Posted by: mdegeorge | October 12, 2010

Tuesday Morning Diagnosis: Parity reigns again

We’ve become quite accustomed to the NFL maintaining it’s annual perfect season watch deep into November and beyond in recent years, time after time forcing the 1972 Dolphins to keep the champagne on ice and often causing some nail-biting for former Dolphins lacking the machismo of Mercury Morris.

But that type of domination isn’t bearing out on this year’s NFL slate. By Week 5, all 32 teams have at least one loss. The last remaining holdout was hardly a consensus Super Bowl contender, but rather an over-achieving group of talented young players with an occasionally potent running attack, stingy defense, and game-managing quarterback in Kansas City.

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For a little context, the Week 5 alleviation of undefeateds is the earliest in a decade; the next closest season is 2002 in which Oakland lost its first game in Week 6. Each of the last five years have featured teams carrying blemish-free records into the double-digit weeks, including the 13-0 Colts and Saints last season and the historic run of the 2007 Patriots to Super Bowl XLII.

But the lack of excellent teams is only one aspect of parity, which Webster’s defines as “the quality or state of being equal or equivalent.”

Pick a team touted as a contender before the season started and see if you can’t shoot holes through their Super Bowl candidacy.

The Saints? Clearly out of sync offensively if they lose to an undrafted rookie quarterback from BYU who fails to lead his team to an offensive touchdown and if they struggle with the putrid offensive mess that is Carolina.

The Colts? Mired in a division with four 3-2 teams with injuries mounting on both sides of the ball and two division losses already that will make playoff qualification a struggle.

The Patriots? Short of weapons after the Randy Moss acrimony and having to turn to the stars of yesteryear for offensive help (stay by your phone, David Patten!)

The Packers? Struggles on both lines plus mounting injuries leave them up a creek with Aaron Rodgers to paddle.

The Vikings? That offense is running about as smoothly as a 1976 Gremlin, and while they will be loaded for bear with Moss and a healthy Sidney Rice, there have to be concerns over Brett Favre’s health after the Monday nighter and if the learning curve is too steep to survive this season.

The Jets? Do you really trust Mark Sanchez to lead a team to the Super Bowl? Sure seems like Rex Ryan doesn’t.

Anyone in the NFC East? Heck, the Redskins look like the best team in that division. The Giants are two losses away from a mutiny on the HMS Coughlin, the Eagles will change starting quarterbacks three more times this season, and the Cowboys just seem soft.

The Chargers? They can’t even beat the Raiders, who lost to two Pop Warner teams last season.

The Ravens? Not until Joe Flacco shows up and Ray Rice proves he can stay healthy for a week or two.

The Steelers? In all good faith, though they are my clubhouse leaders thus far, they can’t be ordained as the favorites until Ben Roesthlisberger takes a snap in a game.

There’s even balance at the bottom. Sure, the Bills look utterly hapless and might not be finding victory any time soon, while injuries are derailing any home Carolina may have started the season with. But the other winless team, the 49ers, are much better than their 0-5 record indicates. Even perennial bottom dwellers like St. Louis and Detroit have found a win already, Oakland two, and Tampa Bay three.

Granted, it’s only Week 5 and a bit too early to debate whether parity (if we can agree it exists) is truly in the best interest of the game. It could be that in my exuberance, I’m just confusing parity with mediocrity.

But for now, it means truly that any given team could win on any given Sunday.


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