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Throughout its history, the National Football League and other leagues have used several different formats to determine their league champion, including a period of interleague match-ups determining a true world champion.

The NFL first determined champions through end-of-season standings, but switched over to a playoff system in 1933. The rival All-America Football Conference and American Football League, which have since merged with the NFL (some AAFC teams in 1950 and all ten AFL teams in 1970 respectively), began using the playoff system since the creation of their respective leagues.

From 19661969 prior to the AFL-NFL merger, the NFL and the AFL held a "world championship" game. The game was first called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game later renamed the Super Bowl. The Green Bay Packers won the most of these World Championship Games with two victories.

Since 1970, the modern era NFL has become the only major professional football league in the United States, and its current league championship game is called the Super Bowl. The Pittsburgh Steelers have won the most with six Super Bowl wins. However, the franchise trails the Packers in the number of overall NFL league titles, twelve. The current defending champions of the NFL are the New Orleans Saints who won Super Bowl XLIV over the Indianapolis Colts.

Contents

1920 – 1932: The early years

For a list of NFL standings champions prior to 1933, see List of NFL end-of-season champions

At its inception in 1920, the NFL had no playoff system or championship game. The champion was the team with the best record during the season, determined by winning percentage, with ties omitted. This sometimes led to very odd results, as teams played anywhere from eight to twenty league games in a season, and not all teams played the same number of games or against league talent. As a result, in the league's first six seasons, four league titles were disputed and had to be resolved by the league's executive committee. In 1920, the Akron Pros went undefeated, but two teams that had won more games (and who had both tied Akron), the Buffalo All-Americans and Decatur Staleys, petitioned the league for a share of the title; both teams' petitions were denied, and Akron was awarded the first (and only) Brunswick-Balke Collender Cup. The next was in the 1921 NFL season, between the same All-Americans and Staleys (with the latter now being based in Chicago). Buffalo had insisted that the last matchup between the two was an exhibition match not to be counted toward the standings; however, Chicago owner George Halas, as well as league management, insisted the game be counted in its standings (the league, at the time, did not recognize exhibition matches). The result was that although the two teams were effectively tied in the standings, the disputed game, having been played later, was given more weight and thus ended up being considered a de facto championship game. (Chicago also had one less tie game.) A nearly identical situation recurred in 1924, when Chicago tried the same tactic of a final game against the Cleveland Bulldogs, but the league ruled the opposite and declared the last game "post-season," giving the Bulldogs their third consecutive league title. The fourth and final disputed title was the 1925 NFL Championship controversy between the Pottsville Maroons and the Chicago Cardinals. The Maroons had been controversially suspended by the league at the end of the 1925 NFL season for an unauthorized game against a non-NFL team, allowing the Cardinals to throw together two fairly easy matches (one against a team comprised partly of high school players, also against league rules) to pass Pottsville in the standings. The league awarded the Cardinals the title, one of only two in the team's history, in a decision that continues to be disputed to this day, with Cardinals owners opposing any change in the record and the two current Pennsylvania teams in favor. No action has been taken by the league itself to address the issue, although a self-made championship trophy from the Maroons sits in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ironically, it was Pottsville's win in this game against the Notre Dame All-Stars that gave professional football legitimacy over college football.

In the 1932 season, the Chicago Bears and the Portsmouth Spartans tied with the best regular-season winning percentages (although the Green Bay Packers had four more wins).

To determine the champion, the league voted to hold the first official playoff game in Chicago at Wrigley Field. Because of severe winter conditions before the game, and fear of low turnout, the game was held indoors at Chicago Stadium which forced some temporary rule changes.

The game was played on a modified 80-yard dirt field, and Chicago won 9–0, winning the league championship. The playoff game proved so popular that the league reorganized into two divisions for the 1933 season, with the winners advancing to a scheduled championship game.

A number of new rule changes were instituted, many inspired by the 1932 indoor championship game: the goal posts were moved forward to the goal line, every play started from between the hash marks, and forward passes could originate from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage (instead of five yards behind).

1933 – 1966: The advent of the postseason

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1933 – 1966: NFL Championship Game

For a list of NFL Championship Games and winners, see List of NFL champions

Starting in 1933, the NFL decided its champion through a single postseason playoff game, called the NFL Championship Game. During this period, the league divided its teams into two groups, through 1949 as divisions and from 1950 onward as conferences.

  • Divisions (1933–1949): Eastern and Western
  • Conferences (1950–1952): American and National
  • Conferences (1953–1966): Eastern and Western
  • Conferences and Divisions (1966–1969): Eastern (Capitol and Century) and Western (Central and Coastal)

The home team for the NFL Championship Game was determined by a yearly rotation between the conferences (or divisions), not by regular-season records. If there was a tie for first place within the conference, an extra playoff game determined which team played in the NFL Championship Game. (This occurred nine times in these 34 seasons: 1941, 1943, 1947, 1950 (both conferences), 1952, 1957, 1958, and 1965.)

