The NFC Championship Game is the annual championship game of the National Football Conference (NFC) and one of the two semi-final playoff games of the National Football League (NFL), the largest professional American football league in the United States. The game is played on the penultimate Sunday in January by the two remaining playoff teams, following the NFC postseason's first two rounds. The NFC champion then advances to face the winner of the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game in the Super Bowl.
The game was established as part of the 1970 merger between the NFL and the American Football League (AFL), with the merged league realigning into two conferences. Since 1984, each winner of the NFC Championship Game has also received the George Halas Trophy, named after the founder and longtime owner of the NFL's Chicago Bears, George Halas.
The first NFC Championship Game was played following the 1970 regular season after the merger between the NFL and the American Football League. The game is considered the successor to the original NFL Championship, and its game results are listed with that of its predecessor in the annual NFL Record and Fact Book. Since the pre-merger NFL consisted of six more teams than the AFL, a realignment was done as part of the merger to create two conferences with an equal number of teams: The NFL's Baltimore Colts, the Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers joined the ten former AFL teams to form the AFC; while the remaining 13 pre-merger NFL clubs formed the NFC.
Every NFC team has played in an NFC Championship at least once. The Seattle Seahawks, who have been members in both the AFC and the NFC, hold the distinction of appearing in both conference title games. Only the Detroit Lions have yet to win or host an NFC Championship Game. The San Francisco 49ers have the most appearances in the NFC Championship Game at 15, and have hosted the most at 9. The Dallas Cowboys have won the most NFC Championships at 8.
At the end of each regular season, a series of playoff games involving the top six teams in the NFC are conducted. In the current (since 2002–03 season) NFL playoff structure, this consists of the four division champions and two wild card teams (those clubs that possess the two best win-loss records after the regular season yet fail to win their division). The two teams remaining following the Wild Card round (first round) and the divisional round (second round) play in the NFC Championship game.
Initially, the site of the game was determined on a rotating basis. Since the 1975–76 season, the site of the NFC Championship has been based on playoff seeding based on the regular season won-loss record, with the highest surviving seed hosting the game. A wild card team can only host the game if both participants are wild cards, in which case the fifth seed would host the sixth seed. Such an instance has never occurred in the NFL.
George Halas Trophy
Beginning with 1984-85 season, the winner of the NFC Championship Game has received the George Halas Trophy, named after the longtime owner and coach of the Chicago Bears, a charter member of the NFL. The original design consisted of a wooden base with a sculpted NFC logo in the front and a sculpture of various football players in the back.
It, and the Lamar Hunt Trophy that is awarded to the AFC champion, were redesigned for the 2010–11 NFL playoffs by Tiffany & Co. at the request of the NFL in an attempt to make both awards more significant. The trophies are now a new, silver design with the outline of a hollow football positioned on a small base to more closely resemble the Vince Lombardi Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl.
The George Halas Trophy should not be confused with the Newspaper Enterprise Association's George S. Halas Trophy which was awarded to the NFL's defensive player of the year from 1966 to 1996 or the Pro Football Writers Association's George S. Halas Courage Award.
List of NFC Championship Games
^ a: Overtime
^ b: Includes appearances during their first tenure in Los Angeles (the 1970 merger to 1994), where they went 1–6 in NFC Championship Games; and their period as the St. Louis Rams (1995–2015), where they went 2–0 in NFC Championship Games.
^ c: The Seahawks were members of the NFC in 1976 and then members of the AFC from 1977 to 2001, before rejoining the NFC in 2002. Including their only appearance in the AFC Championship Game (0–1), they hold a combined 3–1 record between both Conference Championship Games.
