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AFC supremacy begins under center

The battle for supremacy between the AFC and NFC is a blowout this year, and the reason seems obvious.

The AFC leads the interconference battle, 37-22, with two weeks to go in the regular season. Only two NFC teams -- Dallas and Seattle -- have winning records against the AFC this year.

The AFC has won the interconference battle every year since 1995 and has won seven of the last nine Super Bowls. The AFC has a chance to equal its biggest edge ever over the NFC -- 40-22 in 2004.

All one needs to do is look at the roster of quarterbacks to see why the AFC has dominated.

Almost all the elite quarterbacks are in the AFC, including Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer and Steve McNair. The NFC has Drew Brees, formerly of the AFC, Donovan McNabb, who has been hurt the past two years, and an aged Brett Favre. Now add the up-and-coming QBs who are at various stages of development. In the AFC it's Philip Rivers, Vince Young, J.P. Losman and Jay Cutler. In the NFC it's Tony Romo, Matt Leinart, Rex Grossman, Eli Manning and Alex Smith.

Despite this clear advantage under center, let's not give the AFC the Super Bowl just yet. If San Diego, which looks like the clear No. 1 team in the league, doesn't make it to the title game, all the other AFC teams have enough flaws to keep them from being a prohibitive favorite, depending on who wins the NFC.

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Big Pat to Hawaii

It's easy to criticize the Pro Bowl voting. The fact is it's about as good a system as can reasonably be expected. The fans get to enjoy the chance to participate. But in reality, the fan voting gets superseded by the vote of the players and coaches. If you win in the voting by players and coaches, you get in, regardless of where you ranked in the fan voting. The most accurate way to pick the team would be to have each team's pro personnel chief cast the vote. But that system would not be as much fun, and the players like having a say.

All that said, the biggest injustice was Carolina's Kris Jenkins making it ahead of Minnesota's Pat Williams at NFC defensive tackle. Jenkins was great in 2003. Now he's just fat. He has a clause in his contract that pays him a $100,000 bonus if he keeps his weight less than 340 pounds. He has forfeited it this season, carrying at least 360. With 41 days between the end of the season and the Pro Bowl, he could be 400 by the time he hits Hawaii.

The good news is Williams is going to make his first trip to Hawaii anyway. He was the first alternate, and Chicago's Tommie Harris is hurt and can't play.

"I just go with the flow," Williams said. "It didn't happen right off the bat. But that's how it goes. I play nose tackle, and they never give us nose tackles any credit."

The second-biggest injustice was Dallas' Roy Williams making it as a safety.

Williams might be the worst cover safety in the NFL. He hits like Thomas Hearns, but he has given up a touchdown in almost every game this season.

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Ode to Hornung

San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson is a better player today than Paul Hornung was in his prime. Nevertheless, a week after L.T. broke Hornung's record for points in a season it's worth noting what a remarkable record Hornung set. Not many records in any sport last 46 years. In his remarkable 1960 season, Hornung's 176 points destroyed the previous record of 128 points by Detroit rookie Doak Walker in 1950.

Hornung did it in only 12 games on 15 touchdowns, 15 field goals and 41 extra points. That's 14.7 points per game. Tomlinson's 186 points on 31 touchdowns in 14 games is a 13.3 average. Hornung would have scored 235 points in a 16-game season. I'd bet with a little practice Tomlinson could learn how to kick extra points. Nevertheless, that's the way the game was played in 1960. All the kickers and punters played other positions.

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AFL's final two

After the death of Lamar Hunt, there now are only two members of the Foolish Club left. Their teams meet today in Ralph Wilson Stadium. Titans owner Bud Adams, 83, did not make the trip to Buffalo.

"Bud and I have had great competition over the years but of course the most memorable game of this series was the Comeback Game when the Bills came back from being down 35-3 and won," Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. said. "Bud has been a great owner for the league and I can't believe it's been 47 years since we first started."

Adams, of course, might argue that the best game was the Immaculate Deception playoff win in Nashville.

The fact is the two teams have had a history of memorable games. Even the first one, on Oct. 30, 1960, was a thriller.

Oilers QB George Blanda threw a 53-yard TD pass to Billy Cannon, the Heisman Trophy winner Adams lured away from the NFL, to put the Oilers ahead. But the Bills came back thanks to three interceptions of Blanda and won, 25-24. Wray Carlton had 177 receiving yards. The Oilers ' Dave Smith had 107 rushing yards. Smith has been an outstanding West Coast scout for the Bills for the past 15 years.

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Pat pranks

Here's Chapter 247 on why the Patriots organization is so hard to warm up to:

CBS analyst Charley Casserly got into a spitting match with Bill Belichick last week that began when Casserly said on the air that the Pats had been warned by the league for illegally videotaping other teams' signals. Casserly claimed the Patriots had dressed someone in coaching attire with a video camera to ostensibly record opponents' signals.

"The Patriots got caught doing something early in the year they weren't supposed to be doing," Casserly reported. "They had a man on their sideline dressed in coaching attire with a video camera who was presumably videotaping the other team's signals. You can't do that. They were warned. If it happens again, they're going to be disciplined."

Belichick at first denied the charge, saying: "I haven't heard anything from the league." Of course he didn't. The league would have contacted someone in the front office. Asked if teams were allowed to have a camera on the sidelines, Belichick snapped, "Why don't you go talk to Charley Casserly? He's the guy that has all the answers on everything."

Two days later, Belichick returned to the subject of Casserly for no good reason when asked about rules regarding protecting the QB.

"Talk to the guys who make the rules," Belichick said. "There are plenty of people on that committee and they love to talk about the rules that they've made and how great they are and all that. The Charley Casserlys of the world, that have all the answers to everything. Talk to them."

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Onside kicks

Hard to believe the way the Titans beat the Jags last week. The Jags held edges of 23-5 in first downs and 396-98 in yards. What goes around comes around. Jags coach Jack Del Rio was on the winning end of such a domination in 2000 when he was an aide with Baltimore in the AFC title game at Tennessee. The Titans held edges of 23-6 in first downs and 318-134 in yards. Yet the Ravens won, 24-10, on a blocked field goal and an interception return for a touchdown. Jeff Fisher would have a Super Bowl ring if not for that flukey result.

At last month's owners' meeting, a small band of small-market owners proposed an amendment that any team paying 65 percent or more of its gross to the players would get revenue sharing. If they could get nine votes, they could have blocked the Jets-Giants stadium. They could get only seven votes. The Bills, Jags and Bengals were three of them. Surprisingly, two small-market teams, the Colts and Saints, wouldn't vote for it.

Michael Vick has 19 TD passes, a career high in his six seasons. His previous high was 16. J.P. Losman has 17 so far this year.

How good was the Miami Hurricanes' receiving corps in 2000? The top three were Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne and Jeremy Shockey, and sophomore Andre Johnson was the No. 6 receiver.

Cleveland's Randy Lerner and Tampa Bay's Malcolm Glazer are the only NFL owners who own prestigious soccer clubs in the English Premier League. Lerner's Aston Villa club played Glazer's Manchester United on Saturday. Today Lerner's Browns play Glazer's Bucs.

Carolina's Chris Weinke has lost 17 consecutive starts. He has a shot at the modern-day record -- 23 by Houston's Dan Pastorini, from 1970 to '72. But Pastorini beat the Bills in Buffalo in relief of Charley Johnson in '71.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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