CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Power Rankings: NFC West land of opportunity, mediocrity

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Updated: Nov. 9

The winner of the NFC West is ... nobody.

Why not? Don't give the winner a playoff berth. The division is a disaster, yet one of those teams will make the playoffs and host a playoff game.

I know it's early to start discussing this topic, but here goes:

Should division winners automatically make the playoffs? If so, should they host no matter what the record?

We're halfway through the NFL season and it appears that a .500 record -- and maybe worse -- will win the NFC West. None of the four teams has a playoff look. The Seattle Seahawks are tied with the St. Louis Rams for the lead in the division and they're fresh off a 41-7 home loss to the New York Giants.

The last team to have a .500 record and win a division was the 2008 San Diego Chargers, who edged out the Broncos because of tiebreakers. The last time before that was the 1985 Cleveland Browns, who won the AFC Central with an 8-8 record.

No team has ever won a division with a losing record, which means we could have a first this season, even though it's not likely.

The NFC West division will begin to sort itself out this week when St. Louis travels to San Francisco to play the 49ers and Seattle plays at Arizona. The home teams are favored, which means if form holds true there will not be a team in the division with a .500 record by Sunday night.

NFL -- Week 9
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If you look closely at the four teams in the division, the one that has promise is the Rams because they have their long-term quarterback situation settled. But that might not help now as much because Sam Bradford is a rookie. The other teams have a mess at the quarterback position.

Whether it's Troy Smith or Alex Smith in San Francisco, Max Hall or Derek Anderson in Arizona or aging Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst in Seattle, the quarterback play isn't very good for those teams.

That's why they are a combined 9-15.

The 49ers started 0-5, and yet team president Jed York kept saying his team would make the playoffs. Coach Mike Singletary, he of the crazy sound bites, sounded off base when he made basically the same claim.

Guess what? It's possible.

Glancing at the schedules for the four teams, I'd handicap the chances of winning the division this way:

Arizona 10-1. St. Louis 15-1. Seattle 20-1. San Francisco 20-1.

The scary thing is one of these four teams will be home for a playoff game. Does the winner really have to get a playoff berth? Can the rules be changed?

RANK TEAM MOVE (LW)

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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