This last occurred during the 1965 season, when the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Colts tied for first place in the Western Conference at 10-3-1. Green Bay had won both its games with Baltimore during the regular season, but because no tie-breaker system was in place, a conference playoff game was held on December 26 (what was scheduled to be an off-week between the end of the regular schedule and the NFL Championship Game). The Cleveland Browns, the Eastern champion at 11-3-0, did not play that week. The championship game was then held on its originally-scheduled date, January 2, 1966 --- the first time the NFL champion was crowned in January. Green Bay won both post-season games at home, beating the injury-riddled Colts (with third-string QB Tom Matte) in overtime by a controversial field goal, and taking the title 23–12 on a very muddy field (in what turned out to be Jim Brown's final NFL game).

For the 1960 through 1969 seasons, the NFL staged an additional postseason game called the "Playoff Bowl" (aka the "Bert Bell Benefit Bowl" or the "Runner-up Bowl"). These games matched the second-place teams from the two conferences; the CBS television network advertised them as "playoff games for third place in the NFL." All ten of these consolation games were played in the Orange Bowl in Miami in January, the week after the NFL championship game. The NFL now classifies these contests as exhibition games and does not include the records, participants, or results in the official league playoff statistics. The Playoff Bowl was discontinued after the AFL-NFL merger; the final edition was played in January 1970.

Starting with the 1934 game the winning team received the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy. The trophy was named after Ed Thorp, a noted referee, rules expert, and sporting goods dealer. Thorp died in 1934 and a large, traveling trophy was made that year, passed along from champion to champion each season with each championship team's name inscribed on it. Teams would also receive a replica trophy. The trophy was last awarded to the Minnesota Vikings in 1969. The actual trophy, however, is now missing.[1]

1946 – 1949: AAFC Championship Game

For a list of AAFC Championship Games and winners, see List of AAFC champions

The All-America Football Conference was created in June of 1944 to compete against the NFL. Even though the league outdrew the NFL in attendance, the continuing dominance of the Cleveland Browns led to the league's downfall.

For its first three seasons, the league was divided into two divisions: Eastern and Western (1946–1948). The league had no divisions in 1949. The site of the championship game during the first three was determined just as it was in the NFL --- a divisional rotation. In 1949, the league held a four-team playoff, with home field based upon won-lost record.

The Browns, led by Quarterback Otto Graham, won all four of the league championship games.

A tiebreaker playoff game was played in 1948 to break a tie between the Baltimore Colts and Buffalo Bills (AAFC) for the Eastern Division championship. Semifinal playoff games were held in 1949, setting up a championship final between the first-place Browns and the second-place San Francisco 49ers.

In 1948, the Browns became the first professional football team to complete an entire season undefeated and untied — 24 years before the 1972 Miami Dolphins of the NFL would accomplish the task, but this feat is not recognized by NFL record books. Unlike the AFL statistics which are treated as NFL statistics, records of the AAFC and its teams (most of which folded) are not recognized. However, individual AAFC player statistics are included in Pro Football Hall of Fame records, and the defunct conference is memorialized in the Hall.

1960 – 1966: AFL Championship Game

For a list of AFL Championship Games and winners, see List of AFL champions

With its creation in 1960, the AFL determined its champion via a single playoff game between the winners of its two divisions, the Eastern and Western. The AFL Championship games featured classics such as the 1962 double-overtime championship game between the Dallas Texans and the defending champion Houston Oilers. At the time it was the longest professional football championship game ever played. Also in 1963, an Eastern Division playoff was needed to determine the division winner between the Boston Patriots and Buffalo Bills.

1966 – 1969: NFL vs. AFL - The beginning of the Super Bowl era

For a list of AFL Championship Games and winners, see List of AFL champions
For a list of NFL Championship Games and winners, see List of NFL champions
For a list of AFL-NFL World Championship games, see List of AFL-NFL World champions

In 1966, the success of the rival AFL, the spectre of the NFL's losing more stars to the AFL, and concern over a costly "bidding war" for players precipitated by the NFL's Giants' signing of Pete Gogolak, who was under contract to the AFL's Buffalo Bills, led the two leagues to discuss a merger. Pivotal to this was approval by Congress of a law (PL 89-800) that would waive jeopardy to anti-trust statutes for the merged leagues. The major point of the testimony given by the leagues to obtain the law was that if the merger were permitted, "Professional football operations will be preserved in the 23 cities and 25 stadiums where such operations are presently being conducted." The merger was announced on June 8, 1966, and became fully effective in 1970.

