The American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC) make up the American National Football League (NFL). Each conference has 16 teams in the United States, four in each division (North, South, East, West). The top six teams from both conferences (division leaders and two wild card teams) play each other, and the last undefeated team in each conference plays in the Super Bowl.

AFC teams have 20 Super Bowl wins while NFC teams have 24 since the formation of the NFL in 1970.

Comparison chart

American Football Conference versus National Football Conference comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartAmerican Football ConferenceNational Football Conference
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Introduction The American Football Conference is one of the two conferences of the National Football League (NFL). This conference and its counterpart, the National Football Conference (NFC), currently contain 16 teams each, making up the 32 teams of the NFL. The National Football Conference is one of the two conferences of the National Football League (NFL). This conference and its counterpart, the American Football Conference (AFC), currently contain 16 teams each, making up the 32 teams of the NFL.
Formerly American Football League (AFL) National Football League, pre 1970 AFL-NFL merger
League National Football League National Football League
Super Bowl Wins 20 24
Most Valuable Team New England Patriots ($1.8 billion) Dallas Cowboys ($2.3 billion) - also the most valuable team in the NFL
Most recent champion(s) Denver Broncos (8th title) Carolina Panthers (2nd title)
Most titles Pittsburgh Steelers (8 titles) Dallas Cowboys (8 titles)
Established 1970, during AFL/NFL merger 1970, during AFL/NFL merger
No. of teams 16 16
Money Salary Cap ($133 million). Salary Cap ($133 million).
North Division Teams Baltimore Ravens; Cincinnati Bengals; Cleveland Browns; Pittsburgh Steelers Chicago Bears; Detroit Lions; Green Bay Packers; Minnesota Vikings
East Division Teams Buffalo Bills; Miami Dolphins; New England Patriots; New York Jets Dallas Cowboys; New York Giants; Philadelphia Eagles; Washington Redskins
West Division Teams Denver Broncos;Kansas City Chiefs; Oakland Raiders; San Diego Chargers Arizona Cardinals;Los Angeles Rams; San Francisco 49ers; Seattle Seahawks
South Division Teams Houston Texans; Indianapolis Colts; Jacksonville Jaguars; Tennessee Titans Atlanta Falcons; Carolina Panthers; New Orleans Saints; Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brief History of the NFL, AFC, and NFC

The AFC and NFC were both created in 1970, during the merger of two football leagues, the American Football League and the National Football League. The NFL has existed since 1920, but the AFL was only established in 1959 by a group of expansion team owners who had been refused entrance into the NFL. The two leagues were direct competitors for a decade until the merger, which created a unified National Football League split into the two conferences. After the merger, the AFC was the dominant conference in terms of Super Bowl wins throughout the 1970s, and the NFC won a long stretch of consecutive Super Bowls through the 1980s and mid 1990s (13 wins in a row). For the last decade, the two conferences have been more evenly matched. There have been occasional shifts and rebalancing of the divisions and conferences over the years to accommodate new teams.

League Structure

Each conference of the NFL is split into 4 divisions (North, South, East, and West). Each division has 4 teams, meaning each conference has 16 teams, and the entire league has 32 teams.


Season Structure

Each season, a team will play against every other team in their division twice, while inter-conference games account for 1/4 of the regular season games. During the playoffs, the top six teams from both the AFC and NFC (the 4 division leaders and two wild card teams from each conference) play each other, and the last undefeated team in each conference plays in the Super Bowl.

Money

The NFL works under a salary cap system, meaning that in theory, each team is allowed the same amount of money to spend on their players. Although there are ways to circumvent this in a given year by signing players with prorated bonuses, the salary cap is effective in keeping any one team or conference from having a disproportionate amount of capital to work with in the long term. However, the market value of teams is unrestricted. The average team worth in the NFL is $1.17 billion, making the NFL the most valuable sports league in the world. The Dallas Cowboys (NFC) are currently listed as the league’s most valuable team at $2.3 billion. The NFC has 3 of the 4 most valuable teams, as of 2014.

Geography

The AFC and NFC do not officially represent opposing geographical areas, and each league has the same regional divisions of East, West, North, and South. But a map of team distribution shows a concentration of AFC teams in the northeast of the country stretching from Massachusetts to Indiana, and NFC teams grouped around the Great Lakes region and in the South.

States with red have AFC teams. States with blue have NFC teams. Some states have multiple teams, with one AFC, the other NFC. Note: The New York Giants (NFC) and New York Jets (AFC) both actually play in New Jersey; the map reflects this.
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States with red have AFC teams. States with blue have NFC teams. Some states have multiple teams, with one AFC, the other NFC. Note: The New York Giants (NFC) and New York Jets (AFC) both actually play in New Jersey; the map reflects this.

References

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