Blowout in Conference Championship? Not a Good Omen

The Super Bowl is set, as the conference’s No. 1 seeds will meet up next Sunday, as the Philadelphia Eagles meet up against the New England Patriots in Minneapolis. People might think that the Eagles have a great shot at winning this Super Bowl against the Tom Brady-led Patriots. I mean, after all, the Eagles are coming off a dominating 38-7 victory over the favored Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game. Well, history says otherwise, especially when facing a team that had a close victory in their conference championship game.

In the AFC Championship game, New England came from behind to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, and after the Philadelphia domination of Minnesota, it led me to do some research to see if my beliefs were correct. And they were. I decided to see what happens when a team that blew out opponents in the conference championship played against a team that won close.

I realize some of these were when one conference had a few superior teams and the other conference had one team far above the rest, but I still found this fascinating. I narrowed it down to teams that have won by at least 20 against teams that have won by 10 or fewer in the Championships. In the Super Bowl era (since the 1966 season), that has happened 12 times, and only twice has the team that won via a blowout in the conference championship ended up winning the Super Bowl. That is what we have in this upcoming Super Bowl.

The most recent instance of this happening is the 2015 season, when Carolina dominated Arizona 48-15 in the NFC Championship, while Denver stopped Brady in the AFC Championship on a late two-point conversion attempt. Many thought, myself included, that Denver did not have much of a chance against New England. Following the blowout of Arizona, many thought Carolina would win convincingly over Denver as well. Philadelphia does not have the defense Denver did, but this team reminds me a bit of that team. But that story is for a different time.

Perhaps the most puzzling was the 1990 season when the upstart Buffalo Bills with Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed clobbered the No. 2 seed Los Angeles Raiders 51-3 in the AFC Championship. The New York Giants lost three of the last six games in the regular season, and more importantly, lost starting quarterback Phil Simms late in the season. But the Giants did pull off the upset in the NFC Championship in San Francisco, 15-13. Despite being favored by seven, Buffalo lost 20-19 when Scott Norwood missed a potential game-winning field goal in the closing seconds.

The only teams to buck this trend are the 2014 New England Patriots and the 1981 San Francisco 49ers, New England dominated Indianapolis 45-7 and then won on a Malcolm Butler late interception against Seattle, which had a comeback overtime victory in the NFC Championship against Green Bay. The 49ers, on the other hand, won on one of the most famous plays in NFL history, “The Catch,” while the Bengals won 27-7 in one of the coldest games of all-time over the San Diego Chargers.

If that were to continue, New England would win the Super Bowl. I do think the Patriots will win it all on Feb. 4, but not because of this. I just think are a better team. However, this is an intriguing study. It may be over-confidence on one side or it may be nothing. But it is an interesting study nonetheless.

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Jonathon Zenk is a writer for PackersTalk.com. He is a huge Packers fan, and a graduate of The University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. You can follow Jonathon on Twitter at @jzenk42

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