The American Football Conference (AFC) is one of the two conferences of the National Football League (NFL). The AFC was created after the NFL merged with the American Football League (AFL) in early 1970. The NFL's Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, and the ex-AFL teams initially composed the conference. All of the other NFL teams formed the National Football Conference (NFC). Initially, this alignment was unpopular with fans in these cities.
Since the merger, five expansion teams have joined the AFC and two have left, thus making the current total 16. When the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers joined the league in 1976, they were temporarily placed in the NFC and AFC respectively. This arrangement lasted for one season only before the two teams switched conferences. The Seahawks eventually returned to the NFC as a result of the 2002 realignment. The expansion Jacksonville Jaguars joined AFC in 1995.
When the Oilers left Houston in 1997, no arrangement similar to the Browns/Ravens was made to retain the franchise name. When Oilers owner Bud Adams changed the name of his team to the Tennessee Titans in 1999, he specifically precluded any NFL team from ever using the name "Oilers" again. As a result, when the league did eventually put a new AFC expansion team into Houston in 2002, it was named the Houston Texans.
The current 16 teams are organized into four divisions (North, South, East, and West) of four teams each. Each team plays the other teams in their division twice (home and away) during the regular season in addition to 10 other games/teams assigned to their schedule by the NFL the previous May. Two of these games are assigned on the basis of the team's final division standing in the previous season. The remaining 8 games are split between the roster of two other NFL divisions. This assignment shifts each year. For instance, in the 2007 regular season, each team in the AFC West will play a game apiece against each team in both the AFC South and the NFC North. In this way division competition consists of common opponents, with the exception of the 2 games assigned on the strength of each team's prior division standing. (i.e. the division winner will face the other two division winners in the AFC divisions that they are not scheduled to play) The NFC operates according to the same system.
At the end of each football season, there are playoff games involving the top six teams in the AFC (the four division champions by place standing and the top two remaining non-division-champion teams ("wild cards") by record). The last two teams remaining play in the AFC Championship game with the winner receiving the Lamar Hunt Trophy. The AFC champion plays the NFC champion in the Super Bowl. After Super Bowl XLII The AFC has won 18 Super Bowls while the NFC has won 20. Since losing 13 consecutive Super Bowls in the 1980s and 1990s (XIX–XXXI), the AFC has won eight of the last eleven. The losing coach of the AFC Championship game is the coach of the Pro Bowl the week after the Super Bowl.
AFL fans were also upset with the merger because the AFL gave up its name and logo to become part of the NFL, their former hated rival. Instead, the merged league created a new logo for the AFC that took elements of the old AFL logo, specifically the "A" and the six stars surrounding it. The AFC logo has basically remained unchanged since it debuted in 1970, though the "A" was not as bold when it was first introduced, and the stars were blue like the old AFL logo instead of the current red. For unexplained reasons, although the AFL's "A" was blue, the AFC's "A" is red.