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Conference championship participants the last 6 years have 1 thing in common...

.. and/or have a first ballot Hall of Fame QB

Kansas City Chiefs v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns want to be where the Kansas City Chiefs are: Representing the AFC in the Super Bowl.

For the Browns and the rest of the AFC, getting through QB Patrick Mahomes is just one of many issues making it to the Super Bowl. The AFC is loaded with great quarterbacks, solid head coaches and a myriad of franchises with a history of winning.

We often hear that the NFL has become a passing league but fans, especially in the AFC North, will always want their teams to run the football. Even stadium conversations about dome versus open air often come back to a desire to run the football.

More and more, it is clear that NFL teams must find a way to be explosive in the passing game. While running backs like Nick Chubb can create big plays, it is far easier to control games through the air.

Based on the last six years, it is also far easier to make the AFC and NFC Championship Games with an efficient passing attack. The chart below shows that all but one of the last 12 conference championship participants had a top-10 passing offense. The chart makes it very easy to see that none of the other categories (rushing offense, rushing defense, passing defense) are anywhere near as consistent in making title games:

There are multiple teams in the bottom third of the NFL in the other three categories littered throughout the last six seasons but none below 12th in passing offense.

Somehow, teams can have a bad rushing attack or be bad at stopping the run or be bad at shutting down pass catchers and still make a conference championship game. Heck, a few teams are in the bottom half of multiple categories in the same season and still had a chance to make the Super Bowl.

Based on the last six seasons, teams must be very good, compared to the rest of the league, at throwing the football. If/when a team makes a conference title game with a bottom-half-of-the-league passing offense it will be an outlier.


How surprised are you looking at the chart above at how clearly important passing is to make it to a title game?