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NFC South once again flexes its muscles as strong playoff division

If Atlanta beats New England in Super Bowl LI, three of the NFC South's teams will have a title since 2002. Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The NFC South often gets referred to as one of the weaker divisions in the NFL, but playoff history says otherwise.

The Atlanta Falcons 44-21 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday means the division will be represented in the Super Bowl for the second straight year -- the Carolina Panthers went last season -- and the fifth time since the league realigned to form the division in 2002.

Only the West in the NFC has as many Super Bowl appearances in that span, and only the AFC East with six (all the New England Patriots) has more overall during that period.

Since realignment, the NFC South is the only division to have each of its four teams reach the Super Bowl. Only the AFC East and North with three each have more Super Bowl victories than the South with its two.

The South’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers won after the 2002 season and the New Orleans Saints after the 2009 season.

The South also has been represented in the NFC Championship Game nine times in the 15 years since realignment.

If Atlanta beats New England in Super Bowl LI, three of the South’s teams will have a title since 2002, with only the Panthers out of the mix. The South is tied with the AFC North (Pittsburgh Steelers 2, Baltimore Ravens 1) at two with the most teams that have won a Super Bowl in this span.

The South top to bottom might not be the strongest division every year. Only six times since 2002 has a second team qualified for the playoffs, and a third never has.

The NFC East has had a second team eight times and has been represented in the playoffs by three teams twice.

But if you’re judging on getting to the Super Bowl, the South has more than held its own.