Falcons' loss to Bucs gives Panthers third straight NFC South title

NEW ORLEANS -- Atlanta's 23-19 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday gave the Carolina Panthers their third consecutive NFC South title, even before the Panthers' 41-38 win over the New Orleans Saints.

Prior to last season, no NFC South team had won consecutive division crowns.

Atlanta and Tampa Bay are tied for second in the division at 6-6.

The Panthers (12-0) own a two-game lead over Arizona for the best record in the NFC in the battle for home field-advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Cardinals improved to 10-2 with a 27-3 win over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera insisted all week that his team's focus was winning at New Orleans -- not clinching the division or the possibility of going 16-0 in the regular season.

The Panthers have won 16 regular-season games dating to a 41-10 victory at New Orleans last season. That is the longest streak since the NFC was formed.