The NFL Is Suddenly Filled with Parity and I Love It!
A month ago, it was a foregone conclusion that the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints were the clear NFC favorites to go to the Super Bowl while the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots were the class of the AFC. Now, with two weeks left in the regular season, the best teams from each conference continue to lose to lesser opponents and suddenly, the road to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta looks more wide open than ever.
The Rams have looked bad for two in a weeks in a row with losses to the Bears and Eagles, and suddenly Jared Goff looks like he is suffering from a confidence problem. The Saints now look like the favorites out of the NFC to win home field advantage, but they need to play the rival Panthers twice over the last three weeks and also host Pittsburgh.
The Dallas Cowboys had a five game winning streak and locked in on winning the NFC East Division for the 20th time in franchise history. The team made a great move by acquiring Amari Cooper and rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has looks like a franchise defensive player. Just when Cowboys fans were ready to plan their playoff itineraries, their team gets shutout in Indianapolis. The Colts dealt America's Team a harsh reality check, but get in line Cowboys fans. You are not alone.
The best story in the NFC this year is happening in the Windy City. The Chicago Bears, a team filled with disappointment and losing football has made a complete 180-degree turn and they are suddenly a team that now resembles a Super Bowl contender. Did I just transport myself back in time to 1985, Ditka, and the Super Bowl Shuffle? No, this is a new Bears team, with another great defense, a young franchise quarterback who's numbers resemble Aaron Rodgers after his first few years in the league, and a 40-year old head coach who made a name for himself in Arena football. All the Bears needed to do in order to vindicate their season was destroy Rodgers and the Packers at Soldier Field. Mission accomplished.
Back to the Steelers. They won their most meaningful game since their last Super Bowl win in 2009 over the Arizona Cardinals. Big Ben and company knocked off the Patriots 17-10 to give their playoff hopes alive. For Tom Brady, it was his second loss in as many games and the man who has defied aging is finally starting to look more like a 41-year old quarterback.
With New England now 9-5, the door has opened up for teams like the Los Angeles Chargers and Houston Texans to make their statement in the AFC. The Lightning Bolts are one of the more exciting teams to watch in the NFL because of their veteran quarterback Philip Rivers and a ridiculously talented supporting cast. Nobody gave Rivers and the Chargers a chance a few weeks back, and now they could end up with home field advantage throughout the playoffs in a 27,000-seat soccer stadium in Carson.
The Texans did not make it easy against the Jets last Saturday, but they are still in the driver's seat in the AFC South. They started out 0-3 and since, have won 10 out of their last 11 games. I do not think that other AFC teams would be excited about playing the Texans in the playoffs.
Welcome to the new NFL, a parity-filled league where anyone can win on any given week. Count me in as someone who loves the unexpected. I am tired of watching dominant teams steamroll the competition for four months of action. I like drama, underdogs, and some new blood in professional football. If that means a Chargers vs. Bears Super Bowl, count me in!