After expanding to enfranchise the New Orleans Saints in 1967, the NFL split its 16 teams into two conferences with two divisions each: the Capitol and Century Divisions in the Eastern Conference, and the Coastal and Central Divisions in the Western Conference. The playoff format was expanded from a single championship game to a four-team tournament, with the four divisional champions participating. The two division winners in each conference met in the "Conference Championships," with the winners advancing to the NFL Championship Game. Again, the home team for each playoff game was determined by a yearly divisional or conference rotation.

The AFL on the other hand, raised its total franchise number to nine in 1966 with the Miami Dolphins, joining the Eastern Division and a tenth team, the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968. The league kept using the one-game-playoff format except when division tie-breakers were needed. With the addition of the Bengals to the Western Division in 1969, the AFL adopted a four-team playoff to determine its champion.

Following the NFL and AFL Championship Games for the 1966 through 1969 seasons, the NFL champion played the AFL champion in Super Bowls I through IV, the only true inter-league championship games in the history of professional football. The first two of these games were known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, as the title Super Bowl was not chosen until 1968. Thus the third AFL-NFL matchup was dubbed "Super Bowl III" and the first two matches were retronamed as Super Bowls I and II. The first two games were convincingly won by the NFL's Packers, the last two by the AFL's New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, leaving the leagues even at 2-2 in "World Championship" competition when they subsequently merged.

All participants in those four AFL-NFL championship games were either AFL champions or NFL champions in the record books, no matter the outcome of the Super Bowl. Three of the four league champions who lost one of the first four Super Bowls would eventually win at least one. The exception is the Minnesota Vikings.

1970 – present: The Super Bowl era

For a complete list of post-merger Super Bowl winners, see List of Super Bowl champions.

Post Merger

After the 1969 season and Super Bowl IV, the AFL and NFL fully merged and underwent a re-alignment for the 1970 season. Three of the pre-merger NFL teams were transferred to the AFC (Browns, Colts, and Steelers) to level the conferences (AFC and NFC) at 13 teams each; each conference split into three divisions. Since there was now only one league, the Super Bowl became a league championship and the winner is the NFL champion.

With only six division winners in the newly merged league, the NFL designed an eight-team playoff tournament, with four clubs from each conference qualifying. Along with the three division winners in each conference, two wild card teams (one from each conference), the second-place finishers with the best records in each conference, were added to the tournament. The first round was named the "Divisional Playoffs", with the winners advancing to the "Conference Championships" (AFC & NFC). Two weeks later, the AFC and NFC champions met in the Super Bowl, now the league's championship game. Thus, Super Bowl V in January 1971 was the first Super Bowl played for the NFL title.

With the introduction of the wild card, a rule was instituted to prohibit two teams from the same division (champion and wild card) from meeting in the first-round (Divisional Playoffs). This rule would remain in effect through the 1989 season. More significantly, the home teams in the playoffs were still decided by a yearly divisional rotation, not on regular-season records (excluding the wild-card teams, who would always play on the road). This lack of "home-field advantage" was most evident in the 1972 playoffs, when the undefeated Miami Dolphins played the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had recorded three losses during the regular season, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.

Beginning in 1972, tie games were included in the computing of each team's winning percentage. Each tie was now counted as half of a win and half of a loss, rather than omitted from the computation.

The institution of "home-field advantage"

In 1975, the league modified its 1970 playoff format by instituting a seeding system. The surviving clubs with the higher seeds were made the home teams for each playoff round. The three division champions in each conference were seeded first through third based on their regular-season records, with the wild-card team in each conference as the fourth seed.

Teams that earned the top seed became known as clinching "home-field advantage" throughout the playoffs, since they played all of their playoff games at their home stadium (except for the Super Bowl, played at a neutral site).

However, the league continued to prohibit meetings between teams from the same division in the Divisional Playoffs. Thus, there would be times when the pairing in that round would pit the first seed versus the third, and the second versus the fourth. This system is identical to that now in use by Major League Baseball.

Further playoff expansion

The league expanded the playoffs to 10 teams in 1978, adding a second wild-card team (a fifth seed) from each conference. The two wild-card teams from each conference (the fourth and fifth seeds) played each other in the first round, called the "Wild Card Playoffs." The division winners (the first three seeds) would then receive a bye to automatically advance to the Divisional Playoffs, which became the second round of the playoffs. In the divisional round, much like the 1970 playoff format, teams from the same division were still prohibited from playing each other, regardless of seeding. Under the 1978 format, teams from the same division could meet only in the wild-card round or the conference championship. Thus, as before, a divisional champion could only play a divisional foe in the conference championship game.

A players' strike shortened the 1982 season to nine games. The league used a special 16-team playoff tournament for that year. The top eight teams from each conference qualified (ignoring the divisional races -- there were no division standings, and in some cases 2 teams from the same division did not play each other at all that season). The playoffs reverted to the 1978 format in the following year.

