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The NFC West is the best division in the NFL, but it used to be the worst

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Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

I'm not sure which division is the toughest, but I can tell you which is the softest: the NFC South, where the 2-10 Bucs still haven't been mathematically eliminated from winning the division -- although the one available scenario is extraordinarily unlikely.

Some would point to the AFC North, where every team has a winning record. That's a little unfair, though: they got to play the NFC South and  have a combined 11-2-1 record against the worst division in the NFL. The AFC West has no such advantage, and they feature three playoff contenders, two of which are likely Super Bowl contenders.

My money's on the NFC West, though. They don't have the advantage of playing a weak division week in, week out. The Seahawks, Cardinals, 49ers and Rams all have very strong defenses, and they can keep going even when their quarterbacks are floundering -- which is happening with each of those teams. The worst team in that division is St. Louis, and even they have a 5-7 record.

And while each of those teams could end up in the Super Bowl this year and no one would be shocked, they do serve as a nice contrast for the NFC South. Because four years ago, the NFC West was the worst division in the NFL. They sent a 7-9 Seattle team to the playoffs -- where they promptly beat the 11-5 New Orleans Saints in one of the most amusing games I can remember watching.

And it's quite realistic that the opposite will happen this year. Whoever wins the NFC South is almost guaranteed to have a losing record, and they're likely to face a Wild Card opponent from the NFC West. And maybe we'll see history repeat itself: maybe that NFC South team will kick the Super Bowl contender out of the playoffs. And maybe, just maybe, the NFC South will be the best division in the NFL just two years later.

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