When the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the New York Jets Sunday to win the conference championship, they earned the chance to win an NFL-record sixth Super Bowl. Although the Steelers are one of the NFL’s most storied franchises, much of their success has come recently – this is the third time in last six years the Steelers have played in the Super Bowl.
On the other hand, their opponents, the Green Bay Packers, have not played in the Super Bowl since 1998, back when Brett Favre was still wearing green and yellow (and running around like a kid out there).
Much has changed since 1998. The last time the Packers made the Super Bowl, the same teams often stayed at the top of the division for years before another overthrew them. Now, parity in the NFL has become the norm. And while some fans love the relative equality of teams compared to dominant dynasties of the past, others miss the good old days when divisional dynasties reigned supreme.
The parity in the NFL is at an all-time high, but while the NFC has been up for grabs for the past decade, the same powerhouse teams have controlled the AFC. While no NFC team has been to the Super Bowl twice in the past 10 years, only four AFC teams have made it to the NFL’s biggest game. The New England Patriots have made it four times, the Indianapolis Colts two, and the Oakland Raiders once. Green Bay is the 10th NFC team in 10 years.
Only eight NFC teams played in the Super Bowl in 20 years, while only 10 AFC teams made it.
In reference to why the sixth-seeded Packers are favored over the second-seeded Steelers, Pittsburgh linebacker Ike Taylor said the following:
“I feel like, deep down, in the back of people’s heads, they really don’t want us to win,” Taylor said. “People don’t like successful people. Just the tradition we have here, the success we have here, I just feel that a lot of people don’t want us to succeed. They’re getting tired of seeing the same people over and over again. I guess they want to see somebody new.”
Green Bay, despite their storied history, represent that “something new.” And if you’re outside of Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, and don’t have any obvious allegiances on February 6th, this might be the way to figure out who to root for: do you favor consistent excellence, or would you rather see some unfamiliar faces hoist the Lombardi trophy?