MINNEAPOLIS (... — MINNEAPOLIS -- It is no longer justifiable to write off the NFC's domination of the Super Bowl purely statistical oddity.
The NFC has beaten the AFC in the Super Bowl seven straight years and nine of the past 10. That is not a cyclical circumstance. That is domination, even if the AFC is slow to admit it.
The AFC had perhaps its best chance to end the streak a year ago, but the favored Buffalo Bills fell to the New York Giants, s 20-19, in Super Bowl XXV.
The NFC has a 13-12 edge overall in the Super Bowl, and this season won the interconference series against the AFC, 33-19.
"That's where the stronger teams happen to be," Bills coach Marv Levy says of the NFC. "I don't think it's luck or what's in tea leaves. They [the Giants] beat us."
The Bills (15-3) get another crack on Sunday when they meet the best of the NFC, the Washington Redskins (16-2), in Super Bowl XXVI. Even before the Bills arrived here last night, they were tiring of the inevitable NFC-AFC comparisons. Baltimore's Carlton Bailey, a Bills linebacker, complained about the NFC's "mystique" and bad-boy image. Defensive end Bruce Smith said all the NFC talk should give the Bills added incentive.
But there are at least two very compelling reasons why the NFC has dominated over the last decade:
(1) Denver. It has been the Broncos' misfortune to lose three of the past seven Super Bowls by increasing margins.
(2) Defense. Although it is stereotypical to say that the NFC plays better defense, that appears to be the case. The 49ers, Giants, Redskins and Chicago Bears -- who account for the past nine NFC victories -- all featured stout defense.
Kansas City Chiefs president Carl Peterson, said that the balance of power is in the NFC.
"I think the NFC is playing a tougher schedule during the year," said Peterson, who also worked with the Philadelphia Eagles. "They're used to playing tougher opponents."
The numbers support Peterson's charge. The Redskins opposition won 50.4 percent of its games this season. The Bills opposition won 41 percent of its games.
* Buffalo's secondary that is going to be taxed to the limit by the Redskins' high-powered passing game may be further hindered by illness. Free safety Leonard Smith has an infection in the knee that has caused high fever.
* Levy on Joe Gibbs' total devotion to football:
I don't know if he's the kind of guy I'd go out with on New Year's Eve, but I have great regard for him."