Why The NFL Is One Giant Parity Party


“Any Given Sunday” is the title of a movie that’s far from perfect but good enough and fun enough to be worth watching at least once a year. Perhaps, just saying, when you’re sprawled out on the couch after eating too much festive turkey.

It’s also a mantra for coaches, fans and commentators, a statement to live by for the National Football League and a pleasant little phrase that adds up to much more than the sum of its parts.

It symbolizes hope and unpredictability, serves as an excuse to watch a game, any game, and a reminder that as much as we like talking about football matchups and anticipating them, nothing beats the real thing.

It’s a great little trio of words and it’s also, as things stand here at the commencement of Week 12 in 2021, completely freaking wrong.

For NFL underdogs don’t just have the ability to pull off an upset on any given Sunday, they’re doing so every single Sunday, with no rhyme, reason or respite to the chaos and confusion.
 
There are some silly stats flying around as a result of it all. During the month of November, only one NFC team hasn’t lost a game – and that’s 4-6 Washington. Aside from the Kansas City Chiefs, the other six Super Bowl favorites (with FOX Bet) were a combined 5-10 on the month before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reversed their recent skid by beating the New York Giants on Monday night.

Eight teams in the NFL have a winning streak of two or more games, which is nice, but good luck if you saw it coming. That group’s collective performance before those successes? A mere 20-42.

Throughout the NFL, teams are tightly matched and so are the games, with a new record of 23 clashes decided on the final play through Week 11. Of the AFC’s 16 teams, 12 of them are at .500 or better. In the AFC North, the Cleveland Browns are mired in last place … with a record of 6-5.

No one is truly dominant, with the Chiefs appearing ominously good in reeling off four straight wins, but only after struggling mightily in the early part of the campaign.

The Tennessee Titans, for a while the only team that looked like it couldn’t lose, couldn’t do anything right on Sunday against the Houston Texans, formerly one of the only teams that looked like it couldn’t win.
 
Each of the top squads look to carry some kind of vulnerability, and, even when they don’t, they sometimes fall anyway, like the Dallas Cowboys’ six-game winning streak ending with a trouncing at home to the Denver Broncos not so long ago.

Frankly, it’s ridiculous. But don’t just take my word for it.

“The parity in this league is ridiculous, so you have to stay on your game and you have to continue to work to get better,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid told reporters. “In this league, you’re just as good as your next game. We’re seeing this every Sunday, on Thursdays and Monday nights.”

Only the Detroit Lions are winless, but Dan Campbell’s team could have won perhaps five of their 10 outings with a bit more luck or calmness down the stretch. The New York Jets aren’t very good, but beat the Titans. The Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t very good, but beat the Bills, who were Super Bowl favorites.
 
NFL fans and followers around the country have started to get their heads around the fact that the unexpected is now to be expected, and that it’s actually pretty neat. In Houston last week, local newspaper the Chronicle poked fun at the hometown Texans with a delicious headline: “NFL is a parity party, although Texans are parity poopers.”

Great line, but, as detailed earlier, the headline didn’t survive the weekend.

Some will argue the overload of egalitarianism means there are no great teams, but bear in mind that the reigning champion Bucs, recipients of some head-shaking concern at 7-3, were 7-5 by the end of the 2020 Thanksgiving weekend before ending up with the top prize.

Tom Brady and the Bucs are the favorites to win it all again (+600 with FOX Bet), but being a favorite doesn’t seem to help much, at least not on a week-to-week basis. All of which is to the benefit of the viewer, in theory. The concept of any result being possible lends itself more closely to a watching experience of enjoyable anticipation, rather than the potential for a snoozer that made you wish you hadn’t bothered.

“If the NFL season ended today, there would be no playoffs or Super Bowl because too few teams are worthy of the postseason,” wrote Mike Tanier of The New York Times. “Or perhaps it just feels that way because so many of the league’s top contenders are reeling from recent upsets.”
 
Upsets are upsetting only to the ones being upset, for the rest of us, they’re a boon of significant proportion, particularly when they come in great enough numbers to feel like each game is a toss-up, regardless of odds, standing, reputation or form.

There are various reasons being put forward as to why things are shaking out this way but they are boring and procedural and not worthy of our time. Turkey season is a feast of football so save your spare hours for watching it and put all else aside.

Any given excuse to grab the remote control will suffice. Once you do, any given result might happen.
 

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