AFC Championship Game

AFC Championship Game
AFC Championship logo
First played 1971 (1970 season)
Trophy Lamar Hunt

Recent and upcoming games
2017 season
Gillette Stadium
January 21, 2018
Jacksonville Jaguars 20, New England Patriots 24

The AFC Championship Game is one of the two semi-final playoff games of the National Football League (NFL), the largest professional American football league in the United States. The game is played on the penultimate Sunday in January and determines the champion of the American Football Conference (AFC). The winner then advances to face the winner of the National Football Conference (NFC) Championship Game in the Super Bowl.

The game was established as part of the 1970 merger between the NFL and the American Football League (AFL), with the merged league realigning into two conferences. Since 1984,[1] each winner of the AFC Championship Game has also received the Lamar Hunt Trophy, named after the founder of the AFL and longtime owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, Lamar Hunt.


The first AFC Championship Game was played following the 1970 regular season after the merger between the NFL and the American Football League. The game is considered the successor to the former AFL Championship, and its game results are listed with that of its predecessor in the annual NFL Record and Fact Book.[2] Since the pre-merger NFL consisted of six more teams than the AFL, a realignment was required as part of the merger to create two conferences with an equal number of teams: The NFL's Baltimore Colts, the Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers joined the ten former AFL teams to form the AFC; while the remaining 13 pre-merger NFL clubs formed the NFC.

Every AFC team except the Houston Texans has played in an AFC Championship Game at least once. The Seattle Seahawks, who have been members in both the AFC and the NFC, hold the distinction of appearing in both conference title games, a loss in the AFC conference title game to the Los Angeles Raiders for Super Bowl XVIII and, in their first appearance in a NFC conference title game, a win over the Carolina Panthers for Super Bowl XL. The Pittsburgh Steelers have the most appearances in the AFC Championship Game at 16, with 11 of those games being in Pittsburgh, the most for either conference. The most AFC Conference Championships have been won by the New England Patriots winning 10 of them and going to 7 straight (2011–present).

Playoff structure

At the end of each regular season, a series of playoff games involving the top six teams in the AFC are conducted. In the current (since 2002–03 season) NFL playoff structure, this consists of the four division champions and two wild card teams (those clubs that possess the two best won-loss records after the regular season yet fail to win their division). The two teams remaining following the Wild Card round (first round) and the divisional round (second round) play in the AFC Championship game.

Initially, the site of the game was determined on a rotating basis. Since the 1975–76 season, the site of the AFC Championship has been based on playoff seeding based on the regular season won-loss record, with the highest surviving seed hosting the game. A wild card team can only host the game if both participants are wild cards, in which case the fifth seed would host the sixth seed. Such an instance has never occurred in the NFL.

Lamar Hunt Trophy

Beginning with 1984–85 season,[1] the winner of the AFC Championship Game has received the Lamar Hunt Trophy, named after the founder of the AFL. The original design consisted of a wooden base with a sculpted AFC logo in the front and a sculpture of various football players in the back.

For the 2010–11 NFL playoffs, the Lamar Hunt Trophy and the George Halas Trophy, which is awarded to the NFC Champion, were redesigned by Tiffany & Co. at the request of the NFL, in an attempt to make both awards more significant.[3] The trophies are now a new, silver design with the outline of a hollow football positioned on a small base to more closely resemble the Vince Lombardi Trophy, which is awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl.[4]

