The NFL has been uninspiring so far this season. And while there are multiple issues plaguing it this year, including poor refereeing and a rash of injuries to star players, one of the most apparent has been the lack of parity in the NFL this year.
Since the sixteen-game schedule was instituted, only two teams have made the playoffs with a sub-.500 record: the 2010 Seahawks (7-9) and the 2013 Panthers (7-8-1). This year, there is a chance that two teams could make their way to the playoffs with a losing record, due to the dismal nature of both the AFC South and NFC East.
The AFC South has been the Colts’ to lose pretty much every year since Peyton Manning was drafted. This continued after their two-win season with the drafting of Andrew Luck. But with their dismal offensive line, Luck’s poor season and his season-ending injuries, the Colts sit at 5-5 going into Week 12. Following right behind them, at also .500, are the Arian Foster-less Houston Texans, who have been spurred on by better than expected plays from quarterback Brian Hoyer and the typical JJ Watt domination. But most surprising are the Jacksonville Jaguars, hanging around at 4-6. Blake Bortles, in his second season out of UCF, has broken out, throwing 20 touchdowns and over 2600 yards. This is due in major part to the emergence of one of the better wide receiver duos in the NFL: Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, who have 7 touchdowns apiece, as well as 871 yards and 716 yards receiving, respectively. And, while flawed, there is a strong possibility they could sneak into the playoffs.
While the AFC South may be dismal, the worse and more publicized terrible division is the NFC East, home to the 5-5 Giants, 4-6 Redskins, 4-7 Eagles and 3-8 Cowboys. In the preseason, the Eagles were the clear favorite behind Chip Kelly and his revamped offense, including the questionable trade for Sam Bradford and the signing of 2014 leading rusher DeMarco Murray away from the division rival Cowboys. However, Bradford proved his mediocrity; compounded with a defense resembling more of a sieve than a wall, you get an incredibly disappointing season. The Cowboys, the other favorite, are the true victims of injuries, with the loss of Tony Romo sending the team into a tailspin to the bottom of the division. There’s only so much you can do with quarterbacks like Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel. Washington has been, well, Washington, with another season full of disappointing play and a general air of disdain from everyone else.
So I’ll stop beating around the bush: the Giants are probably going to win the NFC East. They’re by far the best team in the division, despite having one of the worst pass defenses in the league, a poor defense overall and a lack of a distinct running game. Naturally, they’re going to fall backwards into the playoffs, and probably end another Patriots undefeated season in the Super Bowl, taking out an undefeated Panthers team on the way.
All it takes is for a below average team like the Jaguars or Giants to make the playoffs for everything to go haywire. As Howard Cosell once said, “That’s why they play the game”.