In 1990, the NFL expanded the playoffs to twelve teams by adding a third wild-card team (a sixth seed) from each conference. The restrictions on intra-division playoff games during the Divisional Playoffs were removed. However, only the top two division winners in each conference (the 1 and 2 seeds) received byes and automatically advanced to the Divisional Playoffs as host teams. The 3 seed, the division winner with the worst regular season record in each conference, would then host the 6 seed in the Wild Card Playoffs.

In 2002, the NFL realigned into eight divisions, four per conference, to accommodate a 32nd team, the Houston Texans. The playoffs remained a 12-team tournament, with four division winners (the 1, 2, 3, and 4 seeds) and two wild cards (the 5 and 6 seeds) from each conference advancing to the playoffs. Again, only the top two division winners in each conference would automatically advance to the Divisional Playoffs, while everybody else had to play in the Wild Card round. Furthermore, the league still maintains the names "Wild Card Playoffs", "Divisional Playoffs", and "Conference Championships" for the first, second, and third rounds of the playoffs, respectively.

A proposal to expand the playoffs to 14 teams by adding a third wild card team (a seventh seed) from each conference, and only giving the 1 seeds the bye in the first round, was tabled by the league owners in 2003.[2]

Championship games per season

Below is a list of Professional Football champions per season as recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

KEY:

  • (#) – the number of league championships won during the Pre-Super Bowl era including the NFL, AAFC, and American Football League.
  • (#)the number of Super Bowl Championships in the Super Bowl era.
  • (#)the total number of league championships won.
  • (#)the number of world championships won; these were only available during the first four Super Bowls, which were interleague matches.

APFA/NFL Standings Champions (1920 – 1932)

(For the first thirteen seasons, the APFA/NFL did not hold a championship game except in 1932 when a playoff game was held, the precursor to the championship game; from 1920–1971, the NFL did not officially include tie games in the winning percentage.)

Season League Team Win Loss Tie Pct.
1920[3] APFA Akron Pros (1) (1)
8
0
3
1.000
1921 APFA Chicago Staleys[4] (1) (1)
9
1
1
.900
1922 NFL Canton Bulldogs (1) (1)
10
0
2
1.000
1923 NFL Canton Bulldogs (2) (2)
11
0
1
1.000
1924 NFL Cleveland Bulldogs (1) (1)
7
1
1
.875
1925 NFL Chicago Cardinals (1) (1)
11
2
1
.846
1926 NFL Frankford Yellow Jackets (1) (1)
14
1
2
.933
1927 NFL New York Giants (1) (1)
11
1
1
.917
1928 NFL Providence Steam Roller (1) (1)
8
1
2
.889
1929 NFL Green Bay Packers (1) (1)
12
0
1
1.000
1930 NFL Green Bay Packers (2) (2)
10
3
1
.769
1931 NFL Green Bay Packers (3) (3)
12
2
0
.857
1932 NFL Chicago Bears (2) (2)
7
1
6
.875

NFL Championship Game (1933 – 1945)

(The NFL begins having a championship game, which would continue until 1969.)

Season League Winning Team Score Losing Team Location Attendance
1933 NFL Chicago Bears (3) (3) 23–21 New York Giants Wrigley Field 26,000
1934 NFL New York Giants (2) (2) 30–13 Chicago Bears Polo Grounds 35,059
1935 NFL Detroit Lions (1) (1) 26–7 New York Giants University of Detroit Stadium 15,000
1936 NFL Green Bay Packers (4) (4) 21–6 Boston Redskins Polo Grounds (New York, NY) 29,545
1937 NFL Washington Redskins (1) (1) 28–21 Chicago Bears Wrigley Field 15,870
1938 NFL New York Giants (3) (3) 23–17 Green Bay Packers Polo Grounds 48,120
1939 NFL Green Bay Packers (5) (5) 27–0 New York Giants Wisconsin State Fair Park (West Allis, WI) 32,279
1940 NFL Chicago Bears (4) (4) 73–0 Washington Redskins Griffith Stadium 36,034
1941 NFL Chicago Bears (5) (5) 37–9 New York Giants Wrigley Field 13,341
1942 NFL Washington Redskins (2) (2) 14–6 Chicago Bears Griffith Stadium 36,006
1943 NFL Chicago Bears (6) (6) 41–21 Washington Redskins Wrigley Field 34,320
1944 NFL Green Bay Packers (6) (6) 14–7 New York Giants Polo Grounds 46,016
1945 NFL Cleveland Rams (1) (1) 15–14 Washington Redskins Cleveland Municipal Stadium 32,178

NFL Championship Game and AAFC Championship Game (1946 – 1949)

(Between 1946 and 1949 both the NFL and AAFC were in operation with the merger of the AAFC into the NFL taking place in 1950.)