List of AFC Championship Games

Numbers in parentheses in the table are AFC Championships. Bold indicates team won Super Bowl that year.
Numbers in parentheses in the city and stadium column is the number of times that metropolitan area and stadium has hosted an AFC Championship, respectively.
SeasonPlayoffsWinning teamScoreLosing teamScoreLocationStadium
19701970–71Baltimore Colts (1)27Oakland Raiders17Baltimore, MarylandMemorial Stadium
19711971–72Miami Dolphins (1)21Baltimore Colts0Miami, FloridaMiami Orange Bowl
19721972–73Miami Dolphins (2)21Pittsburgh Steelers17Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaThree Rivers Stadium
19731973–74Miami Dolphins (3)27Oakland Raiders10Miami, Florida (2)Miami Orange Bowl (2)
19741974–75Pittsburgh Steelers (1)24Oakland Raiders13Oakland, CaliforniaOakland Coliseum
19751975–76Pittsburgh Steelers (2)16Oakland Raiders10Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2)Three Rivers Stadium (2)
19761976–77Oakland Raiders (1)24Pittsburgh Steelers7Oakland, California (2)Oakland Coliseum (2)
19771977–78Denver Broncos (1)20Oakland Raiders17Denver, ColoradoMile High Stadium
19781978–79Pittsburgh Steelers (3)34Houston Oilers5Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (3)Three Rivers Stadium (3)
19791979–80Pittsburgh Steelers (4)27Houston Oilers13Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (4)Three Rivers Stadium (4)
19801980–81Oakland Raiders (2)34San Diego Chargers27San Diego, CaliforniaJack Murphy Stadium
19811981–82Cincinnati Bengals (1)27San Diego Chargers7Cincinnati, OhioRiverfront Stadium
19821982–83Miami Dolphins (4)14New York Jets0Miami, Florida (3)Miami Orange Bowl (3)
19831983–84Los Angeles Raiders (3)30Seattle Seahawks14Los Angeles, CaliforniaLos Angeles Memorial Coliseum
19841984–85Miami Dolphins (5)45Pittsburgh Steelers28Miami, Florida (4)Miami Orange Bowl (4)
19851985–86New England Patriots (1)31Miami Dolphins14Miami, Florida (5)Miami Orange Bowl (5)
19861986–87Denver Broncos (2)23a[]Cleveland Browns20Cleveland, OhioCleveland Municipal Stadium
19871987–88Denver Broncos (3)38Cleveland Browns33Denver, Colorado (2)Mile High Stadium (2)
19881988–89Cincinnati Bengals (2)21Buffalo Bills10Cincinnati, Ohio (2)Riverfront Stadium (2)
19891989–90Denver Broncos (4)37Cleveland Browns21Denver, Colorado (3)Mile High Stadium (3)
19901990–91Buffalo Bills (1)51Los Angeles Raiders3Orchard Park, New YorkRalph Wilson Stadium
19911991–92Buffalo Bills (2)10Denver Broncos7Orchard Park, New York (2)Ralph Wilson Stadium (2)
19921992–93Buffalo Bills (3)29Miami Dolphins10Miami, Florida[fn 1] (6)Joe Robbie Stadium
19931993–94Buffalo Bills (4)30Kansas City Chiefs13Orchard Park, New York (3)Ralph Wilson Stadium (3)
19941994–95San Diego Chargers (1)17Pittsburgh Steelers13Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (5)Three Rivers Stadium (5)
19951995–96Pittsburgh Steelers (5)20Indianapolis Colts16Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (6)Three Rivers Stadium (6)
19961996–97New England Patriots (2)20Jacksonville Jaguars6Foxborough, MassachusettsFoxboro Stadium
19971997–98Denver Broncos (5)24Pittsburgh Steelers21Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (7)Three Rivers Stadium (7)
19981998–99Denver Broncos (6)23New York Jets10Denver, Colorado (4)Mile High Stadium (4)
19991999–00Tennessee Titans (1)33Jacksonville Jaguars14Jacksonville, FloridaAlltel Stadium
20002000–01Baltimore Ravens (1)16Oakland Raiders3Oakland, California (3)Oakland Coliseum (3)
20012001–02New England Patriots (3)24Pittsburgh Steelers17Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (8)Heinz Field
20022002–03Oakland Raiders (4)41Tennessee Titans24Oakland, California (4)Network Associates Coliseum (4)
20032003–04New England Patriots (4)24Indianapolis Colts14Foxborough, Massachusetts (2)Gillette Stadium
20042004–05New England Patriots (5)41Pittsburgh Steelers27Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (9)Heinz Field (2)
20052005–06Pittsburgh Steelers (6)34Denver Broncos17Denver, Colorado (5)Invesco Field at Mile High
20062006–07Indianapolis Colts (2)38New England Patriots34Indianapolis, IndianaRCA Dome
20072007–08New England Patriots (6)21San Diego Chargers12Foxborough, Massachusetts (3)Gillette Stadium (2)
20082008–09Pittsburgh Steelers (7)23Baltimore Ravens14Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (10)Heinz Field (3)
20092009–10Indianapolis Colts (3)30New York Jets17Indianapolis, Indiana (2)Lucas Oil Stadium
20102010–11Pittsburgh Steelers (8)24New York Jets19Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (11)Heinz Field (4)
20112011–12New England Patriots (7)23Baltimore Ravens20Foxborough, Massachusetts (4)Gillette Stadium (3)
20122012–13Baltimore Ravens (2)28New England Patriots13Foxborough, Massachusetts (5)Gillette Stadium (4)
20132013–14Denver Broncos (7)26New England Patriots16Denver, Colorado (6)Sports Authority Field at Mile High (2)
20142014–15New England Patriots (8)45Indianapolis Colts7Foxborough, Massachusetts (6)Gillette Stadium (5)
20152015–16Denver Broncos (8)20New England Patriots18Denver, Colorado (7)Sports Authority Field at Mile High (3)
20162016–17New England Patriots (9)36Pittsburgh Steelers17Foxborough, Massachusetts (7)Gillette Stadium (6)
20172017–18New England Patriots (10)24Jacksonville Jaguars20Foxborough, Massachusetts (8)Gillette Stadium (7)