NFC Championship Game records
- Most victories: 8 – Dallas Cowboys (1970–1971, 1975, 1977–1978, 1992–1993, 1995)
- Most losses: 9 – San Francisco 49ers (1970–1971, 1983, 1990, 1992–1993, 1997, 2011, 2013)
- Most appearances: 15 – San Francisco 49ers (1970–1971, 1981, 1983–1984, 1988–1990, 1992–1994, 1997, 2011–2013)
- Most consecutive appearances: 4 (tie, 2 teams, 3 times) Dallas Cowboys (1970–1973, 1992–1995) Philadelphia Eagles (2001–2004)
- Most consecutive victories: 2 – (tie, 6 teams, 8 times) Dallas Cowboys (1970–1971, 1977–1978, 1992–1993) Minnesota Vikings (1973–1974) Washington Redskins (1982–1983) San Francisco 49ers (1988–1989) Green Bay Packers (1996–1997) Seattle Seahawks (2013–2014)
- Most victories without a loss: 5 – New York Giants (1986, 1990, 2000, 2007, 2011)
- Most appearances without a win: 1 – Detroit Lions (1991)
- Most consecutive appearances without a win: 6 – Minnesota Vikings (1977, 1987, 1998, 2000, 2009, 2017)
- Most defensive shutouts: 2; – New York Giants (Jan 11, 1987, 17–0 vs Redskins and Jan 14, 2001, 41–0 vs Vikings)
- Most times shut out: 2; – Los Angeles Rams (Jan 7, 1979, 0–28 vs Cowboys and Jan 12, 1986, 0–24 vs Bears)
- Most consecutive losses: 3 – (tie, 3 times) Los Angeles Rams (1974–1976) Dallas Cowboys (1980–1982) Philadelphia Eagles (2001–2003)
- Most games hosted: 9 – San Francisco 49ers (1970, 1981, 1984, 1989–1990, 1992, 1994, 1997, 2011)
- Most numerous matchup: 6 – Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers (1970–1971, 1981, 1992–1994)
- Most points scored: 49 points – January 24, 2016 – Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals (2015)
- Largest margin of victory: 41 points – January 14, 2001 (2000), New York Giants (41) vs. Minnesota Vikings (0)
- Closest margin of victory: 1 point – San Francisco 49ers (28) vs. Dallas Cowboys (27), 1981 NFC Championship Game
- Fewest points scored, winning team: 9 [[CITE|›|undefined]] ; January 6, 1980 (1979) – Los Angeles Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Fewest points scored: 0; (tie, 5 teams, 6 times) Los Angeles Rams 0 vs Dallas Cowboys 28 January 7, 1979 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0 vs Los Angeles Rams 9 January 6, 1980 Chicago Bears 0 vs San Francisco 49ers 23 January 6, 1985 Los Angeles Rams 0 vs Chicago Bears 24 January 12, 1986 Washington Redskins 0 vs New York Giants 17 January 11, 1987 Minnesota Vikings 0 vs New York Giants 41 January 14, 2001
- Most points scored, losing team: 28 (tie); January 15, 1995 (1994) – Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers, January 24, 2010 (2009) – Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
- Most combined points scored: 66; January 15, 1995 (1994) – San Francisco 49ers (38) vs. Dallas Cowboys (28)
- Fewest combined points scored: 9; January 6, 1980 (1979) – Los Angeles Rams (9) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0)
- Longest game: 71 minutes, 52 seconds; January 17, 1999 (1998) – Atlanta Falcons (30) @ Minnesota Vikings (27), OT
- Most NFC Championships won in overtime: 2 – New York Giants (2007, 2011)
- Most NFC Championships lost in overtime: 2 (tie) – Green Bay Packers (2007, 2014) Minnesota Vikings (1998, 2009)
- Current teams which have never hosted an NFC Championship Game: Detroit Lions
- Current teams which have never won an NFC Championship: Detroit Lions (0–1)
- Longest drought without appearing in an NFC Championship Game: 26 years Detroit Lions (last appearance – 1991) Washington Redskins (last appearance – 1991)
- Longest drought without an NFC Championship: 48 years; Detroit Lions
- Largest comeback: 17 points (trailed 17–0; won 28–24), San Francisco 49ers, 2012
- Overtime games: 1998 Atlanta Falcons 30 Minnesota Vikings 27 2007 New York Giants 23 Green Bay Packers 20 2009 New Orleans Saints 31 Minnesota Vikings 28 2011 New York Giants 20 San Francisco 49ers 17 2014 Seattle Seahawks 28 Green Bay Packers 22 2018 Los Angeles Rams 26 New Orleans Saints 23
- Tied for Conference Championship record
- ^ : Conference Championship record
- 2006: 35.233 million viewers; post gun: 24.641 million; post-game: 15.279 million
- 2007: million viewers; post-game: million    
- 2008: million viewers; post-game: million  
- 2009: million viewers; post-game: 23.83 million (10:27pm–11:02pm)  
- 2010: 57.9 million viewers  
- 2011: 51.9 million viewers;
- 2012: 57.6 million viewers   ; Post Game: million  
- 2013: 42.0 million viewers; post-game: million  
- 2014: 55.91 million viewers (peak: 66.3 million viewers); (6:42-9:59pm); post-game (9:55-9:59pm): 44.903 million   ; The OT (9:59-10:19pm): 30.339 million viewers      
- 2015: 49.8 million viewers (peak: 60.5 million viewers); The OT: 16.280 million viewers (6:40-7:06pm)