Season League Winning Team Score Losing Team Location Attendance
1946 AAFC Cleveland Browns (1) (1) 14–9 New York Yankees Cleveland Municipal Stadium 41,181
NFL Chicago Bears (7) (7) 24–14 New York Giants Polo Grounds 58,346
1947 AAFC Cleveland Browns (2) (2) 14–3 New York Yankees Yankee Stadium 60,103
NFL Chicago Cardinals (2) (2) 28–21 Philadelphia Eagles Comiskey Park 30,759
1948 AAFC Cleveland Browns (3) (3) 49–7 Buffalo Bills Cleveland Municipal Stadium 22,981
NFL Philadelphia Eagles (1) (1) 7–0 Chicago Cardinals Shibe Park 36,309
1949 AAFC Cleveland Browns (4) (4) 21–7 San Francisco 49ers Cleveland Municipal Stadium 22,550
NFL Philadelphia Eagles (2) (2) 14–0 Los Angeles Rams Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 27,980

NFL Championship Game (1950 – 1959)

(Between 1950 and 1959 the NFL was the only operating league with former AAFC franchises the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and Baltimore Colts joining the NFL. The number in the parentheses is the total number of NFL championships and the bolded number in parentheses is the total number of league championships.)

Year League Winning Team Score Losing Team Location Attendance
1950 NFL Cleveland Browns[5] (1) (5) 30–28 Los Angeles Rams Cleveland Municipal Stadium 29,751
1951 NFL Los Angeles Rams (2) (2) 24–17 Cleveland Browns Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 57,522
1952 NFL Detroit Lions (2) (2) 17–7 Cleveland Browns Cleveland Municipal Stadium 50,934
1953 NFL Detroit Lions (3) (3) 17–16 Cleveland Browns Briggs Stadium 54,577
1954 NFL Cleveland Browns (2) (6) 56–10 Detroit Lions Cleveland Municipal Stadium 43,827
1955 NFL Cleveland Browns (3) (7) 38–14 Los Angeles Rams Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 85,693
1956 NFL New York Giants (4) (4) 47–7 Chicago Bears Yankee Stadium 56,836
1957 NFL Detroit Lions (4) (4) 59–14 Cleveland Browns Briggs Stadium 55,263
1958 NFL Baltimore Colts (1) (1) 23–17 (OT) New York Giants Yankee Stadium 64,185
1959 NFL Baltimore Colts (2) (2) 31–16 New York Giants Memorial Stadium 57,545

AFL Championship Game and NFL Championship Game (1960 – 1965)

(The NFL was joined by the American Football League from 1960 to 1969 with the AFL merging with the NFL in 1970. The number in the parentheses is the total number of NFL or AFL championships and the bolded number in parentheses is the total number of league championships.)

Season League Winning Team Score Losing Team Location Attendance
1960 AFL Houston Oilers (1) (1) 24–16 Los Angeles Chargers Jeppesen Stadium 32,183
NFL Philadelphia Eagles (3) (3) 17–13 Green Bay Packers Franklin Field 67,325
1961 AFL Houston Oilers (2) (2) 10–3 San Diego Chargers Balboa Stadium 29,556
NFL Green Bay Packers (7) (7) 37–0 New York Giants "New" City Stadium 39,029
1962 AFL Dallas Texans (1) (1) 20–17 (2OT) Houston Oilers Jeppesen Stadium 37,981
NFL Green Bay Packers (8) (8) 16–7 New York Giants Yankee Stadium 64,892
1963 AFL San Diego Chargers (1) (1) 51–10 Boston Patriots Balboa Stadium 30,127
NFL Chicago Bears (8) (8) 14–10 New York Giants Wrigley Field 45,801
1964 AFL Buffalo Bills (1) (1) 20–7 San Diego Chargers War Memorial Stadium 40,242
NFL Cleveland Browns (4) (8) 27–0 Baltimore Colts Cleveland Municipal Stadium 79,544
1965 AFL Buffalo Bills (2) (2) 23–0 San Diego Chargers Balboa Stadium 30,361
NFL Green Bay Packers (9) (9) 23–12 Cleveland Browns Lambeau Field 50,777

AFL-NFL World Championship Game (The Super Bowl) (1966 – 1969)

(From 1966 to 1969 both NFL and AFL champions meet in the first and so far only World Championship games to decide a champion between leagues, the series ended NFL two, AFL two.)