Appearances 1970–present

NumTeamWLPCTPFPALast appearanceLast championshipHome gamesHome winsHome lossesHome Win Pct.Away gamesAway winsAway lossesAway Win Pct.
14New England Patriots104.71433424920172017871.875633.500
16Pittsburgh Steelers88.500332303201620101165.545523.400
10Denver Broncos82.80023520020152015761.857321.667
7Miami Dolphins52.71415211519921984642.6671101.000
11Los Angeles/Oakland Raidersd[]47.36420225320022002532.600615.167
5Buffalo Bills41.80013054199319933301.000211.500
7Baltimore/Indianapolis Coltse[]34.429132178201420093301.000404.000
4Baltimore Ravens22.500786220122012000—–422.500
2Cincinnati Bengals201.0004817198819882201.000000—–
4Houston Oilers/
Tennessee Titans
4Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers13.250639520071994101.000312.333
4New York Jets04.00046912010N/A000—–404.000
3Jacksonville Jaguars03.00040772017N/A101.000202.000
3Cleveland Browns03.00074981989N/A101.000202.000
1Kansas City Chiefs01.00013301993N/A000—–101.000
1Seattle Seahawksb[]01.00014301983N/Ab[]000—–101.000
0Houston Texans00—–------N/AN/A000—–000 —–
0Tampa Bay Buccaneersc[]00—–------N/AN/A000—–000 —–

^ b: The Seahawks were members of the NFC in 1976 and then members of the AFC from 1977 to 2001, before rejoining the NFC in 2002. Including their appearances in the NFC Championship Game (3–0), they hold a combined 3–1 record between both Conference Championship Games.

^ c: The Buccaneers were members of the AFC in 1976 before moving to the NFC in 1977.

^ d: Includes appearances during their first tenure in Oakland (the 1970 merger until 1981), where they went 2–5 in AFC Championship Games; their period as the Los Angeles Raiders (1982–1994), where they were 1–1 in AFC Championship Games; and their current tenure in Oakland (1995–present), where they have gone 1–1 in AFC Championship Games.

^ e: Includes appearances as the Baltimore Colts (the 1970 merger to 1983), where they went 1–1 in AFC Championship Games. Since moving to Indianapolis in 1984, the Colts are 2–3 in AFC Championship Games

^ f: Includes appearances as the Houston Oilers (the 1970 merger to 1996), where they went 0–2 in AFC Championship Games. Since moving to Tennessee in 1997, they are 1–1 in AFC Championship Games.



  • *Tied for Conference Championship record
  • **Conference Championship record

TV ratings

  • 1982: 51.6 million viewers
  • 2002:
  • 2003: 41.5 million
  • 2004:
  • 2005: 44.3 million
  • 2006: 39 million viewers
  • 2007: 46.7 million viewers (6:44-10:23pm)
  • 2008:
  • 2009: 42 million viewers
  • 2010: 42.352 million viewers
  • 2011: 54.9 million viewers[5]
  • 2012: 48.7 million viewers[6][7]
  • 2013: 47.7 million viewers[8]
  • 2014: 51.3 million viewers
  • 2015:42.1 million viewers[9]
  • 2016: 53.3 million viewers[10]
  • 2017: 41.2 million viewers[11]


  1. Joe Robbie Stadium, now Sun Life Stadium, is located in Miami Gardens. However, the city was not incorporated until 2003. Prior to that, the area was an unincorporated area of Miami-Dade County, and the stadium used a Miami address.
  2. The Miami Dolphins won 5 AFC Championships before losing their first championship game. The New England Patriots equaled that record before losing a championship game.
  3. The franchise was founded in 2002.
  4. The Jets won Super Bowl III as the 1968 AFL Champion.
  5. The Chiefs won Super Bowl IV as the 1969 AFL Champion


  1. 1 2 "Patriots Blog: AFC Championship Trophy In The House". WBZ-TV. January 18, 2012. Retrieved August 16, 2014. The Lamar Hunt Trophy, given to the winners of the AFC Championship since 1984
  2. "Playoff". NFL Record and Fact Book 2009. Time, Inc. Home Entertainment. ISBN 978-1-60320-809-3.
  3. "NFC's Halas trophy has new look". Chicago Sun-Times.
  4. Bell, Jarrett (January 25, 2011). "NFL Replay: Gritty Steelers aren't pretty, but they are Super". USA Today.
  5. "NFL passes new records in TV ratings". USA Today. 1 February 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  6. "NFL Ratings Spike: 48.7 Million Watch AFC Title Game, NFC Game Draws 57.6 Mil". Deadline Hollywood. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  7. "AFC Championship Ratings". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  8. "Astonishing Chart Shows How The NFL Dominates TV Ratings". Business Insider. 17 December 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
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