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.
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
- The "All-American Football Conference" competed from 1946 through 1949. After the 1949 season, three of its teams were admitted into the NFL:
- The "American Football League" competed from 1960 through 1969. All ten teams entered the NFL as part of a merger agreement in 1970.
- The "World League of American Football" competed independently for a couple of years in the 1990s, before being transformed into NFL Europe, whose teams act as farm clubs for those in the NFL proper.
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.
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