Saturday, January 18, 2014

NFL Championship Sunday notes/oddities

By Rick Morris

^ As we worked into The FDH Lounge Championship Sunday preview show, let’s start with one of the nerdier stats about the games that you will find anywhere.  This is the 5th time since the AFL-NFL merger of 1970 that two stadiums will host Championship Sunday after doing so previously on the same day.  Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High hosts the AFC title game after doing so in 2006 (as Invesco Field at Mile High); Seattle’s CenturyLink Field likewise hosts the NFL title game and did so on the same day in 2006 (as Quest Field).  This stat specifically pertains to the same pair of stadiums being used, which is critical, as just about every team has changed stadiums since 1970, some more than once.  The previous combos (keeping in mind that the years referenced are literal ones and not indicative of a season, meaning that the 2006 games were actually for the 2005-06 season)?  Three Rivers Stadium and Candlestick Park (1995 and 1998), Three Rivers Stadium and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (1976 and 1979), the Oakland Coliseum and Metropolitan Stadium (1975 and 1977) and the Orange Bowl and Texas Stadium (1972 and 1974).  For anyone anticipating a Denver-Seattle Super Bowl based on this trend, keep in mind that the two teams associated with the aforementioned stadiums hosting championship games did meet in a Super Bowl in at least one of the two years in every instance except for Pittsburgh-San Francisco in the 1990s.

^ Continuity remains the watchword for the teams involved.  Last year,  New England, Baltimore and San Francisco all made repeat appearances on Championship Sunday, marking the first time since the 1993 season that three teams came back (Dallas, San Francisco and Buffalo).  This year, New England and San Francisco are marking rare three-peat appearances, making this the first time since the 1976 season that more than one team made three consecutive appearances – unbelievably, three teams made their third consecutive appearance that year, Pittsburgh, Oakland and the Los Angeles Rams – with Minnesota also having appeared twice in those three years!  The only other time that two teams made simultaneous trifecta appearances was the 1971 stretch with Miami and Dallas.  Taking into account this item and the previous one, the 1970s were a time of unprecedented stability.

^ This is the 11th consecutive AFC Championship Game that involves either New England, Indianapolis or Pittsburgh (meaning that whoever won last week’s Pats-Colts Divisional Round game would have extended the streak).  It’s notable that three of these game actually featured two of the teams (New England-Indianapolis for the 2003 season, New England-Pittsburgh for the 2004 season and Indianapolis-New England for the 2006 season).  Showing how generally consistent these franchises have been over a long stretch of time, all of them were represented on Championship Sunday in the seasons just prior to this period (New England in 1996 and 2001, Indianapolis in 1995 and Pittsburgh in 1994-95, 1998 and 2001).  This stretch matches the 11-year run from 1970 to 1980, in which Miami, Oakland and Pittsburgh all made AFC Championship Game appearances.  The only one that is longer is the Dallas-Washington-Los Angeles Rams combination from 1972-84, which really only featured the Redskins on either end of the run.  Because of the hegemony of the Pats, Colts and Steelers in the AFC Championship Game since the 2003 season, there have only been seven AFC teams in that spot since then.  Since 2003, there have been 11 NFC teams in that spot.

^ Both conferences are going through prolonged stretches without having their championship game being hosted in a southern outdoor climate.  These games have either been in a dome or a cold northern setting for a long time.  The last AFC Championship Game outside in the South was in Jacksonville in January 2000, while the equivalent in the NFC last occurred in Dallas in January 1996).

^ This AFC Championship Game is the first one west of Indianapolis since Denver last hosted back in 2006.

^ The cities involved don’t have a tremendous amount of postseason history with one another in any sport.  San Francisco and Seattle have almost no sports history prior to the blowup of this intense rivalry.  Boston and Denver have little to join them aside from the 2007 World Series, which featured the Red Sox sweeping the Rockies.

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