Pigskin Detention: NFC West needs some 'pundit' love
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 07, 2010
By Pat Imig
Cold, Hard Football Facts NFC West defender
The NFC West takes a beating from all corners of the country. Even the Cold, Hard Football Facts have labeled it the NFC Worst.
It's time for these pigskin "pundits" to acknowledge the division's postseason track record, which rivals that of most other quartets.
Len Pasquarelli is one of the biggest critics of the NFC West. He's a Pro Football Hall of Fame voter and has been writing about the NFL for 33 years. And he's had enough of this NFC West crap.
"The NFC West has won only 17 games combined, and currently is led by a couple of sub-.500 clubs [ed. note: heading into Week 13; both teams are now 6-6]. By comparison, the average number of victories by the first-place teams in the league's seven other divisions is a robust 7.7. No first-place team outside the NFC West has fewer than six wins."
And no first-place team outside the NFC West and AFC South has more than 7 wins. That's right; the AFC South leaders, the Jacksonville Jaguars, are 7-5. The Colts are next at 6-6. In the NFC West, the Rams and Seahawks are atop the division at 6-6. And the NFC West shouldn't have a representative in the playoffs. Both were 6-5 heading into Week 13, just one game better than the NFC West leaders.
"'Pretty much a disgrace,'" assessed one veteran player this week, who spent most of his career in the NFC West, but now labors in another division. "'But it's been that way, though, for a while now. I mean, it's not like (the NFC West) just got really bad this year or anything, right?'"
Who is the veteran player? Regardless, it should be pointed out that last year, the NFC West champion Cardinals defeated the Packers and then lost the following week to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Saints in the playoffs.
The AFC West didn't win one playoff game last year.
The previous year, the NFC West champion Cardinals won the NFC championship and lost a dramatic Super Bowl XLIII by 4 points to the Steelers (27-23).
The NFC South did not win one playoff game in 2008. The AFC East also failed to win one playoff game in 2008.
For a division so inept and undeserving of playoff opportunities, the NFC West sure has been competitive in recent postseasons.
"Only once, in 2003, have the NFC West teams combined for more than 30 wins. And that was the lone campaign in which the division managed a cumulative record of .500 or better."
The year 2003 is the lone year in which the NFC West failed to win at least one postseason game since the NFL re-aligned in 2002, so Pasquarelli can take his regular season combined divisional records and throw them down the toilet.
"What might make perceptions far worse this season is that all four clubs in the NFC West have been outscored and entering Week 13 has a combined point differential of minus-247. But the NFC West has twice since '02, in 2006 and 2004, had every one of its four teams outscored. In '04, the point differential was a horrific minus-306.
Funny thing here in 2010; the NFC West-leading Rams are -5 point in differential (232-237) whereas the AFC South leading Jaguars are -43 in point differential (257-300).
And the NFC West shouldn't have a representative in the playoffs?
"Former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst coaching candidate) [sic] Jon Gruden suggested during Monday night's San Francisco-Arizona snoozer that the NFC West winner forfeit its automatic playoff berth. You know, sort of like the Big East voluntarily ceding its BCS spot to someone more deserving".
That's not what Gruden said, exactly. Gruden suggested the NFC West winner should forfeit its automatic playoff berth if the first-place club has a record less than 8-8.
"Gruden, who generally talks out of both sides of his mouth, but typically isn't one to tweak the status quo, might actually be on to something."
What the hell did Jon Gruden do to Len Pasquarelli? Maybe he told ol' Len he was incorrigible, lazy and subscribed to unoriginal thought?
If Gruden didn't say that, pretend we did. And then heed the following fact: the NFC West has sent two representatives to the Super Bowl since the 2002 realignment. The AFC West has sent one, the Raiders in 2002. The NFC North has sent one representative as well, the Bears in 2006.
Here is how the eight divisions stack up in Super Bowl appearances since the realignment of 2002.
NFC South, AFC East – 3
NFC West, NFC East, AFC South, AFC South – 2
NFC North, AFC West – 1
Rather than compare divisions the same way we compare individual teams (as Pasquarelli does), we defer to Fox's Howie Long for some rational thinking on this subject.
"Talk this week suggested a 7-9 division winner shouldn't even be in the playoffs, but I disagree. Teams should be rewarded for winning their divisions. If you wanted to prevent a sub-par division winner from hosting a wildcard team with a stronger record, fine. Force the division winner to travel, take away the home game but keep the division winner in the playoffs.
"Why keep the allegedly weaker playoff team? Because anything can and does happen in the NFL playoffs, and that's a good
Pat Kirwan at NFL.com offers something similar:
"The more I watch how the 2010 season is unfolding, the more I think it is time to visit the concept of "reseeding" after the six playoff teams in each conference are determined. I still like the idea of division winners making the playoffs, even if they go 7-9, but I don't think they deserve a home game."
Sorry to put a pin in your cushion column, Len, but somebody had to do it.
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