It was a refrain heard coast to coast, from the end of the Ravens’ Super Bowl win right through to opening kickoff in Denver three weeks ago.
NFC: power conference.
And then, this happened …
The AFC went 11-3 against the NFC in three weeks. BOOM.
This week, it was Indy over San Fran, Chiefs over Eagles, Patriots over Bucs, Dolphins over Falcons, Bengals over Packers, Browns over Vikings -- only Chicago did their part, whipping Pittsburgh on the road.
In fact, the Bears are responsible for two of the NFC's three non-conference wins (Bengals, Steelers).
Only the Patriots were a clear favorite of the AFC teams, all of which showed real smarts and clutch play to get their wins. That’s been the M.O. for the AFC teams early -- keep it close, and win it in the end.
The better QB has been on the wrong end of it in almost all of them. Tannehill over Ryan, Dalton over Rodgers, Hoyer(!) over Ponder. In Week 2, it was Alex Smith over Romo, EJ Manuel over Cam Newton.
Perhaps it’s a nod to substance over style.
Top five passing yardage leaders thus far? All from the NFC (Rodgers, Brees, Stafford, Griffin, Eli).
Top five rushers? All NFC (LeSean McCoy, Doug Martin, DeAngelo Williams, DeMarco Murray, Adrian Peterson).
Top five receivers? Yep. Julio Jones, DeSean Jackson, Jimmy Graham, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson.
The NFC also has six of the top seven scoring offenses (Denver is first); Chicago No. 2, followed by Green Bay, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota and Philadelphia.
But the AFC has seven of the top nine yardage defenses and six of the nine scoring defenses, to go along with that remarkable 9-game lead head to head.
And next week, there are seven cross-conference games that should all be pretty interesting: Pittsburgh-Minnesota in London, Washington at Oakland, Philly at Denver, New England at Atlanta, Miami at New Orleans, Seattle at Houston, Giants at Chiefs.
The AFC will probably be favored in only two of them (Philly-Denver, NYG-KC), but the other ones will all be within 5-6 points at the most -- in other words, they’re toss-ups.
And so far, all the tossups have gone the AFC’s way.
As a result, the early idea that 10 wins might not be enough to get you in the playoffs in the NFC looks more likely in the AFC, where 10 teams have winning records and Oakland could conceivably join that group with an upset of Denver.