Ever since the NFL re-aligned the divisions to make way for the Houston Texans back in 2003, the NFC West has been the butt of jokes from fans and pundits alike over the years. Some of it is more than justified, as the division hasn’t taken two teams into the playoffs since 2004-05. Last year the NFC West was won by the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks, a team so bad that they lost every single regular season game by at least 15 points. You would think that having the division won by a team with less than ten wins a total of 4 times since the re-alignments would result in easy playoff eliminations, right? Yeahhhhhhh about that.
NFC West Playoff Record Since 2003
San Francisco 49ers
2002 (10-6): W vs. #5 New York Giants, L at #2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in divisional round.
2011 (13-3): W vs. #3 New Orleans Saints, ?? vs. #4 New York Giants in NFC Championship Game
2003 (10-6): L at #4 Green Bay Packers in wild card round
2004 (9-7): L vs. #5 St. Louis Rams in wild card round
2005 (13-3): W vs. #6 Washington Redskins, W vs. #5 Carolina Panthers, L vs. #6 Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL
2006 (9-7): W vs. #5 Dallas Cowboys, L at #1 Chicago Bears in divisional round.
2007 (10-6): W vs. #6 Washington Redskins, L at #2 Green Bay Packers in divisional round
2010 (7-9): W vs. #5 New Orleans Saints, L at #2 Chicago Bears in divisional round.
St. Louis Rams
2003 (12-4): L vs. #3 Carolina Panthers in divisional round
2004 (8-8): W at #4 Seattle Seahawks, L at #2 Atlanta Falcons in divisional round
2008 (9-7): W vs. #5 Atlanta Falcons, W at #2 Carolina Panthers, W vs. #6 Philadelphia Eagles, L vs. #2 Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII
2009 (10-6): W vs. #5 Green Bay Packers, L at #1 New Orleans Saints in divisional round.
TOTAL NFC WEST PLAYOFF RECORD: 12-11 (10-2 home, 2-7 road, 0-2 Super Bowl), 2 Super Bowl appearances, and 3 first-round byes.
vs. NFC East: 5-0
vs. NFC South: 5-4
vs. NFC North: 1-4
vs. NFC West: 1-1 (head-to-head obviously between Seahawks and Rams)
vs. AFC: 0-2
Playoff Record Compared to Rest of NFC
NFC East: 15-17 (2 Super Bowl teams, 1 SB winner 4 inter-divisional matchups)
NFC South: 13-13 (3 Super Bowl teams, 2 SB winners, 0 inter-divisional matchups)
NFC North: 11-12 (2 Super Bowl teams, 1 SB winner, 2 inter-divisional matchups)
So the NFC West has the best playoff record by win percentage, but lack Super Bowl wins.
I know there wasn’t a single NFC East game played at the home of the NFC East team, but how good is it that the media’s favorite division seems to have problems beating NFC West teams? And two of those games live forever in playoff lore: The 49ers miraculous comeback against the Giants in 2002-03 and the Tony Romo fumble against the Seahawks in 2006-07.
The NFC West has won a playoff game every year since the realignment bar the 2003 season, when the Seahawks and Rams both went out in overtime to their respective opponents. They’ve taken two teams to the Super Bowl and if the 49ers win this Sunday, they’ll be tied with the NFC South for most Super Bowl teams represented in the NFL in the last 10 seasons. Of course an actual Super Bowl title remains elusive, but luckily Pittsburgh isn’t here to ruin things again.
This division has managed playoff wins with two 9-7 champs, a 7-9 disaster, and an 8-8 wild-card. There’s no denying that in the regular season the NFC West has been one of the worst divisions in football, but when it comes down to playoff performance, they’re always good for at least one win, maybe something more.