Season League Game Winning Team Score Losing Team Location Attendance
1966 AFL   Kansas City Chiefs (2) 31–7 Buffalo Bills War Memorial Stadium 42,080
NFL   Green Bay Packers (10) 34–27 Dallas Cowboys Cotton Bowl 74,152
  I Green Bay Packers (1) (10) 35–10 Kansas City Chiefs Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 61,946
1967 AFL   Oakland Raiders (1) 40–7 Houston Oilers Oakland Coliseum 53,330
NFL   Green Bay Packers (11) 21–17 Dallas Cowboys Lambeau Field 50,861
  II Green Bay Packers (2) (11) 33–14 Oakland Raiders Miami Orange Bowl 75,546
1968 AFL   New York Jets (1) 27–23 Oakland Raiders Shea Stadium 62,627
NFL   Baltimore Colts (3) 34–0 Cleveland Browns Cleveland Municipal Stadium 78,410
  III New York Jets (1) (1) 16–7 Baltimore Colts Miami Orange Bowl 75,389
1969 AFL   Kansas City Chiefs (3) 17–7 Oakland Raiders Oakland Coliseum 53,561
NFL   Minnesota Vikings (1) 27–7 Cleveland Browns Metropolitan Stadium 46,503
  IV Kansas City Chiefs (1) (2) 23–7 Minnesota Vikings Tulane Stadium, New Orleans 80,562

Super Bowl Championship (1970 – present)

(With the merger of the AFL with the NFL, the Super Bowl became the NFL's championship game. The number in the parentheses is the total number of Super Bowl championships and the bolded number in parentheses is the total number of league championships.)

Season League Game Winning Team Score Losing Team Venue City
1970 NFL V Baltimore Colts (1) (4) 16–13 Dallas Cowboys Miami Orange Bowl Miami
1971 NFL VI Dallas Cowboys (1) (1) 24–3 Miami Dolphins Tulane Stadium New Orleans
1972 NFL VII Miami Dolphins (1) (1) 14–7 Washington Redskins Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Los Angeles
1973 NFL VIII Miami Dolphins (2) (2) 24–7 Minnesota Vikings Rice Stadium Houston
1974 NFL IX Pittsburgh Steelers (1) (1) 16–6 Minnesota Vikings Tulane Stadium New Orleans
1975 NFL X Pittsburgh Steelers (2) (2) 21–17 Dallas Cowboys Miami Orange Bowl Miami
1976 NFL XI Oakland Raiders (1) (2) 32–14 Minnesota Vikings Rose Bowl Stadium Pasadena
1977 NFL XII Dallas Cowboys (2) (2) 27–10 Denver Broncos Louisiana Superdome New Orleans
1978 NFL XIII Pittsburgh Steelers (3) (3) 35–31 Dallas Cowboys Miami Orange Bowl Miami
1979 NFL XIV Pittsburgh Steelers (4) (4) 31–19 Los Angeles Rams Rose Bowl Stadium Pasadena
1980 NFL XV Oakland Raiders (2) (3) 27–10 Philadelphia Eagles Louisiana Superdome New Orleans
1981 NFL XVI San Francisco 49ers (1) (1) 26–21 Cincinnati Bengals Pontiac Silverdome Pontiac
1982 NFL XVII Washington Redskins (1) (3) 27–17 Miami Dolphins Rose Bowl Stadium Pasadena
1983 NFL XVIII Los Angeles Raiders (3) (4) 38–9 Washington Redskins Tampa Stadium Tampa
1984 NFL XIX San Francisco 49ers (2) (2) 38–16 Miami Dolphins Stanford Stadium Stanford
1985 NFL XX Chicago Bears (1) (9) 46–10 New England Patriots Louisiana Superdome New Orleans
1986 NFL XXI New York Giants (1) (5) 39–20 Denver Broncos Rose Bowl Stadium Pasadena
1987 NFL XXII Washington Redskins (2) (4) 42–10 Denver Broncos Jack Murphy Stadium San Diego
1988 NFL XXIII San Francisco 49ers (3) (3) 20–16 Cincinnati Bengals Joe Robbie Stadium Miami
1989 NFL XXIV San Francisco 49ers (4) (4) 55–10 Denver Broncos Louisiana Superdome New Orleans
1990 NFL XXV New York Giants (2) (6) 20–19 Buffalo Bills Tampa Stadium Tampa
1991 NFL XXVI Washington Redskins (3) (5) 37–24 Buffalo Bills Metrodome Minneapolis
1992 NFL XXVII Dallas Cowboys (3) (3) 52–17 Buffalo Bills Rose Bowl Stadium Pasadena
1993 NFL XXVIII Dallas Cowboys (4) (4) 30–13 Buffalo Bills Georgia Dome Atlanta
1994 NFL XXIX San Francisco 49ers (5) (5) 49–26 San Diego Chargers Joe Robbie Stadium Miami
1995 NFL XXX Dallas Cowboys (5) (5) 27–17 Pittsburgh Steelers Sun Devil Stadium Tempe
1996 NFL XXXI Green Bay Packers (3) (12) 35–21 New England Patriots Louisiana Superdome New Orleans
1997 NFL XXXII Denver Broncos (1) (1) 31–24 Green Bay Packers Qualcomm Stadium San Diego
1998 NFL XXXIII Denver Broncos (2) (2) 34–19 Atlanta Falcons Pro Player Stadium Miami
1999 NFL XXXIV St. Louis Rams (1) (3) 23–16 Tennessee Titans Georgia Dome Atlanta
2000 NFL XXXV Baltimore Ravens (1) (1) 34–7 New York Giants Raymond James Stadium Tampa
2001 NFL XXXVI New England Patriots (1) (1) 20–17 St. Louis Rams Louisiana Superdome New Orleans
2002 NFL XXXVII Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1) (1) 48–21 Oakland Raiders Qualcomm Stadium San Diego
2003 NFL XXXVIII New England Patriots (2) (2) 32–29 Carolina Panthers Reliant Stadium Houston
2004 NFL XXXIX New England Patriots (3) (3) 24–21 Philadelphia Eagles ALLTEL Stadium Jacksonville
2005 NFL XL Pittsburgh Steelers (5) (5) 21–10 Seattle Seahawks Ford Field Detroit
2006 NFL XLI Indianapolis Colts (2) (5) 29–17 Chicago Bears Dolphin Stadium Miami Gardens
2007 NFL XLII New York Giants (3) (7) 17-14 New England Patriots University of Phoenix Stadium Glendale
2008 NFL XLIII Pittsburgh Steelers (6) (6) 27-23 Arizona Cardinals Raymond James Stadium Tampa
2009 NFL XLIV New Orleans Saints (1) (1) 31-17 Indianapolis Colts Sun Life Stadium Miami Gardens

