The National Football Conference’s South Division – most often referred to as the NFC South is one of the National Football Conference (NFC) four divisions alongside NFC East, NFC North and NFC West as a part of the National Football League (NFL). The division was created when the National Football League realigned divisions back in 2002 when it expanded to 32 teams.
The NFC South division has four member clubs:
- The Atlanta Falcons,
- The Carolina Panthers,
- The New Orleans Saints,
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The most successful of the NFC South teams is the New Orleans Saints – having won seven titles up until the 2020 season.
NFC South History
Before the start of the NFL’s 2002 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a part of the AFC West Division before moving to the NFC Central (now NFC North) Division between 1977-2001 – moving over to the NFC South in 2002. The other three teams that joined the Buccaneers came over from the inaccurately named NFC West Division
The NFC South Division is one of only two teams (the NFC West being the other) that has had every single member make it to the Super Bowl at least once since 2002. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (twice – 2002, 2020), Atlanta Falcons (once – 2016), Carolina Panthers (twice – 2005, 2015), New Orleans Saints (once – 2009). This is also the only division in the league where all of its teams have won at least three division titles.
The New Orleans Saints
By the start of the 2019 season, it was the New Orleans Saints that had managed the most wins in the division. However, overall, their franchise has a losing record. The highlight of their history is the Super Bowl XLIV win.
The Atlanta Falcons
Then there is the Atlanta Falcons, which also has an overall losing record to date. The team has reached the Super Bowl twice – Super Bowl XXXIII and Super Bowls LI but lost both times.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Another team with an overall losing record is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, they have won the Super Bowl twice out of two appearances – Super Bowl XXXVII and again at Super Bowl LV.
The Carolina Panthers
This is the fourth team – and yet another with an overall losing regular-season record. Despite having the best playoff winning percentage, they have lost both of the Super Bowls they have played in – Super Bowl XXXVIII and Super Bowl 50.
Out of all the divisions, the NFC South is the only division that doesn’t include any member teams that are older than 1960 (and the launch of the AFL). The division’s oldest team is the Atlanta Falcons, which started playing in 1966 – with the Saints starting just one year later in 1967. This is the only NFC division that only has teams post-dating 1960.
A Losing Winner
In five years, the NFC South division became the second division to crown its Division Champion despite them having an overall losing record when in 2014, the Carolina Panthers won the division title with a record of 7-8-1. The Panthers were also the first team to win two consecutive NFC South Champions titles since the division was created. The team also was the first to win three consecutive times between 2013 and 2015.
However, it was the New Orleans Saints that was the first to win the title four times in a row, between 2017 and 2020. It was only in 2018 that two NFC South teams met in the NFL playoffs, up until this point, it was the only division in the entire league that had never had two teams face each other in the postseason.
NFC South Team Division Champions
Here are the NFC South records from 2002 up until 2020
- Season Team Record Playoff Results
- 2002 Buccaneers 12–4 Won Super Bowl XXXVII vs. Raiders 48–21
- 2003 Carolina Panthers 11–5 Lost Super Bowl XXXVIII vs. Patriots 29–32
- 2004 Atlanta Falcons 11–5Lost NFC Championship
- 2005 Buccaneers 11–5 Lost Wild Card playoffs
- 2006 New Orleans Saints 10–6 Lost NFC Championship
- 2007 Buccaneers 9–7 Lost Wild Card playoffs
- 2008 Carolina Panthers 12–4 Lost Divisional playoffs
- 2009 New Orleans Saints 13–3 Won Super Bowl XLIV vs. Colts 31–17
- 2010 Atlanta Falcons 13–3 Lost Divisional playoffs
- 2011 New Orleans Saints 13–3 Lost Divisional playoffs
- 2012 Atlanta Falcons 13–3 Lost NFC Championship
- 2013 Carolina Panthers 12–4 Lost Divisional playoffs
- 2014 Carolina Panthers 7–8–1 Lost Divisional playoffs
- 2015 Carolina Panthers 15–1 Lost Super Bowl 50 vs. Broncos 10–24
