NFC Worst? It’s looking that way

Larry Fitzgerald is known for catching most anything that comes his way.

He chose to pass, though, when asked for one word to describe the NFC West on Wednesday.

“I’ll let you guys use any word you want,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m thinking the same thing you’re probably thinking.”

The standings kind of speak for themselves in that regard. Every other division in the NFL has multiple teams with a winning record. No one in the NFC West is currently above .500.

Competitive is about the nicest thing you can say since the four teams are separated by only two games, but winning the NFC West may wind up being a bit of an oxymoron. As things stand, there’s the distinct possibility this could be the third time in the Super Bowl era a team has won a division at 8-8. No team has won a division title with a losing record since the 1971 NFL-AFL merger.

Halfway through this season, the NFC West is one thing in Seattle’s favor. The Seahawks would be in fourth place in the NFC South. In the West, though, they’re tied for first place with St. Louis, which moved up in the standings while the Rams were idle last weekend. That might be the best recipe for getting ahead in the division: Enjoy the bye and watch the others lose.

OK, that was a cheap shot, and jokes are easy to crack when it comes to this division.

“It’s easy to bash the NFC West because of the records of the teams,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said, “but I think every time we play a division opponent, it seems to me they’re good teams and they always play hard. So I don’t buy into that too much.”

No team in the division has won more than 10 regular-season games since Seattle went 13-3 in 2005. There haven’t been two teams from the division with winning records in the same season since 2003.

But here’s something else: An NFC West team has won at least one playoff game in each of the past six seasons. Not only that, but the Cardinals and the Seahawks have each reached a Super Bowl in the past five seasons. No other division in football has had multiple franchises make the Super Bowl in that time.

And the NFC West is still an NFL-sanctioned division. No one’s getting relegated to the UFL. The winner gets a playoff spot and everything.

So while the division may rest at the bottom of the league’s pecking order, there are four teams separated by two games with half the season left and it may not be pretty, but there’s going to be a battle.

“It’s going to be a very exciting second half, now,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.

“Everybody is obviously right in the middle of it all.”