AFC West - History


The division was formed in 1960 as the American Football League's Western Division. In 1970, as part of the new NFL's two-conference, six-division alignment, the AFL West entered the merged league more or less intact as the AFC West.

The original AFL West had four members – the Dallas Texans (who moved to Kansas City in 1963 as the Chiefs), Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers (who moved to San Diego in 1961) and Oakland Raiders. These four teams have remained in the AFL/AFC West since its inception, and are currently the only teams in the division. Largely because of this, the entire division is considered one very large and very heated rivalry. When the Raiders played in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994, they remained in the AFC West.

The Cincinnati Bengals played the last two AFL seasons in the AFL West despite being further east than Houston, where the Houston Oilers played at the time and were members of the AFC East. The Bengals (along with the Oilers) moved to the AFC Central (formerly the NFL Century, now the AFC North) in 1970, instantly forming rivalries with the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 1977, the Seattle Seahawks were added to the AFC West after spending their expansion season in the NFC West; they would move back to the NFC West in 2002.

Each of the four AFC West teams won a division title in the first four years of the realignment – Oakland in 2002, Kansas City in 2003, San Diego in 2004 and Denver in 2005. It is the only one of the eight NFL divisions to have all of its teams win titles in the first four seasons of the North-East-West-South format.

ESPN's Chris Berman often calls this division the "AFC Smythe" due to its geographical similarity to the old Smythe Division of the NHL, now succeeded by the Pacific and Northwest divisions.

In recent years, the division is often cited as one of the NFL's "Toughest Divisions" due partially to the home-field advantages of Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Arrowhead Stadium, Qualcomm Stadium and the Oakland Coliseum (The Black Hole), although in 2008 the division was the NFL's weakest since the AFC Central in 1985 by sending the San Diego Chargers to the playoffs as division winners with an 8–8 record while the New England Patriots missed out at 11–5 after losing out on tiebreakers for both the AFC East and the wild-card. The division was also very weak in 2011 as well, when a loss by the Raiders in the last game of the season gave the Broncos the division title with only an 8-8 record. Only the NFC West in 2010 has historically sent a worse division winner to the playoffs, when the Seahawks (themselves a former AFC West member) won that division with a 7-9 record.

Along with the AFC (formerly AFL) East, the AFC West is the oldest NFL division in terms of creation date (1960).

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