Memo to NFC West: Win outside division

Some fans of NFC West teams are weary of hearing about just how bad the division has performed.

I get it. You're used to having your team disrespected by people who probably know more about Justin Timberlake than Justin Smith. It's no fun.

And so fans of NFC West teams will sometimes point to the division's ability to produce two of the past five Super Bowl teams from the NFC. They'll hope this is the year the division finally gets some respect.

It's not going to happen unless NFC West teams start winning outside the division more frequently. The division posted only 12 non-division victories last season, half by the Arizona Cardinals (the San Francisco 49ers had three, the Seattle Seahawks two and the St. Louis Rams one). As the chart shows, every other division produced at least 18 victories against non-division teams.

The NFC West doesn't get much respect because it hasn't earned much respect.

In 2010, the NFL's scheduling rotation serves each NFC West team with four games against the NFC South, four against the AFC West and one apiece against the NFC North and NFC East.

NFC West teams have a decent chance to improve upon that 12-victory total outside the division because the NFC South and AFC West aren't powerhouse divisions. It'll probably come down to whether the Seahawks and Rams can beat the Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Bucs and Oakland Raiders.

2009 NFC West: Outside the division