- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Those were the conclusions offered up by ESPN's Ultimate Team Rankings for 2011.
The rankings evaluate 122 professional franchises across the following categories: bang for the buck, fan relations, ownership, affordability, stadium experience, players, coaching and to what degree teams have won or are likely to win championships during their fans' lifetimes. Teams from the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball comprised the rankings.
Notes in relation to the NFC West:
The Cardinals, playing without Kurt Warner, dropped 52 spots to No. 71 in the rankings, the third-largest drop among NFL teams. Tennessee fell 61 spots. Carolina fell 58 spots.
The Rams, transformed with Sam Bradford under center and an improving defense at his back, climbed 31 spots from last year. Only Kansas City (plus-48) and Tampa Bay (plus-40) improved by more places. The Seahawks' 22-spot improvement was fifth-largest among NFL teams.
The Rams climbed 84 spots in bang for the buck. No NFL team improved more in this category. Arizona fell 50 spots in this category. Only Carolina (minus-93) suffered a bigger drop.
The Rams climbed 42 spots in fan relations. Only Pittsburgh (plus-50) improved more among NFL teams. The Rams also improved 43 spots in players, second to Tampa Bay (plus-44). But their ranking in the "title track" category remained unchanged at No. 37. Green Bay (plus-15), Kansas City (plus-14) and Detroit (plus-13) enjoyed the biggest gains in title track.
Arizona dropped 33 places in title track, the third-largest NFL drop behind Cincinnati (minus-36) and Miami (minus-34).
With Stan Kroenke in place, the Rams jumped a league-high 34 places in ownership to No. 80, but the Seahawks' Paul Allen remained the highest-ranked owner in the division at No. 48. The Cardinals' ownership did not change, but perceptions of its effectiveness appear on the decline. Arizona dropped 29 spots in this category, the fourth-largest fall in the league.
Seattle improved a division-best 26 spots in coaching. Only Tampa Bay (plus-65) and Pittsburgh (plus-33) improved more among NFL teams.
The rankings justify the 49ers' push for a new stadium. The team ranked 117th in stadium experience, third worst in the league behind Oakland (No. 119) and Minnesota (No. 121). Seattle's stadium experience ranked 13th overall, best in the division and second only to Green Bay among NFL teams. The Packers ranked first overall.
The first chart shows where NFC West teams rank in relation to the other 118 franchises across baseball, hockey and basketball.
2011 Ultimate Team Rankings: Overall Rankings
The second chart ranks NFC West teams by how many places they changed in the rankings from 2010 to 2011. The Rams are listed first because they improved a division-high 31 places in the rankings.
2011 Ultimate Team Rankings: Change from 2010