EAST RUTHERFORD NJ - OCTOBER 17: Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants passes against the Detroit Lions at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 17 2010 in East Rutherford New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Eli Manning
For many years, the AFC was considered the more elite of the two NFL conferences, and for good reason. From 1997-2008, the Super Bowl champion came out of the AFC nine times, and in most seasons, the AFC Championship game was considered the defacto "Super Bowl," as the winner of that game was almost always the significant favorite when it met the NFC representative in the Big Game.
The junior conference's superiority was never more evident than it was in Super Bowl XL, when the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 6th seed in the AFC, were favored by four points against the Seattle Seahawks, the top seed in the NFC.
Maybe the AFC's position as the more dominant conference started to weaken in Super Bowl XLII, when the undefeated Patriots were installed as 12-point favorites against the Giants, but lost, 17-14.
The following year, in Super Bowl XLIII, the Steelers were 7-point favorites vs. the 9-7 Arizona Cardinals, but had to come from behind to win the game in the final minute.
And just last year, in Super Bowl XLV, things came full circle when the Green Bay Packers, the 6th seed from the NFC, were installed as 4-point favorites against the Steelers, the 2nd seed from the AFC.
And for the Giants/Patriots Super Bowl XLVI re-match, New England was only a 3-point favorite despite the Giants' 9-7 regular season record. In-fact, many questioned why the G-Men were underdogs at all considering they seemed to have the more talented team. Perhaps, if they had won another game or two, the perception may have been a bit different.
League parity being what it is, I doubt the NFC will reach the level of dominance that it had from 1984-1996 when teams from that conference won 13-straight Super Bowls by an average of just over 17-points a game. But with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady nearing the ends of their careers, and Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning just coming into their prime, the NFC might get to wear the crown of "Superior Conference" for at least a few years to come.
The Philadelphia Eagles are among the favorites to win it all next year. That, more than anything, might tell you all you need to know.