The 10 Biggest Stories of the 2010 NFL Season, Number 3: NFC West Mediocrity

By Bryn Swartz

There are just some things in football that you can fully count on.

Peyton Manning will go one-and-done in the postseason.

Brett Favre will retire and unretire 14 times during the offseason.

And every playoff team, whether or not they’re actually a good team, will at least have a winning record.

So what happened to the NFC West in 2010 is just one of those things that football fans weren’t fully prepared for.

Most football experts picked the San Francisco 49ers to win the division.

Led by fiery head coach Mike Singletary, the 49ers sported a solid running game, one of the best tight ends in the NFL, and a pretty good defense, which was anchored by the NFL’s best young linebacker, Patrick Willis.

Nobody gave the Seattle Seahawks much of a chance. They had a 35-year old quarterback, a weak running game, and a bad defense.

The Arizona Cardinals weren’t on anybody’s list. They lost future Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner (retirement), Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin (Ravens), playmaking linebacker Karlos Dansby (Dolphins), and Pro Bowl safety Antrel Rolle (Giants) during the offseason.

And the St. Louis Rams were like the lovable little brother of the division. After going 1-15 in 2009, they drafted quarterback Sam Bradford and were expected to win four, maybe five games in 2010.

When the season began, it was the Cardinals who looked like they might be the best team, winning three of their first five games, including a convincing victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

Or it could have been the Seahawks, who also started strong, winning four of their first six.

The Rams remained competitive, but losses like their 44-6 pounding at the hands of the Detroit Lions quickly established that while Bradford and the Rams had potential, 2010 was not their year.

Despite the 49ers owner boldly stating that the 49ers and their 1-6 record would win the NFC West, it was not the 49ers season. Head coach Mike Singletary was fired late in the season after quarterback problems with both Alex Smith and Troy Smith, and the 49ers finished a dismal 6-10.

The Rams actually gained control of the NFC West, leading the division for several weeks, often with a losing record. Despite injuries to his two best wide receivers, Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton, rookie Sam Bradford showed lots of potential and many picked the Rams to hold on to their slim NFC West lead.

Heading into week 16, the Rams and Seahawks were both 6-8. Although the Rams won and the Seahawks lost, they played each other in a season finale that would ultimately determine the NFC West division title.

The Seahawks won a rather boring game, 16-6, becoming the first division champion in the history of the National Football League to finish below .500.

And in case you haven’t heard, the Seahawks shocked the world by knocking off the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, 41-36, in the wild-card round of the postseason, highlighted by Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard touchdown run that literally caused the ground to shake.

The Seahawks’ magical run ended at the hands of the Chicago Bears the next week.

For the record, I absolutely love the fact that a division champion can finish with a losing record.

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