Pete Beathard (sending their own starter, Jacky Lee, to the Kansas City Chiefs) proved to be the spark that turned Houston's season around.
The previous meeting between the two teams had been a close game won 19-7 by the Raiders, with Lamonica struggling offensively. This was not the case in the rematch. Oakland took a 10-0 lead in the second quarter on a 69 yard run down the left sidelines by Hewritt Dixon, and on a fake field goal attempt Lamonica passed to Dave Kocourek for the 17-0 halftime margin. Former Oilers quarterback George Blanda, who had led Houston to the AFL's first two championships, kicked four field goals for the Raiders. Houston did not score until the fourth quarter, when they already trailed 30-0.