But, as I was watching the Colts and Saints win, it occurred to me that I was watching the final conference champions of the first decade of the 21st century being crowned. There wasn't a lot of suspense as far as Indianapolis was concerned, but the Saints had to go into overtime to finish off the Vikings.
Well, now that we know the identities of the champions, we can discuss the teams of the decade in the NFC and AFC.
First, the AFC ...
- In the last 10 years, one AFC team has played in more Super Bowls than any other — the New England Patriots. In February 2002, the Patriots beat the heavily favored St. Louis Rams, then they beat the Carolina Panthers in February 2004 and the Philadelphia Eagles in February 2005. They lost their fourth Super Bowl appearance of the decade to the New York Giants in February 2008.
- I suppose that makes the Pats the AFC's team of the decade, but, because of yesterday's championship games, there will be two other AFC teams that can claim to have made multiple Super Bowl appearances in this decade — the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts.
The Steelers, of course, beat Arizona last year, and they beat Seattle in February 2006. The Colts beat Chicago in February 2007, and they will be trying for their second Super Bowl title of the decade when they face New Orleans next month.
- Two other AFC teams made one appearance each in the Super Bowl — Baltimore in January 2001 and Oakland in January 2003.
- In seven of the nine Super Bowls that have been played following regular seasons in the 21st century, the AFC team has been the winner. Only one NFC team, the New York Giants, has been to more than one Super Bowl. The Giants lost to the Baltimore Ravens back in January 2001, then they beat the previously undefeated Patriots in February 2008.
- The other NFC team to win a Super Bowl was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who whipped Oakland in January 2003.
- Six other teams made one appearance in the Super Bowl in the first decade of the 21st century, and each team lost — St. Louis, Carolina, Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago and Arizona.
The Panthers, Seahawks and Cardinals were playing in their first–ever Super Bowls — as were the Ravens, when they won it all, and as will be the Saints when they face Indianapolis.
- The Saints will be the ninth NFC team to play in the Super Bowl since the start of the 21st century — and the fifth to be playing in their very first Super Bowl. Obviously, they will be hoping to join the Bucs as first–time winners.
- I suppose that, in the eyes of some NFL fans, the fact they appeared in more than one Super Bowl makes the Giants the NFC's team of the decade.
But, in my opinion, the fact that so many different NFC teams earned Super Bowl berths in this decade means we must approach the choice of the NFC's team of the decade a little differently. No team really stands out — unlike the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s or the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s.
I think the best way to decide which team was truly the NFC's team of the decade is by regular–season wins. Based on that, the Giants came in third with 88 regular–season wins.
Second in regular–season wins was Green Bay, which recorded 95 wins in the decade. And, if the Packers had played in a Super Bowl during the last 10 years, they might have been realistic contenders for NFC's team of the decade. But they didn't.
Consequently, I would have to say that the NFC's best team was the Philadelphia Eagles, who won 103 games in the 21st century's first decade.
The Eagles lost the only Super Bowl in which they played, but they advanced to five NFC championship games in the decade. That's at least three more appearances than any other NFC team.
And, in the absence of an NFC team with three, four or five Super Bowl appearances, it is the best evidence of the Eagles' dominance.