Remember when the NFC West featured five teams, and only San Francisco was truly west of the Mississippi*?  And yet the NFC East featured two teams west of the Mississippi, one of whom was west of the Rockies.

To a degree, you can blame the St. Louis shuffle, with the Cardinals moving to Phoenix, and a Rams team from Los Angeles moving east.  But it didn’t make sense that, with uneven divisions, they didn’t push the Cardinals to the west once they hit Arizona.  It especially didn’t make sense that they didn’t swap the Cardinals and the Rams when the Cardinals went to St. Louis.

But still, the West had St. Louis, Atlanta, New Orleans and, eventually, Charlotte/Carolina.  And the East had Dallas and Arizona.

Hell, the NFC East still has Dallas.  All because of ‘rivalries’.

It makes no sense, geographically.  Dallas would be a great fit in the West, and reviving a San Francisco-Dallas rivalry that was hot in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s that frankly was better than any Dallas/New York/Washington rivalry.

St. Louis, however, would be a team without a division.  They’re too far North to be in the South, too far South to be in the North, and too far west to be in the East.

And so, we’re left with Dallas being a longer plane trip for their division rivals than anyone in any other division.

It’s hardly the NFL’s only geographical inconsistency.  The Miami Dolphins play in the East (which is at least somewhat defensible since they are on the Atlantic ocean), but would be a better fit in the South.  The Indianapolis Colts play in the South, but would be a local rival to two AFC North teams in Ohio, and the Baltimore Ravens play in the North but would be a better fit in the AFC East.

But that’s the NFL for you.  Rivalries are more important than travel costs.  I still don’t feel a real connection to any of the 49ers rivals in their division.  Not for the Rams since they moved.  Not for the Cardinals, and not for the Seahawks.  Every now and then, a team looks good enough to be a rival…but it doesn’t last.  Maybe the Seahawks will finally step up…

But they didn’t this weekend.  And so, it’s back to Atlanta.

* – Yes, I know St. Louis is on the west bank of the Mississippi, so it’s technically ‘West’ of the Mississippi.  But it’s really on the Mississippi, so I’m sticking with the saying.