Carolina NFC South champs, but trail Saints

The Carolina Panthers rank behind the New Orleans Saints when it comes to the top team in the NFC South.

In terms of popularity, that is.

In ESPN's latest FiveThirtyEight blog, Nate Silver and Ritchie King came up with the most popular North American professional sports teams between the NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and the English Premier League, according to the number of Google searches they generate.

For my purposes, I focused on the NFC South. The Saints came in 29th among all the leagues with a Google traffic rating of 1.78. Carolina, the reigning NFC South champion, was next at 1.42, followed by Atlanta at 1.19 and Tampa Bay at 0.91.

None of these compare with the Dallas Cowboys, the top NFL team with a rating of 4.45. And the Cowboys rank third overall behind the New York Yankees (5.83) and Boston Red Sox (5.69).

But for a small-market team, Carolina's numbers were respectable with 12 teams falling below them. Only 13 NFL teams ranked above a 2.00. The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks came in at 1.84.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, who came into the NFL in 1995 with Carolina, ranked last among NFL teams at 0.64.

If you like numbers and ranking as I do, you may enjoy looking at the complete rankings. Here's the link to Silver's story: http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/theres-a-big-five-in-north-american-pro-sports/.