The fallout from Malcolm Butler’s game-winning interception in Super Bowl XLIX can be traced all over the NFL – from the demise of the Seahawks Legion of Boom to the rise of the Patriots’ second dynasty. It was also one of several key turning points in the great fight between the NFC and AFC for Super Bowl titles. Butler’s interception won the game for New England and set the NFL onto its current path of AFC dominance.
Following the AFL/NFL merge in 1970, the AFC beat up on the NFC, winning 9 of 11 Super Bowls from 1970 thru 1980 – not to mention two wins with the Jets in 1968 and the Chiefs in 1969.
But then the NFC took charge. Over the next 16 seasons, the NFC won 15 Super Bowls, including 13 straight from 1984 thru 1996. Joe Montana started the run in 1981 with the 49ers while Brett Favre and the Packers won in 1996.
It wasn’t until John Elway’s Broncos won 2 straight in 1997 & 1998, including beating Favre and the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII – the AFC’s first Super Bowl win since the 1983 season – that the tide would turn back to the AFC’s favor.
From the 1997 season thru the 2006 season, the AFC won 8 of 10 Super Bowl titles, a run of supremacy led by Elway and Tom Brady.
And it wasn’t until Brady’s pursuit of perfection in 2007 that the NFC would climb back on top, with the Giants playing spoiler in Super Bowl XLII, starting a span of 5 NFC Super Bowl titles over the next 7 seasons that saw Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees each win titles while Eli Manning won two.
After the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII in 2013 they looked like they could continue the NFC’s run of success, but Butler’s interception stole the game for New England and put the power back with the AFC.
Over the last 6 NFL seasons, the AFC has won the Super Bowl 5 times – the lone loss coming at the hands of Philadelphia in Super Bowl LII.
And with Super Bowl LV (55) upon us, the total is evenly split… 27 titles for the AFC and 27 titles for the NFC.
What will happen this Super Bowl Sunday? Does Patrick Mahomes make it 3 straight for the AFC and 6 of the last 7, or does Brady, the forever-king of the AFC – bring the Buccaneers and the NFC a title? Either way – one conference will be the leader for at least a year.
- When: Sunday, February 7, 2021
- Kickoff time: 6:30 p.m. ET (3:30 p.m. PT)
- Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida
- TV Channel: CBS