September 28, 2010

Parity is the Name of the Game in the NFL

Print More

In the New Meadowlands Stadium, the Jets are king, and the Giants mere paupers.At least that is popular opinion. In the most recent edition of ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings, Gang Green sits at a comfortable No. 7, above high-powered Houston and the Baltimore Ravens, whom they’ve already lost to.The Giants meanwhile are buried at No. 24, below Washington (who just handed St. Louis their fourth win in 31 games) and only one spot above San Francisco (who can’t beat anyone).What to make of such rankings? Despite losing in Seattle this past weekend, the San Diego Chargers are No. 18, while the Seahawks No. 19. The Chiefs, who are undefeated, are ranked below the Titans, whose two wins came against the supposed reeling Giants and the Raiders, who are No. 28 on the list. The Raiders’ one win came against St. Louis, yet both teams are ranked below the same Redskins who managed only 16 points while losing in the Edwards Jones Dome.Who truly reins in the NFL? It’s not the Steelers or Saints, who are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. It’s the same thing that separates the nation’s most popular professional sports league from baseball, basketball and hockey: parity.The New York headlines describing the Big Apple’s two marquee franchises seem to describe clubs that are polar opposites. While “As Giants ‘unravel,’ a call for leadership” appeared on one side of The New York Daily News, “Sanchez’s leadership has Rex beaming,” graced the other. In Newsday: “Giants long on passion, short on smarts,” along with, “Ryan saw improved Sanchez coming.”Yet, how truly different are New York’s two teams? While the Jets have rushed for 132 yards per game, the Giants are not far off at 115. The Jets have passed for only 172 yards per game, while the Giants 253. The vaunted Jets defense has allowed 64 first downs, while the Giants have allowed only 55.  While the Giants have allowed far more rushing yards per contest than the Jets (137 to 62), the opposite is true of passing defense –– 169 yards per game against the Giants, while 275 against the Jets. Gang Green has racked up 264 penalty yards per game, while Big Blue only 206.    Of course, these selected statistics do not tell the whole story and it’s unlikely one could actually make a strong case for the Giants being New York’s superior NFL team in 2010. Yet, it provides an interesting microcosm for the league at large. According to commentators, the Vikings roared back into relevancy with a dominating win over Detroit on Sunday. Yet, Minnesota had only four more first downs, 73 more yards of offense and only three more minutes of ball possession. They also registered almost 40 more penalty yards than the Lions.New England is a perennial playoff threat and still one of the league’s most respected organizations, while the Bills are AFC East bottom-dwellers, haven’t been a contender in years and just cut their opening-day starting quarterback. The Pats beat Buffalo by 8 points. The Browns have had even less stability at signal and play caller than the Bills, while the Ravens won a playoff game last season, have one of the league’s best defenses, one of the league’s most productive running backs and a young QB and head coach with very bright futures. In Week 3, it took Baltimore two late scores to survive a scare at home at the hands of Cleveland. In addition to narrowly escaping with a win, the Ravens gave up 144 yards to running back Peyton Hillis in the process. That’s almost a quarter of the 2008 7th round pick’s career rushing total.While parity may confound those that produce and read such popular Power Rankings, it undoubtedly plays a crucial role in fueling the excitement that is Sunday afternoon in the NFL. Even if you are a fan of the lowly Browns, Bills and Lions, come kickoff, truly anything can happen on the gridiron. In Week 4, could struggling Carolina up-end New Orleans? Could the Raiders trip up Matt Schaub and the Texans? Could the Giants vault to the top of the Meadowlands’ own Power Ranking with a win over Chicago?Stay tuned. The possibilities parity provides to the pigskin are what make the NFL fun.

Original Author: Holden Steinhauer