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Historical perspective on the NFL playoffs

So, you guys know I'm a total history geek when it comes to football, and I especially get geeked about obscure facts, so with that in mind I thought I'd look at the NFL's conference finals from a historical perspective. Counting the Ravens as a continuation of the original Cleveland Browns (which is not how the league's Ministry of Truth sees it, but happens to have the benefit of being true) the four remaining teams have played a total of 325 years of professional football. The Ravens, no matter what you consider their history to be, are the newest of the four teams that will be playing next weekend. The Browns began with the formation of the AAFC in 1946 (or if you buy the NFL's BS, the Ravens appeared magically out of nowhere in 1996 with all of Cleveland's players after the Browns tragically fell into a wormhole to 1999). Meanwhile the Pennsylvania teams joined the league in 1933 and the Cardinals began their life as the Morgan Athletic Club in 1898. Exactly half of the Cardinals championships came before the Steelers or Eagles existed. The NFL title game pits the Cards and Eagles, two teams that have played twice in the postseason, in 1947 and 1948. Each team won one game. That victory in 1947 was the last championship the Cardinals won. The two teams have played 112 times. The Eagles hold a 54-53-5 edge. Over on the AFC side you have two division rivals, yet they've met in the postseason just twice, once before Art Modell incurred the wrath of all northeast Ohio, once after. The Steelers won both games. Also you have a matchup of two AFC teams that never played a down in the AFL. Ten AFC teams can trace their roots back to the AFL. Three NFL teams were put in the AFC as part of the merger (the Colts, Steelers and Browns). Three others were expansion teams after the merger (the Jags, Texans, and new Browns). This is only the second time the old AFL has not been represented in the AFC title game. The first was in 1995 when the Steelers beat Jim Harbaugh and the Colts. Once we start looking at potential Super Bowl matchups we can go into the deep history. If the Steelers win next Sunday we get a matchup between teams that merged during WWII. Due to a shortage of players, the Steelers merged with the Eagles in 1943, then with the Cards in 1944 (a team derisively nicknamed the Carpets who didn't win a game). Cards-Steelers also happens to be the oldest AFC team versus the oldest NFC team. They were also rivals in the Century Division in the 60's. If the Ravens win we get to see a matchup between late 40's powers. The Cardinals and Eagles each won titles in '47 and '48, but there is some argument as to whether or not either was the best pro-football team that year. The Browns in the rival AAFC were almost certainly better than the Eagles in '48, going undefeated, but 1947 was a different story as the Browns lost to a fairly bad LA Dons team in the regular season while the 9-3 Cards had the Million Dollar Backfield. Good thing the Chargers lost or else I would have had nothing to research this evening.


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