Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
That's according to ESPN.com, which used a formula concocted by NFC West colleague Mike Sando, who works part time as a rocket scientist, as well as a little bit of the human touch. I argued Tampa Bay's Super Bowl title should move them up a few spots higher than their ranking by the formula and Sando agreed.
The Bucs ranked ninth in the league and were the only NFC South team with a winning percentage over .500 for the decade. Carolina ranked No. 13, which seems pretty fair on the surface.
But I'd like to throw out a couple of scenarios that demonstrate just how close Carolina was to cracking the top 10. Let's suppose George Seifert's 1-15 disaster of 2001 never happened. The Bucs have 76 wins this decade. The Panthers have 71. Let's say Seifert's last season was a 6-10 year and the Panthers would have as many wins as the Bucs.
Carolina also came a lot closer to winning in their one Super Bowl appearance than a lot of people remember. If the Panthers had beaten the Patriots in Houston, they probably would be ranked ahead of Tampa Bay.
The Saints ranked No. 19 and the Falcons No. 21, which goes to show the importance of putting together back-to-back winning seasons. That's been nearly impossible for the NFC South teams throughout their existence.