Each NFC team will play the other teams in their respective division twice (home and away) during the regular season, in addition to 10 other games assigned to their schedule by the NFL. Two of these games are assigned on the basis of a particular team's final divisional standing from the previous season. The remaining 8 games are split between the roster of two other NFL divisions. This assignment shifts each year and will follow a standard cycle. Using the 2012 regular season schedule as an example, each team in the NFC West will have played against every team in the AFC East and NFC North. In this way, non-divisional competition will be mostly among common opponents - the exception being the two games assigned based on the team's prior-season divisional standing.
At the end of each season, the top six teams in the conference will proceed into the playoff. These teams will consist of the four division winners and the top two wild card teams. The NFC playoffs culminate in the NFC Championship Game with the winner receiving the George Halas Trophy. The NFC Champion will then play 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. 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 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.
However, 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, and then the plan that was eventually selected was picked out of a glass bowl by then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle's secretary, on January 16, 1970.
The five alignment plans for the NFC in 1970 were as follows, with Plan 3 eventually selected: Plan 1 Eastern - Atlanta, Minnesota, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington Central - Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, New Orleans Western - Dallas, Los Angeles Rams, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco
Plan 2 Eastern - Minnesota, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington Central - Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, St. Louis Cardinals Western - Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco
Plan 3 Eastern - Dallas, New York Giants, Philadelphia, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Central - Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota Western - Atlanta, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans, San Francisco
Plan 4 Eastern - Minnesota, New York Giants, Philadelphia, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Central - Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay Western - Dallas, New Orleans, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco
Plan 5 Eastern - Detroit, Minnesota, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington Central - Chicago, Dallas, Green Bay, St. Louis Cardinals Western - Atlanta, Los Angeles Rams, 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 Panthers joined the NFC in 1995.
Since the 2002 realignment, no NFC team has made back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. Since 2001--when the St. Louis Rams lost Super Bowl XXXVI to the New England Patriots--the NFC has sent 11 of 16 teams to the Super Bowl, with only Atlanta (which appeared in Super Bowl XXXIII just three years prior), Dallas (last appeared in Super Bowl XXX), Detroit (never appeared in a Super Bowl), Minnesota (last appeared in Super Bowl XI, currently the longest such drought in the NFC), and Washington (last appeared in Super Bowl XXVI) having not appeared for the conference, although the Falcons and Vikings have appeared in the NFC Championship Game in that span. By contrast, the AFC have sent either the Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, or the Pittsburgh Steelers in every year in that same span except for 2002, when the Oakland Raiders lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII, and 2012, when the Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
The original NFC logo, in use from 1970–2009, depicted a blue 'N' with three stars across it. The three stars represented the three divisions that were used from 1970-2001 (Eastern, Central and Western). The 2010 NFL season brought an updated NFC logo. Largely similar to the old logo, the new logo has a fourth star, representing the four divisions that have composed the NFC since 2002.