From worst to first -- the balance of power in the NFL shifted to out West in three, short years.
In the 2010 season, the NFC West division earned the title of “NFC Least” when the Seattle Seahawks became the first team in the league to make the playoffs with a losing record, taking the NFC West with a 7-9 record.
The Seahawks surprised everyone by beating the New Orleans Saints in the NFC wild-card game.
Over in the AFC West things weren’t much better. The Kansas City Chiefs were the only team to make the playoffs in 2010 by winning the division at 10-6. Kansas City was drilled in the opening round of the playoffs by Baltimore, 30-7.
Fast forward three years to the 2013 season, where the AFC West had three teams make the playoffs, including the AFC representative in the Super Bowl in the Denver Broncos.
And the NFC West was no slouch either, with the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers advancing to the NFC title game, and Arizona just missing the playoffs at 10-6. Of course, the Seahawks went on to win the Super Bowl in a rout over the Broncos.
With the San Diego Chargers facing three NFC West teams (Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals) in the preseason and all four in the regular season, the Chargers will get to measure themselves up-close against what is considered the best division in football.
“No question,” Butler said. “People say that’s the best division in football right now. So I cherish the opportunity.”
Rivers says the fact that San Diego traditionally plays the NFC West in the preseason helps in terms of knowledge of personnel. But the starters don’t play against each other for that long during exhibition play, so knowledge of scheme and tendencies aren’t as strong.
“You know their personnel a little more,” Rivers said. “It’s not truly an opponent that you haven’t seen at all in four years. So you do know them. You do have some tape against them, albeit a few snaps playing vanilla stuff -- not a real game plan.
“So I think it can help you somewhat. … It does give you a level of comfort in just seeing them lined up against you. It’s always easier when you’ve seen how they’ve lined up against certain formations -- things like that -- just as a starting point.”
Weddle said the matchups against the NFC West are a chance for the Chargers to measure themselves against the perceived best teams in the NFL.
“That’s one of the top divisions,” Weddle said. “And we feel the AFC West was one of the top divisions last year. So we’ll see what they got, and what we’ve got. Obviously, the world champs are there, so you get to go against the best and see what they’re all about -- on offense, defense and special teams. We get them (Seattle) at our place, so that will be fun.”