The American Football Conference (AFC) 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 American Football Conference originated as the American Football League (AFL), which joined with the NFL in AFL–NFL merger of 1970. As such most of its teams originally played in the AFL, while three others were NFL teams that were added to the AFC to equalize the number of franchises, and another three are more recent expansion teams.
Since 2002, the AFC has comprised 16 teams, organized into four divisions each containing four teams: East, North, South, and West.
Each AFC team plays the other teams in its division twice (home and away) during the regular season, in addition to 10 other games assigned to their schedule by the NFL the previous May. Two of these games are assigned on the basis of the team's final division standing in the previous season. The remaining 8 games are split between the roster of two other NFL divisions. This assignment shifts each year. For instance, in the 2007 regular season, each team in the AFC West played one game against each team in both the AFC South and the NFC North. In this way division competition consists of common opponents, with the exception of the 2 games assigned on the strength of each team's prior division standing. (i.e. the division winner will face the other two division winners in the AFC divisions that they are not scheduled to play) The NFC operates according to the same system.
At the end of each football season, there are playoff games involving the top six teams in the AFC (the four division champions by place standing and the top two remaining non-division-champion teams ("wild cards") by record). The last two teams remaining play in the AFC Championship game with the winner receiving the Lamar Hunt Trophy. The AFC champion plays the NFC champion in the Super Bowl. After Super Bowl XLIII the AFC has won 19 Super Bowls to the 21 won by the NFC. Since losing 13 consecutive Super Bowls in the 1980s and 1990s (XIX–XXXI), the AFC has won nine of the last twelve. The losing coach of the AFC Championship game is the coach of the Pro Bowl.
The AFC was created after the NFL merged with the American Football League (AFL) in 1970. All of the 10 former AFL teams along with the NFL's Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, and the then-Baltimore Colts joined the AFC.
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