Perhaps like me you pay close attention to what's going on in the NFC West, probably unlike me you think the division is worse than satanic puppy rituals and it's beyond blasphemy to allow the winner to host a playoff game or even be in the post-season.
May I remind all NFC West critics however that the NFC West has been presented in the Divisional Round or better since 1992, or if you prefer to count since the 4 team format came in 2002, since 2002. Though yes in 2004 the Seahawks and Rams faced off against eachother meaning at least one NFC West team was guaranteed a spot in the Divisional round, two NFC West teams made the playoffs so I'd call that a wash sooner than a break in the streak.
On to the point, the NFC West is one of the most intriguing divisions, in the entire NFL, because no team is out, be it mathematically and realistically, to give you a rundown on how each team could feasibly win the division:
The Arizona Cardinals
The NFC West team with the worst net points, a negative 104 could well be 5-5 had they a competent pass defense and a viable franchise Quarterback.
The bad news is they have lost 5 in a row, worse news is the last two games seem to indicate team morale is at a lower altitude than Mexico City, and that's not a compliment to either.
The good news is that the NFC West has a bottom level of 7-9, meaning that going 4-2 down the stretch could result in a division win, for a team that started 3-2 that isn't impossible. Better yet is the fact the Cardinals do hold a tiebreak over the Rams, a second win could be all they need to win in a logjam.
The realistic perspective indicates a Monday Night win against San Fran is mandatory, a loss in effect ends the Cardinals season, though the Cards face the Broncos, Panthers and Cowboys, factoring in the Rams and another game against the 49ers that smells of an extremely easy schedule, on paper, but the Cardinals have to show determination and resolve to win, and historically against the 49ers they don't seem to perform well, even when they had Warner and Boldin, remember how the 49ers ruined the 2007 season right?
Below is the schedule and the minimum requirements for a division win:
vs. 49ers, must win
vs. Rams, must win
vs. Broncos, must win
@ Panthers, can lose
vs. Cowboys, can lose
@ 49ers, it could come down to the last game of the season, if Cards were sitting at 7-8 with a tiebreak already in hand against the Rams, a win against the 49ers would probably be enough to take the crown, but this would depend on how well the Seahawks do, meaning not winning more than two of their last six.
The San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers were the heavy favorites to win the division this year, including myself who picked them to go 12-4 ( I love the NFC West what would you have me do? ). An 0-5 start would mean game over for most teams, but unlike the 04 Bills and 09 Titans, a 9-7 finish would probably be overkill.
The bad news is the 49ers 3-7 record, they've blown several games and they seriously did bring this on themselves, the team at times seemed dis-coordinated and if you heard the " We Want Carr " chants you probably thought the apocalypse had come. Troy Smith has lead the team to a 2-1 record with him at the helm so maybe Singletery finally made the right choice.
The good news is the fact the 49ers have 4 division games left, including two against the seemingly disinterested Cardinals and one more against the Rams who they already beat once and the Seahawks who they could avenge the week 1 loss and split the series. If the 49ers were to win all their remaining division games, they would probably be sitting comfortably, again depending on how the Seahawks play their other games, the toss up would be with the Packers and Chargers games. The 49ers may find themselves lucky if the Chargers are bumped out of the race for #2 seed in the AFC, but what are the mathematical chances of that happening by Thursday of Week 15?
The realistic perspective should lead one to suspect the 49ers will win both of their games against the Cardinals, which will put them in the 5 win mark, they would almost have to still beat the Rams and Seahawks, but 7-9 might not be enough even with tiebreaks over two of the NFC West teams, it all comes down to how well the Seahawks do and if the 49ers were able to pull a shocker against either the Pack or Chargers, I'm thinking 8-8 could be the ticket if they did pull out the wins.
The Seattle Seahawks
The current front-runners, the Seahawks are all but tied down to the performance and reliability of Matt Hasselbeck. The only reliable veteran QB in the division, when Hasselbeck plays well, the team can win, as well the Seahawks seem to have a much higher chance of winning when at home, and their defense, particularly secondary plays lights out.
The bad news, the Hawks have gotten killed for the most part playing outside the division, the last three out of division games were massacres I feel sorry for any Seahawks fan for paying admission to. Games against the Falcons, Bucs and Chiefs could all be potential blowouts. As well the Rams currently hold the tiebreak and though the Seahawks may find themselves comfortable playing at home, the Week 17 matchup could mean their season.
The good news is the Seahawks 4 of last 6 games is at home. The team also controls its own fate, like already mentioned it may come down to a showdown with the Rams at home in the last week of the season, what the team can take away from that is if they win, they get it all, the best part about leading a division is that you don't have to rely on other teams to mess up for you, it sure helps to ease the pressure but you are in control.
The realistic perspective finds the Seahawks finishing at 8-8, 9-7 may seem like a stretch though the game against the 49ers could be a cakewalk, in many ways the Seahawks do need other teams in the division to mess up, and a 49ers team still with a shot at making the post-season isn't what the doctor ordered.
The St. Louis Rams
Let's be realistic and it's not the Rams fan in me talking, this team has been the best overall NFC west competitor. The team has suffered only one blowout all season, and lost four games by 4 points or less. Performances against out of division opponents like the Bucs, Chargers and Redskins have the team believing they can easily take the division.
The bad news, the Rams can't seem to win on the road with a current season record of 0-4 on the road, while being 4-2 at home. The really bad part about this is how 4 of the remaining 6 games happen to be on the road, so the Rams have to break that streak in order to have any possibility at taking the division.
The good news is that two of those upcoming road games are against the Broncos and Cardinals, both horrid pass defenses and both most likely playing for paycheques. Rams victories at home against mediocre teams in the Chiefs and 49ers ( below mediocre depending on your standards ) would have St. Louis sitting at 8-7 going into Seattle.
Who has a better shot to win the West?
The realistic perspective, I just don't buy the possibility that anything above 9-7 will be needed, the Seahawks are not going to go 6-0 to finish 11-5, I'll bet a bundle on that, whether the Rams are sitting at 7-8 or 8-7, I do believe it will come down to the last game, where a Rams win in Seattle would send them to the playoffs. The outlook is rather good, the Rams only face the Saints as a top tier team and the Cardinals and 49ers may have nothing to play for. Assuming Bradford's arm stays in working condition I do see the Rams vying for the division come Week 17.