Drew Magary writes sports commentary for Deadspin, Maxim, GQ and is the author of "The Postmortal."
Back in the 80s and 90s, it was a given that the Super Bowl would be won by an NFC team, usually by 30 or more points. From 1985 to 1997, the NFC ripped off an astounding thirteen straight Super Bowl victories, with six different NFC franchises (Skins, Giants, 49ers, Cowboys, Packers, Bears) all sharing in the fun at the expense of seven hapless AFC teams (Pats, Steelers, Broncos, Bills, Bengals, Dolphins, Chargers). With the advent of free agency and the Golden Age of NFL Parity among us, I think we all believe that kind of one-sidedness has ended for good.
Ah, but that's where we might be WRONG. Because the NFC has now won three straight Super Bowls, and it's more than possible that the conference could again go on a Super Bowl winning streak that at least comes close to its dominant run at the end of last century.
The biggest reason why is the quarterbacking. Right now, there is massive imbalance between the two conferences when it comes to QBs. Peyton Manning's neck injury highlighted just how woefully thin the AFC is at the position, with three of the AFC playoff teams employing a starting QB with only one or two years' worth of experience. The biggest QB story in the AFC this season was Tim Tebow, who can't even PLAY quarterback. And two of the more gifted young passers in the conference (Philip Rivers and Andy Dalton) are hamstrung playing for cheap teams with lousy head coaches. Rivers is NEVER going to win a Super Bowl with Norv Turner. Ever. He's pretty much the only person out there who isn't aware of that fact.
Of course, Tom Brady still plays in the AFC, and you still have Joe Flacco and Big Ben making the occasional big play for the two defensive goliaths in the AFC North. But after those three, the dropoff is severe. And it could be strongly argued that both Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are now on the downsides of their respective careers. Brady is getting older. Big Ben is taking a horrible beating behind a woeful o-line. The prospects of them winning another ring are growing dimmer.
Now, let's contrast that with the NFC, which features the reigning league MVP (Aaron Rodgers), the reigning Super Bowl MVP (Eli Manning), the dude who just set the yardage record (Drew Brees), and the greatest rookie QB in league history (Cam Newton). And we haven't even gotten to Matt Stafford yet. This conference is LOADED at quarterback, and will be for the foreseeable future. Plus you have the Niners, who don't field an elite QB but DO sport a ruinous defense. And you never know if the Eagles will ever get their act together (just kidding, they never will). Overall, the NFC is now clearly the superior conference, and it has the talent to remain so for a while.
Obviously, this is the NFL, so things can change in a heartbeat. Perhaps Andrew Luck will emerge fully formed and lead the Colts to 15 straight titles. Odd things can happen. It's likely that the NFL will never see a run comparable to the NFC in the 80s and 90s. But if it were ever going to happen again, now would be as good a time as any.