The NFL these days can be summed up in one word: parity. It can also be summed up with another: mediocrity. Oh, sure, the NFL, if taken on a game-by-game basis, is still the best three hours of exciting entertainment one can find in the sporting world, but the 2010 football season is shaping up to be — as a quick look at the NFL standings on ESPN shows — a push toward the middle, where, after every team has played nine games (over half the season), only three teams can boast(?) a record with only two losses. That leaves 29 teams listed in the power rankings with records that reflect a loss of one-third of any particular team’s games.
Last season, at Week 11 (Week 1 is considered preseason on most lists), there were still two undefeated teams in the NFL: New Orleans and Indianapolis. The Minnesota Vikings had only lost one game. San Diego would go on to only rack up three losses (they already have five this season). Four other teams would have five losses or less, including this year’s disappointing Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings. Fifteen of the NFL’s 32 teams have already amassed five or more losses, and six others have four losses.
Nearly two-third of the NFL has four losses or more thus far in the 2010 regular football season.
This season’s NFL has shown a propensity for upset, not to mention teams landing on the bottom (or near the bottom) of their division’s standings that weren’t expected to be there: Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, and Arizona Cardinals. Then there are the teams at the top of the divisions that were unexpected: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, and the Chicago Bears. Added into that mix are those expected to be where they are, but perhaps with at least one fewer loss on their records.
And the #1 teams on the NFL power rankings lists? It appears that each of those teams dons a big red-and-white concentric circle as part of their uniforms for the week. Although the defending Super Bowl champs, the New Orleans Saints, maintained the top spot for the first three weeks, losing their third game cost them that position and they have never been back. In fact, they’ve lost three games this season, matching their entire loss record for 2009. After that, it has been a near free-for-all at the top of the power rankings lists.
Week 4: Pittsburgh Steelers. Week 5: The Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers shared the honors, which was repeated in Week 6. Week 7 saw the New York Jets replace the Ravens as the Steelers’ co-holders of the #1 position. Week 8 saw the same thing. Week 9 saw both the #1 teams fall, replaced by the New England Patriots as the only team with one loss. But that didn’t last long. New England went down in Week 10, replaced by Baltimore and the New York Giants.
This week, the #1 Baltimore Ravens (ESPN Power Rankings) lost to the Atlanta Falcons. The top-ranked New York Giants (Fox Sports and CBS) fell to the one-win Dallas Cowboys and their new coach, Jason Garrett.
No doubt the Atlanta Falcons will take the top spot on many of the power rankings lists for Week 11. But the New England Patriots and the New York Jets also have two losses, so they’ll vie for the #1 position as well. But in a season where the teams seem to be fighting to stay in the middle of the pack instead of division or conference dominance, it looks doubtful, if precedent is an indicator, that any of those teams will remain on top for very long.
“NFL Standing — 2010,” ESPN.go.com