- 2016 Atlanta Falcons 11–5 Lost Super Bowl LI vs. Patriots 28–34
- 2017 New Orleans Saints 11–5 Lost Divisional playoffs
- 2018 New Orleans Saints 13–3 Lost NFC Championship
- 2019 New Orleans Saints 13–3 Lost Wild Card playoffs
- 2020 New Orleans Saints 12–4 Lost Divisional playoffs
- Year Opponents Interconference Opponents Intraconference
- 2019 2031 AFC South NFC West
- 2020 2032 AFC West NFC North
- 2021 2033 AFC East NFC East
- 2022 2034 AFC North NFC West
- 2023 2035 AFC South NFC North
- 2024 2036 AFC West NFC East
- 2025 2037 AFC East NFC West
- 2026 2038 AFC North NFC North
- 2027 2039 AFC South NFC East
- 2028 2040 AFC West NFC West
- 2029 2041 AFC East NFC North
- 2030 2042 AFC North NFC East
NFC South in the Postseason
Between 2003 and 2009, the trend was usually that the team that came last in the division the previous season would manage to reach the finals the next year – often as the winner of the division. This trend was only broken by Tampa Bay in 2010 when they lost in a tiebreaker to the Green Bay Packers:
- In 2002, The Carolina Panthers finished last then finished first in 2003
- In 2003, The Atlanta Falcons finished last but came first in 2004
- In 2004, Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished last and in 2005 they came first
- In 2005, New Orleans Saints finished last but in 2006 they finished first
- In 2006, Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished last but came first in 2007
- In 2007, Atlanta Falcons finished last but finished second in 2007 with a wild-card berth
- In 2008, New Orleans Saints came last but finished first the following year in 2009.
- In 2009, Tampa Bay finished last – and although they came third in 2010, they didn’t make the playoffs as Green Bay Packers held the wild-card tiebreaker.
This means that between 2002 and 2009, there was no NFC South team that managed two consecutive back to back appearances in the playoffs. It wasn’t until the 2010 season that the New Orleans Saints got a wild-card berth and managed to become the first NFC South team to manage two playoff appearances in a row. They then built on this achievement in 2011 by getting their third consecutive appearance in the NFL playoffs. This feat was matched in 2010-2012 by the Atlanta Falcons and again by the Carolina Panthers between 2013 and 2015.
This is one of the most evenly matched divisions in the entire NFL. Every team in the division has won the NFC South title three times or more – and managed to reach the playoffs at least three times since the division was created. Moreover, every single team has ended up bottom of the division at least twice – and before 2012, none of the teams had finished at the bottom of the division twice in a row. The first team to do this was Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Every season between 2002 to 2011, there was a definite last-place finisher – and there was never the need for a tie-breaker to decide which team ended up bottom of the pile. However, this streak ended in 2012 when the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers all finished with a 7-9 record. This was repeated in 2013 after both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons ended the season with a 4-12 season.
The Carolina Panthers were the first team that successfully managed to defend its NFC South title in 2014 – and this feat wasn’t achieved again until New Orleans defeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a second straight season win. It was also in 2014 that the Panthers became only the second team in the history of the NFL to win its division and make it through to the playoffs despite having a losing record. The only team to have previously managed this was the NFC West’s Seattle Seahawks in 2010, who managed to defeat New Orleans in a wild card match.
When the Atlanta Falcons won the 2016-17 NFC Championship, the division was the first one since the NFL realignment in 2002 to have each one of its four members represent it in the Super Bowl.
NFC South Division FAQs
Who Leads the NFC South Division?
In terms of division wins, the New Orleans Saints have won the most with seven wins, followed by the Carolina Panthers with 5 wins, Atlanta Falcons with 4 wins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 3 wins.
When Did Tampa Bay Join the NFC South?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers joined in 2002 when the divisions were realigned, moving over from the NFC North Division.