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Top 10 NFL Conference AFC-NFC Championship Game upsets

Written By | Jan 25, 2022
championship game, NFL, Football, AFC, AFL, Championship Game, Upsets

Kansas City Chiefs pull out the miracle td for the win

LOS ANGELES, January 25, 2021 — The triumphant hoisting of the Lombardi Trophy after the Super Bowl will have to wait. First comes the Conference Championship Games. The AFC Title Game is for the Lamar Hunt Trophy. Hunt was the Founder of the American Football League (AFL) and owner of the Kansas City Chiefs. He coined the term that forever changed the AFL-NFL Championship Game to the Super Bowl.

For the fourth straight year, The Kansas City Chiefs are playing at home for the right to win the trophy named after their beloved late owner. Hunt’s son Clark now owns the team.  The New England Patriots played in the AFC Title Game for eight straight years from 2011-to 2018. In 2018, the Chiefs lost an overtime thriller to New England 37-31.

In the last two years, the Chiefs defeated the Tennessee Titans 35-24 and the Buffalo Bills 38-24.

From 1966-to 1969, the AFL Championship was what would in 1970 become the AFC Title Game.

The Chiefs won the AFL Championship in 1966 over the Bills and in 1969 at the Oakland Raiders. The 1962 team, known as the Dallas Texans, won the AFL Championship. No Super Bowl existed until 1966 and the Texans in 1963 moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs.

The Chiefs also reached the AFC Title Game in 1993, losing at the Bills during their run of four straight AFC Title Game victories.

This season the Chiefs will be hosting the Cincinnati Bengals, who are playing in the AFC Title Game for the third time in franchise history.

They won at home over the San Diego Chargers in 1981 and the Bills in 1988. They have never played the game on the road.

The NFC Title Game Trophy is named after Papa Bear George Halas.

The Los Angeles Rams are in the game for the fifth time. In 1979, the Rams went on the road and won ugly over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-0. In 1999 and 2001, the St. Louis Rams and their Greatest Show on Turf hosted and won both appearances over the Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles. The 2018 Rams, now back in Los Angeles, won a controversial overtime road game at the New Orleans Saints.

The San Francisco 49ers have been to this game many times.

The 49ers went twice in the 1970s, losing both times to the Dallas Cowboys. They won four of the five NFC Title Games they played in during the 1980s. Their 1981 victory over the Cowboys is forever known as “The Catch.” The 49ers went to three straight NFC Title Games in the 1990s against the Cowboys, winning the last one. From 1988 through 1994, they were in it six of those seven years.

In 1997 the 49ers hosted the NFC Title Game but were throttled by the Green Bay Packers. After failing to make the game in the 2000s, they went three straight years from 2011-2013, winning the 2012 game and losing the other two in heartbreaking fashion. In 2019 they hosted the game and crushed the Packers. Now they are back in the game for the second time in three years.

Teams fight all year for home-field advantage.

For the longest time, that did not matter. From 1994 through 2012, a top seed went down in flames short of the Super Bowl every year except 2009. Then for five straight years from 2013 through 2017, both top seeds advanced to the Super Bowl except for 2016. In 2018, all four top seeds made the Conference Title Games. However, both games saw the two seeds go on the road and defeat the top seed in overtime.

The 2019 playoffs saw plenty of surprises. In the AFC, the six-seed Wildcard Tennessee Titans went on the road in consecutive weeks and shocked perennial AFC Title Game winner New England and then top-seeded Baltimore. In 2021, neither top seed even reached the Conference Title Game as the top-seeded Titans and Packers both went down in flames in the Divisional round.

The right to go to the Super Bowl has seen shocking upsets over the years. Here are the Top 10 Conference Title Game upsets in NFL history.

10.) 2005 AFC — Steelers 34, Broncos 17 —

Pittsburgh was only 11-5, and 13-3 Denver had Jake Plummer leading them and looked ready to win it all. Pittsburgh led 21-3 at halftime and stunned the Mile High crowd. This would rank higher except Pittsburgh shocked 14-2 Indianapolis one week earlier en route to winning the Super Bowl.

9.) 2011 NFC — Giants 20, 49ers 17, OT —

The Giants were only 9-7, and the 11-4-1 49ers seemed far superior. The 49ers actually outplayed the Giants the entire game, but two fumbled punts killed San Francisco. This would rank higher except the Giants were a very confident bunch from having won it all in 2007. They would go on to win it all again in 2011.

8.) 1988 NFC — 49ers 28, Bears 3 — The 1984 49ers became the first team to go 15-1 before crushing the Bears 23-0 in the NFC Title Game and then winning the Super Bowl. The 1985 Bears went 15-1 and crushed everyone to win it all. In 1988, the 49ers were a 6-5 struggling team before finishing 10-6. The 1988 Bears finished 12-4. After suffering a stunning home playoff loss to Washington in 1987, the Bears were expected to crush everyone again in 1988. Walter Payton retired after the 1987 season, but this was supposed to be a battle of Chicago force against San Francisco West Coast finesse. The Bears had Iron Mike Ditka and the brutally cold Chicago weather. Bill Walsh and Joe Montana not only shocked the Bears, but humiliated them. The 49ers became a dynasty and won the Super Bowl in 1988 and 1989. The Bears became the dynasty that never was. The Bears have not won the big game since 1985. The cliche of defense winning championships did not exist in 1988 as the offensive team won.

