Not one person outside of Arizona thinks the Cardinals were better than the Panthers this year.
2. San Francisco
4. New Orleans
5. ...Denver? Maybe?
One bad game by one team does not define the AFC. You are presenting this as though it's the Western Conference in the NBA after Jordan retired.
The Ravens won the Super Bowl last year. The Colts improved a lot. The Patriots would never lose like that in a SB.
The NFC has won 4 of the last 5 super bowls, but the Giants missed the playoffs this year, Packers barely were in, Saints missed it two years ago.
The league isn't as simple as you're making it. Would be nice if it were. Also the Seahawks became the best after three or so years. The 49ers the same. So next year a team in the AFC or NFC could come out of nowhere ( like the rams in the late 90s).
And as I said before, even if we're second best in the NFC, it doesn't count for much. The Broncos got to go to the big dance while we didn't even get a playoff win.
IF it makes you feel good go ahead and give them the bronze medal before free agency or the draft.