From 1990 to 2001, the AFC championship game featured appearances from the Broncos, Bills, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Ravens, Titans, Steelers, Jets, Patriots, Jaguars, and the Dolphins.
During that same time span in the NFC, the conference championship game (except for 1998 and 1999) mainly involved the Packers, Redskins, Giants, 49ers, and Cowboys. The NFC dominated the Super Bowl during these years as well, winning every Super Bowl that wasn’t quarterbacked by John Elway.
So if you’re keeping track at home, the NFC championship for a decade was a five-team affair with cameos from the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, and the Los Angeles Rams. So ended the 20th Century.
The tables have turned in the 21st century though, and now the AFC championship game has evolved into four hours of watching the same teams (Patriots, Colts, Steelers, and Ravens) square off over and over again.
On Sunday, for the fourth time in the last fifteen years, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will face off against each other for a chance to reach the Super Bowl. Each of them has won two of those four games, and each of them has lost a step. Manning is visibly a weaker thrower than he used to be. Brady has proven beatable this year in games the Patriots clearly should have won. Trust me, I’m going to watch the game. But that’s not the game I’m really looking forward to.
In Charlotte, the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals, pitting two Heisman winners against each other and the potential coronation of the Cam Newton Dynasty or another step in the redemption song of Carson Palmer’s career.
There’s no question, Brady vs. Manning is this generation’s Ali vs. Frazier, two living legends of the sport. But eventually, the causal football fan gets fatigued by Brady vs. Manning.
We see enough of Brady in Mark Wahlberg movies, and if you want to see Manning, you can skip the game and just watch the commercials.
I want excitement, so I’ll be tuning into the NFC championship.