Parity or bad football? Take a look at the standings.
Any given Sunday, or this given Sunday, whatever you want to call it. The concept that any Sunday, or Thursday or Monday could see any team winning in any week. We have been led to believe this for the better part of this generation, with few real dynasties having been established and a level of player turnover like never before.
But one must step back for a second, and at least take a look at where we are with the level of play right now across the league. Have we reached the point where there are so many good teams that any one of them can win on any given day, or is it actually the other way around?
Are there so many bad teams that they are seemingly just finding a way to cancel each other every week. Being able to beat a powerhouse team one week does not mean that you are guaranteed a vicotry against an apparent bottom feeder the next week.
There is just one unbeaten team left and no team has yet to win, and many feel that the Falcons could fall and lose their first game of the season this year at the hands of the Eagles. The league itself is healthier financially that ever before. Money is pouring in like it is going out of style, but the overall level of play has left something to be desired at times this year.
It is often hard to really analyze the level of play across the league for a casual fan. While their colleagues who follow baseball, basketball and hockey have the chance to watch games on any day of the week and varying times. One of the major issues with football is so much of it is played simultaneously that it is impossible to watch all games at once and comment on the actual level of play around the league.
We are not actually especially concerned with how well they play. As long as things go as planned for your parlay and fantasy team, then the average fan goes home happy.
The league is lacking real superstars right now, and a year after Tebowmania took the league by storm, we are left looking for a real story line to capture our imagination this year. We got to be mad about the replacement officials early in the season, but now are left with an AFC that hurts to look at and an argument to be made that a three loss team heading into Week 8 is the best in the league.
We start reaching for story lines when things start to go like this. It is highly unlikely that the Falcons will run the table this year, so forget that story. RGIII has been amazing and all, and he actually could be the lighting in a bottle that the league sorely needs this year, but that is still percolating, and the Skins don't have the weapons to really make a run.
The Patriots continue to be considered one of the leagues best teams as they play in a division that they should be running over in that case. Instead they struggle on a nearly weekly basis to get past even the seemingly most feeble of opponents. The Ravens heard their balloon burst when they lost Lewis and Webb and the Texans hopes popped with Cushing's knee. Through four weeks, the Bengals looked like one of the best teams in the AFC, now they are wondering what to do with themselves.
The Browns and Panthers have only won a game a piece, but they keep games close and make for some ugly football on the best of days. We love to tune in and watch Cam Newton rip passes over the head of his receivers and then flip over to see the Browns line up a rookie under centre who is older than Aaron Rodgers.
There really is a lot of bad football being played, and the veil has been pulled over our eyes to make us think that it is just parity and competitiveness. Having elite teams is healthy for the league. It provides a blueprint for how other teams can become successful. We are now in a time when one day season means cleaning out the front office and building through the draft. That leash lasts a few years before a new group is brought in to cut every guy left standing.
All the while the teams who make the fewest headlines are able to go about their business quietly without anyone noticing how good they actually are. We would rather talk about Tim Tebow getting some ink on the back pages in the Big Apple than the fact that Eli Manning is establishing himself as one of the best pivots in history. Rather than mention how good the Bears have been in all facets of the game this year, we break down the Zapruder film of Cutler getting fired up at one of his linemen and getting fed up with Mike Tice.
The good football gets ignored while the mediocrity seemingly gets rewarded. Teams invest so much in rookies stepping in and having an impact out of the gate that they often forget the plethora of veteran free agents who have a better understanding of the game. It is about selling hope and potential rather than actual on-field results. You hear Jerry Jones starting to make the excuses as soon as one of his stallions goes down with an injury. Continue to peddle the narrative that this just wasn't your year rather than making a concerted effort to get better as a team.
So we are left on Sunday's, and Thursday's and Monday's as well, to watch a watered down version of the game. The entire concept of having games on Thursday's so obviously ignores not only the well being of the players but also the quality of play.
Take the Bucs this week. They play a wild Sunday afternoon game against the Saints. Presumably practice Monday and Tuesday, travel Wednesday and play Thursday. The Vikings were actually the team that came out flat this week on the short week, but as they rely so much on a the bruising running game, that was not a complete surprise.
The league would rather get more eyeballs on the product that ensure that the product itself is of the highest possible quality. Their product is producing record revenues, so in their mind there is no need to change it. There is an endless supply of labour waiting to be employed by any team that will give them a chance, so the money will just keep pouring in.
But head injuries continue. Knee, hip and foot injuries do as well. Injuries that you never truly recover from no matter how much you say all is well. Under the provisions of the new CBA, high draft picks are no longer paid like princes, so this allows teams to cut bait if they do not live up to expectations in the first year of two. A player like Blaine Gabbert could conceivably be out of the league next year, just two years removed from being the Jags first pick.
This allows teams to keep several average players on their payroll rather than trying to actually develop the players that take time. Further harming the level of play across the league.
We have been sold the bill of goods that the league is going more and more to the spread. We saw the Pats set up in double tight sets and exploit teams down the field, so it must have been true. Gone were the days of real dominant every down backs, so it must have been true. While Adrian Peterson is as good as he has ever been, and Arian Foster continues to prove what a great scheme the Texans run, there are few other true stars coming out of the back field.
It is surely a quarterbacks league, but they aren't even doing so hot this year. Stafford and Megatron were supposed to be the most exciting duo in the league, but Stafford is competing with Cam to see who can overthrow their receivers so far this season. Dalton and AJ Green looked unstoppable, until they started getting stopped.
Eli, Brady, Brees and Rodgers still throw for tons of yards, but none of these kids that were supposed to come for their heads have taken a real step forward this year. So many teams have such bad defences, that working the underneath on third and long out of the gun seems to be more of a sure thing that it used to be.
Any team that you would really consider to be a title contender arguably has a better offence than defence. The Pats will fall flat when times get tough, and at this rate the Broncos could end up representing the AFC this year. The NFC has some dangerous teams that will unfortunately cancel each other out, but there are really maybe three elite teams.
A lot of average teams with a lot of average players playing a lot of average football. But every week as the minutes tick down to game time, we wait eagerly with anticipation for the spreads to be covered and the fantasy matchup to go as it should.
Parity of bad football? Take a look at the standings.