National Football Conference (NFC)

The National Football Conference (NFC) teams

You can learn more about each division or team by clicking each link below:

History of the NFC

Both the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC) were created after the NFL merged with the American Football League (AFL) in 1970.  When the AFL began play in 1960 with eight teams, the NFL consisted of 13 clubs. By 1969, the AFL had expanded to ten teams and the NFL to 16 clubs. In order to balance the merged league, all ten of the former AFL teams along with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Baltimore Colts formed the AFC, while the remaining 13 NFL teams formed the NFC.

While the newly formed AFC had already agreed upon and set up their divisional alignment plan along almost purely geographic lines, team owners could not agree to a plan on how to align the clubs in the NFC. The alignment proposals were narrowed down to five finalists (each one sealed in an envelope), and then the plan that was eventually selected was picked out of a glass bowl by then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle’s secretary, Thelma Elkjer, on January 16, 1970.

There were five alignment plans for the NFC in 1970 (see below) with Plan 3 eventually selected as the chosen structure:

Plan 1

  • Eastern – Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington
  • Central – Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints
  • Western – Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers

Plan 2

  • Eastern – Minnesota, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington
  • Central – Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, St. Louis
  • Western – Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles, San Francisco

Plan 3

  • Eastern – Dallas, New York Giants, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington
  • Central – Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota
  • Western – Atlanta, Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Francisco

Plan 4

  • Eastern – Minnesota, New York Giants, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington
  • Central – Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay
  • Western – Dallas, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco

Plan 5

  • Eastern – Detroit, Minnesota, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington
  • Central – Chicago, Dallas, Green Bay, St. Louis
  • Western – Atlanta, Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Francisco

Three expansion teams have joined the NFC since the merger, thus making the current total 16. When the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers joined the league in 1976, they were temporarily placed in the NFC and AFC, respectively, for one season before they switched conferences. The Seahawks returned to the NFC as a result of the 2002 realignment. The Carolina Panthersjoined the NFC in 1995.

As of 2020, the only pre-merger team that does not play in its 1969 market is the St. Louis Cardinals, who moved in 1988 to Phoenix suburb of Tempe (they moved to Glendale in 2006) to become the Arizona Cardinals. The Los Angeles Rams, moved to St. Louis in 1995 but moved back to Los Angeles in 2016. None of the expansion teams added after 1970 have relocated. With the exception of the mentioned relocations since that time, the divisional setup established in 2002 has remained static ever since.

Super Bowl success

Parity is generally greater among NFC teams than AFC teams. The only NFC team that has never made a Super Bowl appearance is the Detroit Lions.

Since the 2002 division realignment, the NFC has sent 12 different teams to the Super Bowl, whereas the AFC has only sent 7. The only NFC team to make back to back Super Bowls since 2002 are the Seattle Seahawks.

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