Top seeds

The odds of Super Bowl XLVIII featuring the Denver Broncos versus the Seattle Seahawks were a long shot.

Since 1975 when the NFL’s playoff format began basing home field advantage on teams’ regular season winning percentages, this year’s game marks just the tenth time, and third in the past 20 years, the Super Bowl will showcase the conference’s top seeds.

Following the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 and through 1974, the realigned NFL set a predetermined postseason schedule for a four-year period based on specific divisions hosting playoff games regardless of the records of that season’s playoff teams. That explains why, in 1972, the 14-0 Miami Dolphins had to travel to Pittsburgh for the AFC championship game against the 11-3 Steelers. The format that year had the AFC Central Division champions hosting the game if they won the divisional playoff one week earlier.

Since home field advantage counted in the post-merger playoffs, 22 of the NFC’s top seeds have reached the Super Bowl. The 2013 Denver Broncos are just the 20th top seeded AFC team to reach the Super Bowl but only six were crowned world champions.

Here is a look at the year-by-year summary of how the top seeded teams in the AFC and NFC fared since 1975.

From 1970-1974, the NFL used a pre-determined playoff format whereby winning percentage was not considered.

AFC

Season Top Seeded Team Result
2013 Denver Broncos Lost Super Bowl XLVIII
2012 Denver Broncos Lost Divisional Playoff Game
2011 New England Patriots Lost Super Bowl XLVI
2010 New England Patriots Lost Divisional Playoff Game
2009 Indianapolis Colts Lost Super Bowl XLIV
2008 Tennessee Titans Lost Divisional Playoff Game
2007 New England Patriots Lost Super Bowl XLII
2006 San Diego Chargers Lost Divisional Playoff Game
2005 Indianapolis Colts Lost Divisional Playoff Game
2004 Pittsburgh Steelers Lost Championship Game
2003 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS Won Super Bowl XXXVIII
2002 Oakland Raiders Lost Super Bowl XXXVII
2001 Pittsburgh Steelers Lost Championship Game
2000 Tennessee Titans Lost Divisional Playoff Game
1999 Jacksonville Jaguars Lost Championship Game
1998 DENVER BRONCOS Won Super Bowl XXXIII
1997 Kansas City Chiefs Lost Divisional Playoff Game
1996 Denver Broncos Lost Divisional Playoff Game
1995 Kansas City Chiefs Lost Divisional Playoff Game
1994 Pittsburgh Steelers Lost Championship Game
1993 Buffalo Bills Lost Super Bowl XXVIII
1992 Pittsburgh Steelers Lost Divisional Playoff Game
1991 Buffalo Bills Lost Super Bowl XXVI
1990 Buffalo Bills Lost Super Bowl XXV
1989 Denver Broncos Lost Super Bowl XXIV
1988 Cincinnati Bengals Lost Super Bowl XXIII
1987 Denver Broncos Lost Super Bowl XXII
1986 Cleveland Browns Lost Championship Game
1985 Los Angeles Raiders Lost Divisional Playoff Game
1984 Miami Dolphins Lost Super Bowl XIX
1983 LOS ANGELES RAIDERS Won Super Bowl XVIII
1982 Los Angeles Raiders Lost Second Round Playoff
1981 Cincinnati Bengals Lost Super Bowl XVI
1980 San Diego Chargers Lost Championship Game
1979 San Diego Chargers Lost Divisional Playoff Game
1978 PITTSBURGH STEELERS Won Super Bowl XIII
1977 Denver Broncos Lost Super Bowl XII
1976 OAKLAND RAIDERS Won Super Bowl XI
1975 PITTSBURGH STEELERS Won Super Bowl X

NFC

Season Top Seeded Team Result
2013 Seattle Seahawks Won Super Bowl XLVIII
2012 Atlanta Falcons Lost Championship Game
2011 Green Bay Packers Lost Divisional Playoff Game
2010 Atlanta Falcons Lost Divisional Playoff Game
2009 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS Won Super Bowl XLIV
2008 New York Giants Lost Divisional Playoff Game
2007 Dallas Cowboys Lost Divisional Playoff Game
2006 Chicago Bears Lost Super Bowl XLI
2005 Seattle Seahawks Lost Super Bowl XL
2004 Philadelphia Eagles Lost Super Bowl XXXIX
2003 Philadelphia Eagles Lost Championship Game
2002 Philadelphia Eagles Lost Championship Game
2001 St. Louis Rams Lost Super Bowl XXXVI
2000 New York Giants Lost Super Bowl XXXV
1999 ST. LOUIS RAMS Won Super Bowl XXXIV
1998 Minnesota Vikings Lost Championship Game
1997 San Francisco 49ers Lost Championship Game
1996 GREEN BAY PACKERS Won Super Bowl XXXI
1995 DALLAS COWBOYS Won Super Bowl XXX
1994 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS Won Super Bowl XXIX
1993 DALLAS COWBOYS Won Super Bowl XXVIII
1992 San Francisco 49ers Lost Championship Game
1991 WASHINGTON REDSKINS Won Super Bowl XXVI
1990 San Francisco 49ers Lost Championship Game
1989 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS Won Super Bowl XXIV
1988 Chicago Bears Lost Championship Game
1987 San Francisco 49ers Lost Divisional Playoff Game
1986 NEW YORK GIANTS Won Super Bowl XXI
1985 CHICAGO BEARS Won Super Bowl XX
1984 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS Won Super Bowl XIX
1983 Washington Redskins Lost Super Bowl XVIII
1982 WASHINGTON REDSKINS Won Super Bowl XVII
1981 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS Won Super Bowl XVI
1980 Atlanta Falcons Lost Divisional Playoff Game
1979 Dallas Cowboys Lost Divisional Playoff Game
1978 Los Angeles Rams Lost NFC Championship Game
1977 DALLAS COWBOYS Won Super Bowl XII
1976 Minnesota Vikings Lost Super Bowl XI
1975 Minnesota Vikings Lost Divisional Playoff Game
 
Year bolded = Super Bowl featured both top-seeded teams; CAPS = WON SUPER BOWL; Italics = Lost in Super Bowl