7.) 2007 NFC — Giants 23, Packers 20, OT —

The Giants were only 10-6. While they did go on the road and beat Tampa Bay and then top-seeded Dallas, Green Bay won their playoff game by 22 points. At home, on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, Brett Favre was expected to get the Packers back to the big game. The Giants outplayed the Packers, and a key interception by Favre in overtime turned out to be his final pass in green and gold. That led to the winning field goal as the Giants would then shock the world by defeating 18-0 New England in the Super Bowl.

6.) 2003 NFC — Panthers 14, Eagles 3 —

Carolina was a good team, but the Eagles were in their third straight NFC Title Game, their second straight one at home. They had lost the previous two and were expected to finally get over the hump. Instead, the Carolina defense belted Donovan McNabb, who played most of the game injured. He was rendered immobile. One year later on their fourth try, the Eagles would finally get to the Super Bowl, a game they would lose.

5.) 1990 NFC — Giants 15, 49ers 13 —

Both teams started 10-0, lost their 11th game, and played one of the greatest games in Monday Night Football history, a 7-3 win by the 49ers in San Francisco. The Giants were 13-3, but had backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler playing for the injured Phil Simms. The 49ers had won the last two Super Bowls and were expected to easily three-peat. Instead, the Giants knocked Joe Montana out of the game and harassed backup Steve Young. With time running out, the Giants’ defense blasted Roger Craig, forcing a key fumble. Matt Bahr kicked his fifth field goal on the final play to send the Giants to the Super Bowl, where again as heavy underdogs to Buffalo they won on the final play. This game cemented the legacy of Bill Parcells.

4.) 1985 AFC — Patriots 31, Dolphins 14 —

The 11-5 Patriots went on the road and thrashed the Jets before shocking the top-seeded 12-4 Raiders. They had no chance against Miami. Dan Marino was expected to get the Dolphins to his second straight Super Bowl. He was in the midst of a four-year passing spree that shattered NFL record books. The Dolphins offense had an off day and the Patriots shocked the football world before getting blasted by Chicago in the Super Bowl.

3.) 1998 NFC — Falcons 30, Vikings 27, OT —

The Falcons did go 14-2, but the 15-1 Vikings were one of the greatest offenses in NFL history. Randall Cunningham was raining bombs to Chris Carter and Randy Moss with ease. In this game, the Vikings jumped to a 20-7 lead and led 27-20 with a chance to put the game away late. Gary Anderson had not missed a field goal in two years, but his 40-yarder with two minutes left was no good. The defense melted down with John Randall on the sideline injured. Atlanta tied it, and Dennis Green stunningly had the Vikings take a knee at their own 40 rather than try a Hail Mary. Minnesota just missed connecting on a bomb in overtime. When Morton Anderson hit the winning field goal, Minnesota became perhaps one of the greatest teams to never win it all. Vikings fans still cannot believe they lost this game.

2.) 2002 NFC — Buccaneers 27, Eagles 10 —

The Eagles had humiliated the Buccaneers six straight times at home. They had knocked Tampa Bay out of the playoffs in 2000 and 2001, costing Tony Dungy his job. In 2002, Jon Gruden saw his team go into Philadelphia during the regular season and lose 20-10. Andy Reid had to feel good when the Eagles led 7-0 only one minute into the NFC Title Game. The Buccaneers responded and just hit the Eagles in the mouth. Late in the game, Donovan McNabb had the Eagles within striking distance. McNabb was then intercepted by Ronde Barber, who returned it 92 yards for the clinching touchdown. A shell-shocked home crowd saw the final game at Veterans Stadium end in defeat. Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, and John Lynch went to the Hall of Fame, and Ronde Barber may join them in Canton.

1.) 1994 AFC — Chargers 17, Steelers 13 —

If ever a team had no business going to a Super Bowl, it was the 1994 Chargers. They started 6-0, went 5-5 down the stretch, and fell behind Miami 21-6 in the Divisional round. San Diego came back and won 22-21 when Miami missed a field goal to win it on the final play. Pittsburgh had a phenomenal defense led by Rod Woodson. San Diego had Stan Humphries, a quarterback with guts who took a beating. The Steelers led 13-3 after three quarters but never put the game away at home.

After the Chargers took a four-point lead, the Steelers drove to a fourth and goal at the three with little time left. Neil O’Donnell had his pass batted down. Junior Seau and the San Diego defense celebrated their win before getting blasted in the Super Bowl the following week. In a bizarre, tragic, and unexplainable phenomenon, the 1994 Chargers have had eight different players from that team die prematurely all under different circumstances. (The 1994 San Diego Chargers Super Bowl Team Marred by 8 Deaths)


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Eric Golub

Brooklyn born, Long Island raised and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”