National Football League

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The National Football League (NFL), formed in 1920, is the largest and most popular professional American football league in the world. It consists of thirty-one teams from American cities.

At the end of each season, the winners of playoff games meet in the Super Bowl.

Current NFL Franchises

The NFL will undergo realignment in 2002 when the Houston Texans begin play that season. The NFL is currently organized as follows:

American Football Conference

East Division: Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets
Central Division: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans
West Division: Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks

National Football Conference

East Division: Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins
Central Division: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
West Division: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Saint Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers

Considerations of team placements during NFL expansions and realignments, as well as franchise relocations, have over time led to teams being placed in divisions that don't correspond to their actual geographic location. For example, Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans are considered "west", while Dallas and Arizona are considered "east." Realignment in 2002 is supposed to create a new "South" division in each conference, and to move teams accordingly.

Playoffs

At the end of each season, in each conference, the three division winners and the three "wild-card" teams (the teams with one of the three best records who did not also win a division) meet in elimination rounds. The two division winners with the best records receive a bye in the first round. The conference champions then play each other in the Super Bowl.

Other Leagues of American Football

Cleveland Browns (now Baltimore Ravens)
New York Yankees (now Indianapolis Colts)
San Francisco 49ers.

Premerger Championships (1933-1969)

Prior to 1933, the NFL champion was the team with the best record during the season. This was tricky to sort out, as teams played anywhere from eight to twenty games in a season. In 1932, Chicago and Portsmouth were tied and played a grudge match of sorts, Chicago winning. The game proved so popular that the league reorganized to make it a permanent feature.

Between 1933 and 1966, the NFL decided its champion through a single postseason playoff game. During this period, the NFL was divided into two groupings, sometimes refered to as divisions and sometimes called conferences. The first place team in each of the two groupings at the end of the regular season played a title game to determine the championship. If there was a tie for first place, an extra playoff game was played in order to determine which team would play the title game. At various times during this period, the two groupings were called Eastern Division and Western Division; American Conference and National Conference; Eastern Conference and Western Conference.

After expansion in 1967, the NFL split its two conferences into two divisions each, and the playoff schedule was expanded from a single game between two teams to a four team tournament, with the four divisional champions participating. The NFL champion played the AFL champion in Super Bowls I through IV.

After 1970, the AFL and NFL fully merged and underwent a realignment. Six divisions were allocated among two conferences, and after this time the Super Bowl champion was also the NFL champion. See Super Bowl for a complete list of Super Bowl winners.

Championship Games

1933 - Chicago Bears 23, New York Giants 21
1934 - New York Giants 30, Chicago Bears 13
1935 - Detroit Lions 26, New York Giants 7 
1936 - Green Bay Packers 21, Boston Redskins 6
1937 - Washington Redskins 28, Chicago Bears 21
1938 - New York Giants 23, Green Bay Packers 17
1939 - Green Bay Packers 27, New York Giants 0
1940 - Chicago Bears 73, Washington Redskins 0
1941 - Chicago Bears 37, New York Giants 9
1942 - Washington Redskins 14, Chicago Bears 6
1943 - Chicago Bears 41, Washington Redskins 21
1944 - Green Bay Packers 14, New York Giants 7
1945 - Cleveland Rams 15, Washington Redskins 14
1946 - Chicago Bears 24, New York Giants 14
1947 - Chicago Cardinals 28, Philadelphia Eagles 21 
1948 - Philadelphia Eagles 7, Chicago Cardinals 0
1949 - Philadelphia Eagles 14, Los Angeles Rams 0
1950 - Cleveland Browns 30, Los Angeles Rams 28
1951 - Los Angeles Rams 24, Cleveland Browns 17
1952 - Detroit Lions 17, Cleveland Browns 7
1953 - Detroit Lions 17, Cleveland Browns 16
1954 - Cleveland Browns 56, Detroit Lions 10
1955 - Cleveland Browns 38, Los Angeles Rams 14
1956 - New York Giants 47, Chicago Bears 7
1957 - Detroit Lions 59, Cleveland Browns 14
1958 - Baltimore Colts 23, New York Giants 17 (OT)
1959 - Baltimore Colts 31, New York Giants 16
1960 - Philadelphia Eagles 17, Green Bay Packers 13
1961 - Green Bay Packers 37, New York Giants 0
1962 - Green Bay Packers 16, New York Giants 7
1963 - Chicago Bears 14, New York Giants 10
1964 - Cleveland Browns 27, Baltimore Colts 0
1965 - Green Bay Packers 23, Cleveland Browns 12
1966 - Green Bay Packers 34, Dallas Cowboys 27
1967 - Green Bay Packers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17
1968 - Baltimore Colts 34, Cleveland Browns 0
1969 - Minnesota Vikings 27, Cleveland Browns 7

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