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Friday, September 24, 2010
Mailbag: Firing back at Bill Simmons

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

John from Seattle writes: Sando, love the blog and usually like Bill Simmons, but on this, he's dead wrong. What division sent the NFC representative to the Super Bowl more often than any other NFC division during the decade? That's right, the West. The Rams twice, the Cards and the Hawks.

You mentioned that since last season the Cards have a winning record outside the division. Please note that from 2004-2007, the Seahawks were 24-16 outside the division. That's more than respectable!

All of this piling on the NFC West needs to stop. The division will be just fine. Pete Carroll is already making strides with the Hawks in his first year, and it looks like the Rams struck gold with Sam Bradford.

Mike Sando: These things are cyclical. The Rams do have new ownership and a franchise quarterback. The Cardinals have stable leadership finally. The 49ers have improved their roster over the past few seasons. The Seahawks are still in the early stages.

The Rams went to the Super Bowl after the 1999 season and we can count that as part of the past decade because the Super Bowl game itself was played in early 2000. But that's going back quite a ways.

It's just tough to defend the division's overall won-lost record in recent seasons, especially coming off a week when the division went 0-4, losing even to the Oakland Raiders.


Red from Phoenix writes: So, the past couple days seems like I have been running into all this talk about how the weakest division is the NFC West. They can't win out of the their division. I don't know, but I remember the Cardinals going to the Super Bowl the other year. I remember the Seahawks going there, too, and I definitely remember the Rams winning one.

So, though we might not have the best record we win in the playoffs. What are the records for the divisions in the playoffs? I have a feeling the NFC West might have a better record than most.

Mike Sando: I went through playoff games since the 2005 season and found the NFC West to have the second-highest postseason winning percentage. However, this includes the wild-card round. Think how many more playoff games the AFC South might have if the Colts did not secure first-round byes so frequently. Also, the NFC East in particular has played playoff games against itself, affecting percentages.

But if you want to say the NFC West has the second-highest postseason winning percentage since the 2005 season, you would be correct. Or, for effect, you could say the NFC West is one of only two divisions with a winning record in postseason since 2005.


Ryan from Dallas writes: I was reading the article from Bill Simmons where he denounced the NFC West, calling us four of the most putrid squads in the NFL and basically saying we steal a spot in the playoffs from a better team.

Given that the Rams, the Seahawks and the Cardinals have all made it to the Super Bowl this decade, meaning roughly a third of the time, has any other division in the NFL matched or bettered that stat? It seems pretty harsh to minimize our division's success or failures to such a small portion of games. Am I right or just missing something here? Thanks as always for your feedback.

Mike Sando: The Rams' Super Bowl appearances predate the current alignment into eight four-team divisions. But if we go back to the Rams' appearance following the 1999 season, we can say that current NFC West and AFC East teams have each accounted for four Super Bowl appearances, more than other divisions. I have the AFC North, AFC South, NFC East and NFC South with three appearances apiece.

I don't think those totals offset the NFC West's recent overall mediocrity. They're worth taking into account, but not ultimately decisive, in my view.