The National Football League (NFL) consists of two conferences – the National Football Conference and the America Football Conference (AFF) and plays at the highest level of American Football in the country. The AFC currently has four separate divisions that contain sixteen teams – four teams in each division (in the same way as the NFC).
The two conferences were created when the National Football League merged with the American Football League in 1970. This saw all of the ten teams in the AFL, as well as three teams from the original NFL, become the original members of the new American Football Conference. Following this, there were several league expansions and realignments – and this has led to each of the conferences containing 16 teams. As of 2022, the most recent champions of the AFC as the Kansas City Chiefs who defended their title by defeating the Buffalo Bills in the last AFC Championship Game – and will be looking to retain their title in the upcoming playoffs. However, the most successful team to date in terms of NFL standings in the AFC is the New England Patriots, with 11 titles to date.
In the same way as the NFC, the National Football League’s AFC consists of sixteen teams that have been split into four different divisions, each with four teams – AFC East, AFC North, AFC South and AFC West.
Division Team Location Stadium
- East Buffalo Bills Orchard Park, New York Highmark Stadium
- East Miami Dolphins Miami Gardens, Florida Hard Rock Stadium
- East New England Patriots Foxborough, MA Gillette Stadium
- East New York Jets East Rutherford, NJ MetLife Stadium
- North Baltimore Ravens Baltimore, Maryland M&T Bank Stadium
- North Cincinnati Bengals Cincinnati, Ohio Paul Brown Stadium
- North Cleveland Browns Cleveland, Ohio FirstEnergy Stadium
- North Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Heinz Field
- South Houston Texans Houston, Texas NRG Stadium
- South Indianapolis Colts Indianapolis, Indiana Lucas Oil Stadium
- South Jacksonville Jaguars Jacksonville, Florida TIAA Bank Field
- South Tennessee Titans Nashville, Tennessee Nissan Stadium
- West Denver Broncos Denver, Colorado Empower Field
- West Kansas City Chiefs Kansas City, Missouri Arrowhead Stadium
- West Las Vegas Raiders Paradise, Nevada Allegiant Stadium
- West Los Angeles Chargers Inglewood, California SoFi Stadium
AFC Season Structure
As it stands each team, throughout the season, will face fourteen opponents over a 17-game regular season that are scheduled using a pre-determined formula.
Each of the AFC teams will play the other teams that are in their division two times – home game and away game, during the regular-season. There will also be an additional eleven extra games that are assigned to them based on the team’s final division standing from the last season. The rest of the eight games will be split between the roster of the other two NFL divisions in the conference.
These games will change each year, based on a standard cycle. So, for example, if you use the 2021 regular-season schedule as an example, every team in the AFC West will play each team in the NFC East and AFC North. As such, any non-divisional competition will most often be against common opponents – with the only exception being those three games that were assigned to the clubs based on their standings in the previous season.
When the season comes to an end the division winners of North, South, East and West – as well as three wild card teams (that didn’t win the division but had the best regular-season record) will qualify for the playoffs. This will then lead to the AFC Championship Game – and the winner will be crowned AFC Champion – and awarded the Lamar Hunt Trophy. This team will then have the honor of playing the winner of the NFC Championship Game in the Super Bowl.
History of the National Football League AFC
Both of the conferences as we know them were originally created in 1970 when the American Football League first merged with the National Football League. Originally, the AFL started in 1960 with only eight teams, but two teams (the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals) were added as expansion teams in 1966 and 1968 respectively. When they merged, in order to equalise the number of teams each conference contained, three teams from the original NFL (The Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts as they were then known and the Pittsburgh Steelers) joined the ten original AFL teams to become the AFC. At this time, there were two AFL divisions – the AFL West and AFL East. The Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers came over from the NFL Century Division to create the AFC Central Division. After the merger, the AFC had already sorted out their divisional setup based on geographical lines… unlike the NFC which had to choose theirs from a fishbowl.
Since the 1970 merger, an additional five teams have joined the AFC, and after two left, they now have a grand total of sixteen teams. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks joined the NFL in 1976 – and were put, temporarily, in the NFC and AFC respectively. However, this lasted for just one season before they switched conferences. However, the Seattle Seahawks rejoined the NFC in the 2002 realignment. When the league expanded in 1995, the Jacksonville Jaguars joined the American Football Conference.
In AFC history, five of its teams have relocated at least one time. The Baltimore Colts relocated to Indianapolis in 1984. In 1995, the Browns tried to relocate to Baltimore, but this caused issues with the Ravens.
heading over to California, the Oakland Raiders moved over to Los Angeles in 1982, before moving back to Oakland in 1995 and over to Las Vegas in 2020. Meanwhile, after spending 56 years in San Diego, the San Diego Chargers moved to Los Angeles in 2017, becoming the Los Angeles Chargers.
In 197, the Houston Oilers relocated to Tennessee and became known as the Tennessee Oilers. However, after just two years in Tennessee, they were renamed again to the Tennessee Titans.
The National Football League’s AFC Now
In 2002, the National Football League expanded again, and the AFC was joined by the Houston Texans. Since then, apart from some of the relocations and name changes, the AFC division set-up has remained the same.
In the years between 1995 and 2020, only eight of the sixteen AFC teams have played in the Super Bowl:
- New England Patriots (ten times)
- The Denver Broncos (four times)
- The Pittsburgh Steelers (four times)
- The Baltimore Ravens (two times)
- The Indianapolis Colts (two times)
- The Kansas City Chiefs (two times)
- The Las Vegas Raiders (once)
- The Tennessee Titans (once)
On the other hand, only three teams in the NFC have failed to reach the Super Bowl at least once in that time – the Washington Football Team, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions. Moreover, it’s also interesting to note that sixteen from the last 19 AFC winners have started one of only three quarterbacks in the Super Bowl – Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. In the past 19 Super Bowls, the AFC has started just 6 quarterbacks compared to 16 started by the NFC.
American Football Conference FAQs
What is the AFC Logo?
After the merger of the AFL and NFL, the American Football Conference logo retained elements of the original AFL logo – including the A and the six stars that surrounded it. This logo remained the same until 2009. However, in 2010, they introduced a new and updated AFC logo – which saw the removal of two of the six stars – leaving four stars representing the four AFC divisions. Those stars were placed inside the A in order to mirror the NFC logo.
Where Can I Watch AFC on Television?
Between 197o through to 1997, the AFC Sunday afternoon games and playoffs were aired on NBC. Then between 1998 and 2013, it was the station CBS that was the primary broadcast rights holder to the conference’s games. Between those dates, every inter conference game in which it was the AFC team that was the away team would be broadcast on either CBS or NBC. However, since 2014, there has been a cross-flex policy which means select AFC games (that involve the team playing either an NFC team at home or an inter conference game) would be moved to FOX from CBS. Also, since 1990, certain AFC playoff games can be seen on ESPN or ABC.
What Teams Make Up the AFC?
The sixteen teams that play in the American Football Conference are Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Raiders.
Which Teams Play in the AFC Playoffs?
Seven teams qualify for the AFC playoffs each year – the four AFC division champions joined by the three wildcard teams that have the best regular-season record that year.
Which is Better: AFC West or NFC West?
They are pretty equal overall, in terms of Super Bowl wins, but NFC West are slightly more successful as of 2021.