The 49ers play the Falcons on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game. Neither has played in a Super Bowl since the 1900s. No one should be surprised. The NFC routinely puts a fresh face in the Super Bowl.
Last season, the Giants ended one of the great parity runs of sports history. The G-Men’s survival of San Francisco last season ended a stretch of 10 franchises winning the conference over 10 years. Starting with the 2001 season, the NFC champs were the Rams, Buccaneers, Panthers, Eagles, Seahawks, Bears, Giants, Cardinals, Saints and Packers. That’s a phenomenal run of parity. Nothing like it ever before in any sport.
Over that same span, only four AFC franchises won the conference: New England four, Pittsburgh three, Indianapolis two and Oakland one (yes, the 2002 Raiders won the AFC).
The NFC’s streak ended when the 49ers’ Kyle Williams fumbled those punts last January, allowing the Giants to win the NFC title game. Otherwise, the NFC would be 11-in-11, with Atlanta having the opportunity to go 12-for-12.
As it is, the 2012 NFC title participants guarantee the conference an 11th franchise winning one of the last 12 NFC titles.
It’s a remarkable conference. Check out the franchises that WON’T be on the Super Bowl list for the last 12 years:
* The 49er-Falcon loser. Both appear set with talented rosters, solid front offices and young, franchise quarterbacks. It wouldn’t be kooky to think that the NFC could make it 12 in 13 years next January.
* The Vikings. Minnesota made the playoffs this season.
* The Redskins. Washington made the playoffs this season and have a franchise quarterback in Robert Griffin III.
* The Cowboys, who seem stuck on an 8-8 treadmill but have a talented roster.
* The Lions, who made the playoffs last year and have a franchise QB in Matthew Stafford.
Think about it. What are the destitute franchises in the NFC? Arizona had an awful season, but does anyone think the Cardinals are down and can’t get up? The Rams have been destitute, but they played for a division title in 2010 and were competitive again this season under new coach Jeff Fisher. The Panthers have Cam Newton.
In the AFC, there are franchises that seem to be without hope. The Bills. The Browns. The Raiders. The Chiefs. The Jaguars. Now maybe even the Titans. But life in the NFC isn’t like that. In the NFC, virtually every franchise has a fighting chance over a period of years.