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Don't rule out four-way tie in NFC West

Michael Silver
Yahoo Sports

For the first time since Derek Anderson's(notes) Fatwa Against Funny in the Arizona desert late last month, the NFL's most pathetic division will be back in the national spotlight Thursday when the 49ers face the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.

A little factoid that tells you all you need to know: The 5-8 Niners are still very much a player in the four-pronged, three-legged race for the NFC West title and the home playoff game that comes with it, even if they lose to their favored hosts on Thursday.

Yes, football fans, we could very well have a 7-9 division champion in 2010, which would be the first time in a non-strike season that a sub-.500 team would see the postseason. In other words: Welcome to the NHL, and be sure not to press your turned-up noses too closely against the glass.

In fact, if a sardonic convergence of delicious outcomes plays out over the season's final three weeks, the division champ could be even worse than 7-9.

Here's what I'm envisioning, in the interest of black humor:

The Rams (6-7) drop consecutive home games against the Chiefs and Niners.

The Seahawks (6-7) lose their next two, to the Falcons and Bucs.

The Niners bounce back from a defeat to the Chargers by beating the Rams.

The Cardinals (4-9) – yep, they're still mathematically alive, with playoff hopes that only Anderson takes seriously, but still – rise up to defeat the Panthers and Cowboys.

That would create a four-way tie at 6-9 heading into the final weekend, with a pair of convenient intra-division showdowns to decide things: Rams at Seahawks, Cards at Niners. And, naturally, each of those games would end with a scoreless overtime period, creating a four-way tiebreaking logjam between teams with gruesome 6-9-1 records. San Francisco, with a 4-1-1 division mark, would get to celebrate its first playoff berth in eight seasons on its home field.

Yeah, it's a little far-fetched, but so is a division that owns a collective two victories (Seahawks over Bears, Cards over Saints) in games against teams which currently have a record better than the Chargers' 7-6.

Would that inspire a frank offseason discussion about changes to the league's playoff-seeding system? That's a very good question – and here are 32 more of them, with an NFL food chain that features four of your aforementioned division-title contenders in the nether regions:

1. New England Patriots: Remember when Matt Cassel(notes) had a few good games in 2008 and people were suggesting they keep him and trade Tom Brady(notes) (and if you were one of those people, how silly do you feel now)?

2. Atlanta Falcons: Could the Broncos be interested in their offensive coordinator as Josh McDaniels' successor – or is that just a bunch of Mularkey?

3. Pittsburgh Steelers: Is Troy Polamalu(notes) closing in on his first NFL defensive player of the year award?

4. Baltimore Ravens: When Baltimore County police investigated David Reed's(notes) apartment for "possible narcotics", were they looking for speed?

5. New Orleans Saints: Have the Saints officially gotten over their post-Super Bowl hangover? (If, in fact, they had one in the first place?)

6. Philadelphia Eagles: Whatever your thoughts on DeSean Jackson's(notes) showboating, how can a player be penalized for celebrating a touchdown that hasn't yet occurred?

7. New York Giants: Is anything scarier to an opposing defensive back than Brandon Jacobs(notes) on a breakaway run?

8. New York Jets: If Mark Sanchez(notes) struggles again on Sunday, would Rex Ryan still consider benching him – and does he really think Mark Brunell(notes) would fare well against the Steelers' defense?

9. Chicago Bears: Will they root harder for the Patriots this Sunday than they played against New England last Sunday?

10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Is big brother about to get relegated to the bottom bunk?

11. Green Bay Packers: If Aaron Rodgers(notes) can't play in New England, will the Pack be out like Flynn?

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: If Raheem Morris' "Race to 10" leaves the Bucs on the outside of the playoff picture, will a visit with Nigel Tufnel be in order?

13. San Diego Chargers: Who's that handsome dude in the white shirt behind the Bolt logo in this San Diego Union-Tribune photo, and why isn't Philip Rivers(notes) looking at him?

14. Kansas City Chiefs: If Matt Cassel can't play against the Rams, will Todd Haley experience severe abdominal pain?

15. Miami Dolphins: The next time Stephen Ross has his security goons bust up a relatively benign interview, could he at least get some of his celebrity co-owners to provide the muscle?

View photo

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Vick signs an autograph for Choice on Sunday.
(Matthew Emmons/US Presswire)

16. Oakland Raiders: Does Tom Cable have a martyr complex – or is he worried that offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will soon replace him?

17. Dallas Cowboys: Are Cowboy fans seriously affronted that Tashard Choice(notes) asked Michael Vick(notes) for his autograph after Sunday's game, or are they displacing their anger over Jerry Jones not asking the quarterback to sign a contract two summers ago?

18. Indianapolis Colts: Is the Colts' radio announcer aptly named?

19. Minnesota Vikings: Yo, Zygi Wilf – in light of your team's QB injury woes, wouldn't this be an ideal time to indulge a former Minnesota passer's quest for one more shot at NFL glory?

20. Houston Texans: Wouldn't it be classic Texans if this team rallied to finish 8-8?

21. Washington Redskins: With Hunter Smith(notes) now out of a job, will Daniel Snyder consider signing Cosmo Kramer as the 'Skins' holder?

22. St. Louis Rams: Can the front office please get Sam Bradford(notes) some big-time receivers for Christmas (or at least by next April)?

23. Cleveland Browns: Am I the only person who believes Eric Mangini has to win four of his next three games for Mike Holmgren to consider keeping him in 2011?

24. Tennessee Titans: Will Andre Johnson(notes) and Cortland Finnegan(notes) have a rematch in Nashville on Sunday – and if not, will there have been any reason to watch the game?

25. San Francisco 49ers: Given that the 1991 Niners missed the playoffs despite going 10-6 and finishing as the hottest team in football – including a finale Mike Singletary and his possible successor surely remember – would slipping into the postseason as a 7-9 division champ be nothing more than karmic payback for the 49er Faithful?

26. Seattle Seahawks: When I hear Pete Carroll talk about the "hard, deep lessons" his team is learning, why do I think of Michael Scott?

27. Buffalo Bills: With Andrew Luck slipping away, can they stay in the hunt for Cam Newton(notes)?

28. Detroit Lions: Now that they've all but ruined the Packers' season, should the Bucs be worried?

29. Arizona Cardinals: Does Jay Feely(notes) really wear gloves in case of the rare fake field goal, or because he might have to make an emergency landing?

30. Cincinnati Bengals: When a team ties a record of futility from the Dave Shula era, how ridiculously miserable have things gotten?

31. Denver Broncos: Quit much?

32. Carolina Panthers: In response to teammate Steve Smith's observation that he "ain't at Notre Dame anymore," was Jimmy Clausen(notes) tempted to blurt out, "No – I'm somewhere worse."