For years, pro football has been the sports leader when it comes to parity. Pete Rozelle was credited with, “On any given Sunday any team can beat another.”
The last few years it seems as though parity has disappeared from the NFL. The Broncos are having a dominant season, like the Packers in 2011. The 2008 Saints and Colts started a combined 16-0 SU/11-5 ATS and the 2007 Patriots had a remarkable 16-0 regular season.
A close look, however, shows that parity is alive and well. The Broncos may be sizzling, but they squeaked by the Cowboys (51-48) and lost at Indy (39-33). The 2011 Packers may have started 8-0, but they had a 5-point win over Minnesota, gave up 38 points in a close win over San Diego, along with 7- and 8-point wins over Carolina and New Orleans. In 2008 four wins by the Colts were by 4 points or less.
What New England did in 2007 was unique, but let’s not forget they were fortunate to run the regular season table. They had wins over the Colts, Eagles, Ravens and Giants by 4, 3, 3 and 3 points. Counting the playoffs, the Patriots went 2-9 ATS their final 11 games. They were double digit favorites in their final 10 and went 2-8 ATS.
If you doubt parity, look at these 2013 Chiefs – from worst to first (so far)! Meanwhile, the Giants went from winning the title two years ago to a miserable 0-6 SU, 1-5 ATS start.
And does anyone want to win the NFC East this season? The team that won the Super Bowl three years ago, Green Bay, was fortunate to even make the playoffs. This season the Chargers, Chiefs and Panthers have been better than expected, while the Falcons, Giants and Redskins (the latter last year’s division champs) have flopped.
Injuries have been a huge factor this season, turning NFL teams into MASH units while taxing depth and roster spots. The Texans, Bills, Patriots, Bears and Rams have stumbled in many ways because of a slew of key injuries.
Peyton Manning is having a record season, but one injury to a star QB (ex: Aaron Rodgers) can change everything. Manning didn’t even play his last season in Indianapolis and the team went from perennial AFC powerhouse to the top pick in the NFL draft.
Injuries are the most obvious factor in leveling the playing field, turning powerhouse teams on paper into paper tigers.
There’s also an old wagering adage about going against pro football teams who roll by 20 points in back-to-back games.
A club off two blowout wins can be overvalued. In order to win by that kind of margin in consecutive games, a team has to play close to two perfect games back-to-back. In this day of parity, that takes a rare combination of talent, execution, health and luck.
You may recall how bad the Chiefs started in 2011. Kansas City opened the season with back-to-back colossal stinkers, losing 41-7 and 48-3. They were a +16 dog the next game, but a very different team showed up in a 20-17 loss at San Diego, an easy cover.
It might not seem like it at times, but this is parity at work, with salary caps and free agency making it difficult for teams to simply buy players to shore up weak areas, as is the case in baseball. Even ugly Jacksonville covered as a +26 dog against Denver!
In football, if you pay a lot to get or retain a key player, you may lose a star in another area. Overall, you rarely see pro teams keep up 20-point or more dominance for more than two games.
Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Follow him on twitter: @JimFeistSports . Reach him at [email protected]