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National Football Conference
National Football Conference logo (2010–present)
FormerlyNational Football League (NFL), pre–merger
LeagueNational Football League
SportAmerican football
No. of teams16
Most recent
San Francisco 49ers (8th title)
Most titlesDallas Cowboys
San Francisco 49ers (8 titles)

The National Football Conference (NFC) is one of the two conferences of the National Football League (NFL), the highest level of professional American football in the United States. The NFC and its counterpart, the American Football Conference (AFC), each have 16 teams organized into four divisions.

Both conferences were created as part of the 1970 NFL merger with the rival American Football League (AFL). All ten of the former AFL teams and three NFL teams formed the AFC while the remaining thirteen NFL clubs formed the NFC. A series of league expansions and division realignments have occurred since the merger, thus making a total of 16 clubs in each conference.

The defending NFC champions are the San Francisco 49ers, who defeated the Detroit Lions in the 2023 season's NFC Championship Game for their eighth conference championship in team history.


Since 2002, like the AFC, the NFC has 16 teams that organized into four divisions each with four teams: East, North, South, and West.

Division Team City Stadium
East Dallas Cowboys Arlington, Texas AT&T Stadium
New York Giants East Rutherford, New Jersey MetLife Stadium
Philadelphia Eagles Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Lincoln Financial Field
Washington Commanders Landover, Maryland FedExField
North Chicago Bears Chicago, Illinois Soldier Field
Detroit Lions Detroit, Michigan Ford Field
Green Bay Packers Green Bay, Wisconsin Lambeau Field
Minnesota Vikings Minneapolis, Minnesota U.S. Bank Stadium
South Atlanta Falcons Atlanta, Georgia Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Carolina Panthers Charlotte, North Carolina Bank of America Stadium
New Orleans Saints New Orleans, Louisiana Caesars Superdome
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tampa, Florida Raymond James Stadium
West Arizona Cardinals Glendale, Arizona State Farm Stadium
Los Angeles Rams Inglewood, California SoFi Stadium
San Francisco 49ers Santa Clara, California Levi's Stadium
Seattle Seahawks Seattle, Washington Lumen Field

Season structure

Main articles: NFL regular season and NFL playoffs

POS AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
1st Bills Ravens Texans Chiefs
2nd Dolphins Browns Jaguars Raiders
3rd Jets Steelers Colts Broncos
4th Patriots Bengals Titans Chargers
POS NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
1st Cowboys Lions Buccaneers 49ers
2nd Eagles Packers Saints Rams
3rd Giants Vikings Falcons Seahawks
4th Commanders Bears Panthers Cardinals
This chart of the 2023 season standings displays an application of the NFL scheduling formula. The 49ers in 2023 (highlighted in green) finished in first place in the NFC West. Thus, in 2024, the 49ers will play two games against each of its division rivals (highlighted in light blue), one game against each team in the NFC North and AFC East (highlighted in yellow), and one game each against the first-place finishers in the NFC East, NFC South (highlighted in orange) and AFC West (highlighted in pink).

The fourteen opponents each team faces over the 17-game regular season schedule are set using a pre-determined formula:

Each NFC team plays the other teams in their respective division twice (home and away) during the regular season, in addition to eleven other games assigned to their schedule by the NFL: three games are assigned on the basis of a particular team's final divisional standing from the previous season, and the remaining eight games are split between the roster of two other NFL divisions. This assignment shifts each year and will follow a standard cycle. Using the 2023 regular season schedule as an example, each team in the NFC East plays against every team in the NFC West and AFC East. In this way, non-divisional competition will be mostly among common opponents – the exception being the three games assigned based on the team's prior-season divisional standing.

At the end of each season, the four division winners and three wild cards (non-division winners with best regular season record) in the NFC qualify for the playoffs. The NFC playoffs culminate in the NFC Championship Game with the winner receiving the George S. Halas Trophy. The NFC champion then plays the AFC champion in the Super Bowl.


Both the AFC and NFC were created after the NFL merged with the American Football League (AFL) in 1970.[1] 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,[2] on January 16, 1970.[3]

The five alignment plans for the NFC in 1970 were as follows, with Plan 3 eventually selected:

Three expansion teams have joined the NFC since the merger, thus making the 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 Panthers joined the NFC in 1995.

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 -- all except the Lions, Vikings, Cowboys, and Commanders -- whereas the AFC has only sent 8: the Baltimore Ravens (1 time), the Cincinnati Bengals (1 time), the Las Vegas Raiders (1 time), the Kansas City Chiefs (2 times), the Denver Broncos (2 times), the Indianapolis Colts (2 times), the Pittsburgh Steelers (3 times) and the New England Patriots (8 times). The only NFC team to make back to back Super Bowls since 2002 are the Seattle Seahawks.

As of 2021, 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). 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 aforementioned relocations since that time, the divisional setup established in 2002 has remained static ever since.


CBS aired the NFC's Sunday afternoon and playoffs games from 1970 through the 1993 season. From 1994 to 2013, Fox was the primary rightsholder to the NFC's games. In those years, all interconference games in which the NFC team was the visiting team were broadcast on either CBS or Fox. Since 2014, the cross-flex policy allows select NFC games (that involve them playing an AFC team at home or intraconference games) to be moved from Fox to CBS. Since 1990, select NFC playoff games have been seen on ABC or ESPN.


  1. ^ "Pro Football – History". Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  2. ^ Anderson, Dave (February 27, 2000). "Sports of The Times; The Woman Who Aligned the N.F.C. Teams". The New York Times. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  3. ^ Stellino, Vito (October 7, 1999). "NFL to try realign play". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved January 24, 2010.
  4. ^ "National Football Conference Logo". Retrieved December 29, 2009.
  5. ^ Paul Lukas. "But I Absolutely Refuse to Write About the Draft Caps". Uni Watch blog. Archived from the original on May 6, 2010. Retrieved April 16, 2010.