The NFL Conference Structure

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National Football Conference (NFC) Teams

The oldest of the two conferences is The National Football Conference (NFC) consists of the following 16 teams split into the following divisions:

NFC West

  • Arizona Cardinals
  • Los Angeles Rams
  • San Francisco 49ers
  • Seattle Seahawks

NFC North

  • Chicago Bears
  • Detroit Lions
  • Minnesota Vikings
  • Green Bay Packers

NFC East

  • Dallas Cowboys
  • New York Giants
  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Washington Redskins

NFC South

  • Atlanta Falcons
  • Carolina Panthers
  • New Orleans Saints
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers

American Football Conference (AFC) Teams

The NFCs younger and fresher brother is the American Football Conference. This is broken down into four divisions as follows:

AFC East

  • Buffalo Bills
  • Miami Dolphins
  • New England Patriots
  • New York Jets

AFC West

  • Denver Broncos
  • Oakland Raiders
  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Los Angeles Chargers

AFC South

  • Indianapolis Colts
  • Houston Texans
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Tennessee Titans

AFC North

  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Cleveland Browns
  • Cincinnati Bengals
  • Pittsburgh Steelers

The two conferences have been split into divisions for many reasons. Firstly, it makes scheduling easier and it helps with playoff seedings. It’s also no secret that this is part of the reason that there are such bubbling rivalries.

Ultimately, the NFL scheduling system runs on a formula that is wholly dependent on the division system. Every team plays will play the three other teams in their division twice (six games) once against every opponent from a different division (four games), then twice against the two teams that finished in the position as them in the respective division from the same conference and then once against every team from another division in the opposing conference (on a rotational basis).

This divisional system not only protects, but also promotes rivalries in the different divisions by making sure that there are two games each regular season against the other teams in the same division – for example, all the teams in the NFC West division have deep rivalries because they play each other at least twice every single regular-season.

The Conference Structure

Before the start of the regular season, there are three or four preseason games assigned to each of the teams, with the most recent champion of the previous season having four games. These aren’t considered to be very competitive and are generally used as warm-up games and practice games, where the head coach decides the players’ forms and how then starts to strategize the regular season.

When the regular season starts, each team will have a schedule of seventeen games that takes place over eighteen weeks, with one week off during the season. The team that manages to achieve the best win-loss record in their division will win the Division title and get an automatic place in the NFL playoffs. The four division winners will be joined with the three teams in their conference that didn’t win the division title but managed to get the next best win-loss records.

After the regular season comes to an end, at the beginning of January, this is when the playoffs begin.

The Playoffs

The playoffs start in January and include the seven best teams from the NFC and the seven best teams from the AFC. Even at this point, the teams remain in their own conference. The top-seeded team in each conference (the team with the best win-loss record overall), gets a free pass to the next round of the playoffs, with seed 2 playing seed 7, seed 3 playing seed 6 and seed 4 playing seed 5. The highest seed team always gets the home stadium advantage.

The winners of the three games, plus the top seed player will then play in the second round – and the winners of those two games will play in the conference final. To be crowned either the AFC or NFC Champion.

The National Football League Super Bowl

The AFC and NFC playoffs culminate in the Super Bowl – where the winning NFC team plays the winning NFC team to be crowned the NFL champion that year – and be considered the best of all the other teams.

The Super Bowl is the pinnacle of the NFL year – the most popular major league sport in the country – and each team will pull out all the stops to make it to the super bowl and raise the trophy.

The History of the NFL Conferences

The two conference structure of the National Football League took place when the AFL and the NFL merged in 1970. It then simply kept the National Football League title – as the older of the two leagues. and the former AFL teams became a part of one big NFL league.

At the beginning of the merger, it was very unevenly balanced with different divisions having different numbers of teams in the league. However, the Houston Texans joined the NFL in 2002 and this meant it could finally reorganise into a more balanced league. It was this that led to the conference and division set up that we can see now – with sixteen teams in each conference, each split into four divisions of four teams.

The Differences Between the AFC and the NFC

Overall, both the National Football Conference and American Football Conference are pretty similar and they work in the same way with the same set-up. Each year, teams in the same division will play teams from a different division and conference. So, for example, one year the NFC East teams will play all the teams in the AFC West. Then, the following year it will rotate so that the NFC East teams will play the teams in the AFC North. Every team will play two games on the road and two games at home.

Overall, since the introduction of the Super Bowl, they have proven to be pretty evenly matched, with the NFC having just about won the most titles – at 27, compared to the AFC just one title behind at 26.

NFL Conference FAQs

What are the Two NFL Conferences?

The 32 members of the League were divided into two conference groups, namely, the American Football Conference (AFCF) and the National Football Conference. All 16 teams belong to East, North, South and Western Divisions and are distributed by region. All divisions contain four teams.

How is NFC and AFC divided?

The NFC and AFC are both a part of the National Football League. The league is split into two equal conferences, the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC) which both have sixteen teams each. Both of these conferences are split into four region divisions – North, South, East and West, with four teams in each.

Which is the Most Successful Conference?

Since the origin of the Super Bowl, it has been very close between the two. However, in terms of Super Bowl wins, the NFC slightly has the edge, winning 27 compared to the AFCs 26. So, up until 2021, the most successful conference has been the National Football Conference. However, the two most successful teams are from the AFC. The New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers have both won the Super Bowl twice and play for the AFC East Division and AFC North Division respectively.

Who are the NFCs Most Successful Teams?

Although the two teams that have been the most successful overall have been from the AFC, there have been some very successful NFC teams. The Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers have both won the trophy five teams each and play in the NFC East and NFC West divisions respectively. Following this success are the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants who have both won the Super Bowls four times and play for the NFCs North Division and East Division.

Who are the Current Teams in the NFC?

The sixteen teams that currently play in the NFC are the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Football Team, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks.

Which Teams Currently Play for the AFC?

The current teams in the AFC are Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, Indiana Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers.

What is the NFC Logo?

The original NFC logo, which was used between 1970 and 2009 was a blue ‘N’ with three stars. These three stars were representative of the three divisions at that time (Eastern, Western and Central). However, there was a new logo in 2010 but it added an extra star with the fourth star representing the new four-division structure.