The National Football League wanted parity and it got parity.
The past three Super Bowls have featured six different teams.
No 1999 division winner repeated last year and only two divisions ? the AFC and NFC Central ? have had one team win twice in the past three years. The NFC West is the extreme here, as each of the five teams has won the division once in the last five years.
Six different teams improved by at least four games from 1999 to last year and all of them made the playoffs after missing out in 1999.
Nine teams lost at least three more games last season than they did in 1999, and four of them went home early after making the playoffs in 1999.
This season appears to be more of the same.
In only seven weeks, Cleveland, Cincinnati, San Diego and Chicago have all equaled or surpassed their win total from last year already.
The other hand holds Tennessee, Minnesota, Detroit and the New York Giants. Those four teams combined to lose only 19 games last season, but have already dropped 18 this year.
Yes, parity is here, but it seems more like mediocrity than anything else.
Consider that after seven weeks, there are only 12 teams with losing records out of 31. Only five teams in the NFL are more than two games above .500 and there are currently 12 “average” teams sitting at 4-3, 3-3 or 3-4.
So, how do we know which teams are actually good?
It seems that those five teams at the top of the standings are probably good bets, but even they are misleading.
The Steelers are 4-1, but they have beaten up on two teams with only one win and two more average teams, while splitting a pair of games with 2-4 opponents.
Oakland has knocked off five average or worse teams while losing to its only winning opponent to go 5-1.
San Diego is 5-2, but the combined record of the Chargers’ victims is 13-20.
The Bears proved that they are for real with an impressive 37-31 comeback win in overtime against the equally surprising 49ers. However, Chicago still has to pass two divisional tests against Green Bay before we know just how good the Bears are.
Finally, there is St. Louis. The only undefeated team in the NFL continues to ? what’s that? They lost? But they were winning 24-6 at halftime and looked like they were just toying with the Saints.
Well, the Rams may have lost their first game in the seventh week for the third straight season, but they are still the best team in the league. On any given Sunday, if somebody made me pick the winner of one game, I’d go with St. Louis.
If you’re looking for a team to bet on when St. Louis gets its bye this weekend, you’re on your own.
You knew things hadn’t changed after week six, when underdogs won 11 of the 13 games. Included in those upsets were New England’s second blowout win over Indianapolis this season, San Diego’s blowout win over Denver to stop a two-game losing streak and Philadelphia’s first win over the Giants since 1996.
That’s the NFL these days. There are seven truly awful teams and six or seven clubs that look pretty good.
The rest of the league is just one big pile of “parity.”
Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.