Nine teams have lost a game by 30 or more points this year. The NFC West is responsible for five of them. Collectively, the NFC West has been outscored by 161 points, and is 9-15 in games outside of the division. Where does this year’s NFC West compare to the worst divisions of all time?
That depends on how we want to measure the worst divisions. If we go by win-loss records, then the NFC West’s current mark of 9-15 (0.375) would still be better than 19 other divisions since 1970. By that measure, the worst division was the NFC Central in 1984, which went 11-28-1. Of course, that division played the AFC West that year, which produced three different playoff teams with 11 or more wins, and the division winner Chicago Bears were an above average team (as were the 2nd place Packers); the Bears went 10-6 and advanced to the NFC Championship game.
Another measure of division strength is the average result. If we look at margin of victory, and adjust it by average opponent strength, we see that the NFC West is -6.8 points below average so far this year. Those results would rank this year’s NFC West tied for dead last among all divisions since the merger, with the same group of teams six years earlier (2004 NFC West) and the 1970 AFC East.
You may also want to evaluate the worst division by the quality of the best team in the division. At the halfway point, no team in the division has a winning record. We have seen, on rare occasion, divisions with winners at 8-8. It’s pretty rare, though, for the best team in the division to rate among the bottom teams in the league. Only twice has a division winner ranked 20th or below in the simple rating system. Those were both Seattle from this same division, going 9-7 in both 2004 and 2006. This year’s Rams currently rate as the best team in the division, and are 24th in the simple rating system, thanks to the 2nd easiest schedule. If they do not improve over the second half of the season, that would also rate as the “worst” best team of any division.
For those that want chaos and a division with a team having a losing record, which is possible this year, then you should be rooting for the two home teams today in the NFC West showdowns. San Francisco (2-6) hosts St. Louis (4-4), while Seattle (4-4) goes to Arizona (3-5). In fact, if you want that doomsday scenario, you should be rooting for San Francisco to do well within the division for the rest of the year. The 49ers still have tough road trips out of the division to Green Bay and San Diego, so they would basically have to be perfect in their other games (or win one of those) to get to 8-8. If they knock the rest of the division down, there are several scenarios where San Francisco wins the division on tiebreakers at 7-9.
[photo via Getty]