AFC Championship Game History: Who’s played in the most AFC title games?

In the AFC Championship Game's 50+ year history, which teams have the most appearances, victories, and winning percentage?

With the history of the AFC Championship Game stretching back to 1970, a number of teams have been involved in the game multiple times. Let’s examine which NFL teams have played in the AFC Championship Game the most, which team has won it the most, and which franchise has the best winning percentage.

AFC Championship Game history

With the 2021-22 season bringing us the 52nd AFC Championship Game, there is a rich history to look back on. With just 18 teams having been part of the AFC since the merger in 1970, it is no surprise that a couple of teams have dominated the record books.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have played in the most AFC Championship Games

Given the AFC’s roots in the AFL, it is intriguing that the team to contest the AFC Championship Game the most in its history is a team that originated in the NFL. The Steelers moved to the AFC at the time of the merger in 1970 and have not looked back. In the ensuing years, the Steelers have contested a record 16 Conferences Championships, winning eight.

The Steelers’ history in the game is spread throughout the past 50 years. They contested the third Conference Championship in AFC history in 1972. They would then go on to play in five more AFC Championships before 1980. Four of their eight wins would come during that first decade. Since then, they have contested at least one Conference Championship in every completed decade.

Pittsburgh took part in the AFC Championship Game in 1972, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1984, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010, and 2016. Their longest stretch without appearing was nine years, between the 1984 and 1994 seasons.

Behind the Steelers are three other teams to have played in 10 or more AFC Championship Games. They are the New England Patriots (15), the Raiders franchise (11), and the Denver Broncos (10).

Complete list of AFC Championship Game appearances

Years underlined to indicate the team winning the Conference Championship in that season.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers (16)
    1972, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979
    1984, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2004
    2005, 2008, 2010, 2016
  • New England Patriots (15)
    1985, 1996, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006
    2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
    2016, 2017, 2018
  • Los Angeles/Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders (11)
    1970, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977
    1980, 1983, 1990, 2000, 2002
  • Denver Broncos (10)
    1977, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1997
    1998, 2005, 2013, 2015
  • Miami Dolphins (7)
    1971, 1972, 1973, 1982, 1984, 1985
    1992
  • Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts (7)
    1970, 1971, 1995, 2003, 2006, 2009
    2014
  • Buffalo Bills (6)
    1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 2020
  • Houston/Tennessee Oilers/Texans (5)
    1978, 1979, 1999, 2002, 2019
  • Kansas City Chiefs (5)
    1993, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
  • Baltimore Ravens (4)
    2000, 2008, 2011, 2012
  • San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers (4)
    1980, 1981, 1994, 2007
  • New York Jets (4)
    1982, 1998, 2009, 2010
  • Cincinnati Bengals (3)
    1981, 1988, 2021
  • Jacksonville Jaguars (3)
    1996, 1999, 2017
  • Cleveland Browns (3)
    1986, 1987, 1989
  • Seattle Seahawks (1)
    1983

Which team has won the most AFC Championship Games?

With 11 victories, the Patriots have won the most AFC Championship Games since the merger in 1970. Behind them are the Steelers and Broncos with eight wins each. The only other team to have won five or more AFC Championships is the Miami Dolphins.

On the other side of the coin, the Steelers have also lost the most games (eight losses). Narrowly behind them are the Raiders with seven losses in their 11 AFC Championship Games. No other team has lost five or more games.

Who has the best winning percentage?

Heading into the AFC Championship Game for the 2021-22 season, the Cincinnati Bengals are the only team with a 1.000 winning percentage. The Bengals won in both 1981 and 1988 and have the chance to start with three straight victories.

They would be the fourth team to win their first three AFC Championship Games (Dolphins, Broncos, and Patriots). The Dolphins and Patriots each won their first five, with the Broncos winning their first four.

Those same three teams are next behind the Bengals in terms of winning percentage. The Broncos have a .800 win percentage (8-2), the Patriots sit at .733 (11-4), and the Dolphins at .714 (5-2). The Bills are the only other team with a winning percentage above .500 (.667; 4-2). Three teams sit at .500 — Steelers, Chiefs, and Ravens.

At the other end of the spectrum, four teams have appeared in an AFC Championship Game but have never won one. The Jets are 0-4, the Jaguars and Browns are 0-3, with the Seahawks 0-1. There are four other teams with a winning percentage below .500. Those are the Oilers/Titans (1-4; .200), Chargers (1-3; .250), Raiders (4-7; .364), and the Colts (3-4; .429).

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