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NFL Division Power Rankings: NFC West takes top slot

By John Breech | CBSSports.com

The NFC West has come a long way since the Seahawks won the division with a 7-9 record in 2010. (USATSI)
The NFC West has come a long way since the Seahawks won the division with a 7-9 record in 2010. (USATSI)

Three years ago, the NFC West was the worst division in the NFL, possibly in professional sports and maybe even in the world.

You remember 2010, don't you?

That's the year the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks -- the 2010 NFC West division champions -- hosted the 11-5 New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

Things got so bad in 2010 that some people were calling for a rule change that would send a division-winner on the road in the Wild Card round if the Wild Card team had a better record.

Forget proposed rule changes for a second though, it gets worse: Stats guru Nate Silver called the 2010 Seahawks the second worst playoff team of all-time. That's not just in football either, Silver's ranking included all NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB playoff teams dating back to 1949.

So what did the second-worst playoff team of all-time do in the playoffs? They won. And the Beastquake happened in that win.

Now three years later, we're here. Where's here? With the NFC West inarguably at the top of the first CBSSports.com NFL divisional power rankings.

1. NFC West: The scariest thing about the NFC West might be that the 49ers and Seahawks didn't even have the best divisional record last season. That honor belonged to the St. Louis Rams. The Rams went 4-1-1 against division their rivals with the only loss coming by seven points to Seattle. (NFC West vs. NFC South and AFC South in 2013)

2. AFC North: Not only does the AFC North boast the defending Super Bowl champion, but it's the only division that's sent multiple teams to the playoffs in each of the past five seasons and won multiple Super Bowls in that same time period. If the Cleveland Browns do something called 'competing' this year, the AFC North could make a case for No. 1 by season's end. (AFC North vs. NFC North and AFC East)

3. NFC North: This is the only division in the NFL last season that had three teams with double-digit wins. If the Lions hadn't fallen flat on their faces in 2012 -- after making the playoffs in 2011 -- we might be calling the NFC North the best division in football. The NFC North is also the only division that has sent all four of its teams to the playoffs in the past three seasons. (NFC North vs. NFC East and AFC North)

4. NFC South: Last season, the NFC South was the Falcons and three slightly below average teams and when we say slightly below average, we literally mean slightly below average. The Saints, Panthers and Buccaneers all finished with 7-9 records. The NFC South might be the first division to make a move in the regular season rankings because the Panthers host Seattle in Week 1. (NFC South vs. NFC West and AFC East)

5. NFC East: The NFC East was exactly average against other divisions last season. The Redskins, Eagles, Giants and Cowboys combined to go 8-8 versus the NFC South and 8-8 against the AFC North in 2012, although it should probably be noted that four of the eight wins against the AFC North came against Cleveland. (NFC East vs. NFC North and AFC West)

6. AFC South: The AFC South might be the weirdest division in the NFL. It's not ranked last in our rankings, but it is the one division that doesn't feel like it has a team capable of winning the Super Bowl. Honestly, is anyone driving to Las Vegas this week and betting on the Texans, Colts, Jaguars or Titans to win Super Bowl XLVIII? No. No one is. (AFC South vs. NFC West and AFC West)

7. AFC East: This division might be second-to-last in the rankings, but it should be first in your heart because it's provided about 95 percent of all the NFL news that's happened this offseason. The Dolphins started it all by signing every free agent available. Mark Sanchez helped things out by making a weird video. And then there's the Patriots. The Patriots probably just need their own news channel at this point. (AFC East vs. NFC South and AFC North)

8. AFC West: The AFC West should be ranked closer to 12th, but we only have eight spots in these rankings, so it had to go here at eight. The division went 5-11 last season against the NFC South -- with three of the wins coming from Denver -- and it probably won't be much prettier this season for the AFC West going up against the NFC East. (AFC West vs. NFC East and AFC South)

Here at CBSSports.com we've ranked everything from teams to quarterbacks to the best front offices. Now we're ranking divisions. For the upcoming NFL season, we'll have a weekly power ranking of NFL divisions and every week you'll be able to tell us how horrible they are in the comment section below.


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