As a Buccaneers’ fan, you may or may not be capable of rooting for the Falcons, who will be hosting the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game next week. We can understand either decision here in the Captain’s Blog, but one thing is undeniable: The NFC South has been the NFL’s most competitive division, across the board, since it was created during the 2002 realignment.
Atlanta’s advancement to the NFC title game didn’t really change that. The Bucs’ division was already the only one of the eight that had already sent all four of its teams to a conference championship game. Tampa Bay went en route to capturing the title in 2002, and New Orleans did the same in 2009. Carolina went to the NFC Championship Game in both 2003 and 2005, making it to the Super Bowl in ’03 before losing to New England. Atlanta was there in 2004, losing to Philly.
No other division can match that this year. San Francisco is the third NFC West team to make it to the conference title team, but St. Louis is still left out. New England, obviously, has been there multiple times, as has Baltimore.
Again, whether or not you can stand to root for Atlanta is your business, but it’s worth noting that the South could also be the first division since realignment to get all four of its teams into the Super Bowl. The Bucs’ division is already the only one that has crowned two different Super Bowl champions, and there’s a chance, of course, that could become three this year.
The Buccaneers kicked off the NFL’s newest division in grand fashion in 2002, winning Super Bowl XXXVII. Since then, no other division has consistently been in the running for the title as the NFC South. Whether or not you root for other teams in the division, it’s clear that winning in the NFC South really means something, and that is good for the Buccaneers.