List of various league/world championship game systems

Current NFL Championship system World Championship system Defunct league championship system
League Official Name Common Name First year Last year Trophy name Most successful clubs
(# titles)
NFL (Old) NFL Championship Game (Old) NFL Championship 1920 1969 Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy Green Bay Packers (9)
Chicago Bears (8)
Cleveland Browns (4)
Detroit Lions (4)
New York Giants (4)
AAFC AAFC Championship Game AAFC Championship 1946 1949 AAFC Trophy Cleveland Browns (4)
AFL AFL Championship Game AFL Championship 1960 1969 AFL Trophy Kansas City Chiefs (3)
Buffalo Bills (2)
Houston Oilers (2)
AFL
NFL
AFL-NFL World Championship Game World Championship of Pro Football
AFL-NFL World Championship Game
Super Bowl
1966 1969 World Championship Game Trophy Green Bay Packers (2)
New York Jets (1)
Kansas City Chiefs (1)
NFL Super Bowl
"(Modern) NFL Championship"
Super Bowl
World Championship
(Modern) NFL Championship
1970 Vince Lombardi Trophy Pittsburgh Steelers (6)
Dallas Cowboys (5)
San Francisco 49ers (5)

Undefeated regular seasons and "perfect seasons" in professional football

Perfect Season
League Season Franchise Regular Season Post Season Result(s) Recognition
Wins Losses Ties Pct. Finish
NFL 1920 Akron Pros 8 0 3 1.000 1st NFL No Post-Season - Championship by league vote. NFL: Yes
HOF: Yes
1922 Canton Bulldogs 10 0 2 1.000 1st NFL No Post-Season - Championship by standings NFL: Yes
HOF: Yes
1923 Canton Bulldogs 11 0 1 1.000 1st NFL No Post-Season - Championship by standings NFL: Yes
HOF: Yes
1929 Green Bay Packers 12 0 1 1.000 1st NFL No Post-Season - Championship by standings NFL: Yes
HOF: Yes
1934 Chicago Bears 13 0 0 1.000 1st NFL West Lost NFL Championship (Giants) (13-30) NFL: Yes
HOF: Yes
1942 Chicago Bears 11 0 0 1.000 1st NFL West Lost NFL Championship (Redskins) (6-14) NFL: Yes
HOF: Yes
AAFC 1948 Cleveland Browns 14 0 0 1.000 1st AAFC West Won AAFC championship (Bills) (49-7) NFL: No
HOF: Yes
NFL 1972 Miami Dolphins 14 0 0 1.000 1st AFC East Won Divisional Playoffs (Browns) (20-14)
Won Conference Championship (Steelers) (21-17)
Won Super Bowl VII (Redskins) (14-7)
NFL: Yes
HOF: Yes
NFL 2007 New England Patriots 16 0 0 1.000 1st AFC East Won Divisional Playoffs (Jaguars) (31-20)
Won Conference Championship (Chargers) (21-12)
Lost Super Bowl XLII (New York Giants) (17-14)
NFL: Yes
HOF: Yes

Championships by franchise

  • After the 1970 AFL-NFL merger and the emergence of the Super Bowl, all AFL and NFL league championship games prior to merger are listed along with the AFC and NFC conference championship games, respectively, in the NFL's official records, but are recorded as league titles for each victorious franchise between 1920 and 1969. The Super Bowl victories for each franchise between 1966 and 1969 are looked upon as "World Championship titles" not league titles so they are not included in most NFL lists due to their short time span.

Most successful professional football franchises in league titles (1920 – present)

These are the championships of professional American football leagues that are recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but not necessarily the National Football League official record books.

