- American Football Conference Central Division
The AFC Central was a division of the
National Football League's American Football Conferencefrom 1970 to 2001.
The AFC Central was formed as a result of the
AFL-NFL mergerin 1970. The new NFL was aligned into six divisions (two conferences of three divisions each). The original AFC Central had four members - the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengalsand Houston Oilers. The Bengals and Oilers were previously members of the American Football League, while the Steelers and Browns were already established NFL franchises.
Although the Bengals won the first AFC Central Division Championship in 1970, the Steelers dominated the division for most of the 1970s, a decade that also saw them win four
The 1980 Cleveland Browns broke the Steelers' eight-year run as division champions, but failed to advance past the divisional round of the playoffs, losing to the Oakland Raiders. The Bengals were the only team to represent the AFC Central in the Super Bowl during the decade, appearing in Super Bowls XVI and XXIII. Both appearances resulted in losses to the
San Francisco 49ers.
The Steelers returned as the dominant team in the division in 1992. They won five divisional titles in six years, and played in
Super Bowl XXX. The 1992 Oilers were involved in one of the most famous playoff games in NFL history. In a game now known as The Comeback, the Oilers surrendered a 32-point lead to the Buffalo Billsand lost in overtime, 41-38.
In 1995, the
Jacksonville Jaguarsjoined the league through expansion and were placed in the AFC Central. It was the first change to the structure of the division since its inception. In 1996, as the result of , the Cleveland Brownssuspended operations and its players and personnel moved to Baltimoreto become a new franchise, the Baltimore Ravens, but remained a part of the division. Likewise, in 1997 the Oilers moved to Tennesseebut still apart of the AFC Central. Their first season was played in Memphis before moving to their final home in Nashville. In 1999 the Oilers became the Tennessee Titans.
The makeup of the AFC Central changed once again in 1999, when the Cleveland Browns began play again. The division had six teams for the 1999, 2000 and 2001 seasons. In 2002 the NFL realigned into eight divisions of four teams, and the AFC Central ceased to exist. Currently the Steelers, Browns, Bengals and Ravens are members of the AFC North division. The Titans and Jaguars play in the AFC South.
*- A players' strike in 1982 reduced the regular season to nine games. Thus, the league used a special 16-team playoff tournament just for this year. Division standings were ignored, Cincinnati had the best record of the division teams.
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