The NFC West effect: Opponents to gain?

The Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs each padded their records by going 4-0 against NFC West teams last season.

ESPN's John Clayton expects NFC East and AFC North teams to reap similar benefits when the NFL's scheduling formula pits teams from those divisions against the NFC West in 2011. Using past results to predict future performance can be tricky, but Clayton's logic is sound.

"Even though the NFC West has produced two Super Bowl teams in the past six years," Clayton wrote, "the division has done more to pump up other divisions than itself. And with quarterback questions in Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona, it's hard to believe the NFC West drought will end anytime soon."

NFC West teams have gone 47-113 (.294) outside the division since 2008. They went 2-2 against the NFC East last season and 7-10 against the AFC North in 2007, the last season teams from those divisions faced one another.

A quick look at the 2011 regular-season opponents for NFC West teams, with 2010 regular-season records in the final row (doubled for division opponents) ...

2011 NFC West Opponents