  • Note – in this list, Total Championships counts in bold do not include championships won during the same seasons as the AFL-NFL Super Bowl Championships prior to the 1970 AFL-NFL Merger; only their Super Bowl wins are counted (Packers I-II, Jets III, Chiefs IV). AFL or NFL Championships won by the losing teams of Super Bowls I-IV (Chiefs I, Raiders II, Colts III, Vikings IV) are counted. Not listed are al those current NFL franchies that have not managed to win one Championship
  • (*) – Defunct NFL franchises
  • (#) – current NFL Champion
Franchise NFL Championships AFL Championships AAFC Championships Super Bowls Total
Green Bay Packers 9 3 12
Chicago Bears 8 1 9
Cleveland Browns 4 4[6] 8
New York Giants 4 3 7
Pittsburgh Steelers 6 6
Washington Redskins 2 3 5
San Francisco 49ers 5 5
Dallas Cowboys 5 5
Indianapolis Colts 3 2 5
Detroit Lions 4 4
Oakland Raiders 1 3 4
Philadelphia Eagles 3 3
Kansas City Chiefs 2 1 3
St. Louis Rams 2 1 3
New England Patriots 3 3
Canton Bulldogs* 2 2
Arizona Cardinals 2 2
Tennessee Titans 2 2
Buffalo Bills 2 2
Miami Dolphins 2 2
Denver Broncos 2 2
Akron Pros* 1 1
Cleveland Bulldogs* 1 1
Frankford Yellow Jackets* 1 1
Providence Steam Roller* 1 1
Minnesota Vikings 1 1
San Diego Chargers 1 1
New York Jets 1 1
Baltimore Ravens 1 1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 1
New Orleans Saints# 1 1

Most successful professional football franchises in AFL-NFL world championships (1966 – 1969)

Pro Football Dynasties

Franchise Years League League Championships (Years) Notes
Green Bay Packers 1929–1931 NFL 3 (1929, 1930, 1931) Three NFL consecutive championships (first time)
Chicago Bears 1940–1946 NFL 4 (1940, 1941, 1943, 1946) Three NFL Championships in four years; Four NFL Championships in seven years; five NFL Championship Game appearances (1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1946). Perfect regular season in 1942.
Cleveland Browns 1946–1957 AAFC
NFL
7 (1946, 1947, 1948, 1949,
1950, 1954, 1955)
Four AAFC Championships and three NFL Championships; Ten consecutive AAFC or NFL Championship Game appearances (1946–1955); 11 AAFC or NFL conference championships in 12 years (1946–1955, '57); Perfect season in '47
Detroit Lions 1952-1957 NFL 3 (1952, 1953, 1957) Three NFL Championships; four NFL Championship Game appearances in six years
Green Bay Packers 1961–1967 NFL 5 (1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967) Five NFL Championships in seven years including Super Bowl I and II (World Championship Games);
also three straight NFL Championships (second time)
Pittsburgh Steelers 1974–1979 NFL 4 (1974, 1975, 1978, 1979) Four Super Bowls in 6 years; six straight AFC Central division titles
San Francisco 49ers 1981–1994 NFL 5 (1981, 1984, 1988, 1989, 1994) Four Super Bowls in nine years, Five total Super Bowls in fourteen years; Five straight division titles (once),
Four straight division titles (once); Thirteen total NFC West division titles; Sixteen straight winning seasons,
Seventeen of eighteen winning seasons during era. Sixteen consecutive seasons of 10 wins or more. Only team with 5-0 Super Bowl record.
Dallas Cowboys 1991–1995 NFL 3 (1992, 1993, 1995) First team to win three Super Bowls in four years; three NFC Championships in four straight appearances;
five straight NFC East division championships, six total NFC East titles
New England Patriots 2001–2008 NFL 3 (2001, 2003, 2004) Appearances in four Super Bowls in seven years; five AFC Championship Game appearances in seven years; five AFC East division titles in six years, winnings streaks of 18 and 21 straight games, first perfect regular season in 35 years but lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl XLII (first undefeated regular season in salary cap era)

Footnotes

  1. ^ For more information on the trophy visit [1]
  2. ^ For more information on the proposed playoff expansion visit [2]
  3. ^ No official standings were maintained for the 1920 season, and the championship was awarded to the Akron Pros in a league meeting on April 30, 1921. Clubs played schedules that included games against non-league opponents.
  4. ^ Became the Chicago Bears in 1922
  5. ^ When the Browns joined the NFL in 1950, their championship victory was their first in their NFL tenure hence why the number one is in parentheses, but the bolded number is five, which reflects both NFL and AAFC championships.
  6. ^ Official NFL record books do not recognize the 4 AAFC Championships by the Cleveland Browns franchise. However, the Pro Football Hall of Fame does list them as apart of the 8 total league championships by the Browns

See also



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