I woke up Sunday morning with a headache. I had partied a little too hard the night before and I was paying the consequences. But it was a Sunday and that could only mean one thing: pro football.
So I staggered from my bed to the couch to settle in for a nice long day of the NFL. But when I turned on the television to check on the scores, I couldn’t believe me eyes. Were the Bears really thrashing the Vikings? Was Tennessee really falling to 0-2? And, most unbelievable, were the lowly Bungals actually beating up on the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens?
As the throbbing in my head subsided and my vision became clearer, I realized that the surprises mentioned were not merely hangover-induced hallucinations but something indicative of the state of the NFL today.
It’s called parity, and it has taken over the National Football League. With free agency playing a major roll and the athletes in the NFL getting bigger and stronger every year, it is now nearly impossible to predict who will be a consistent play-off contender. Need another example? Take a look at the San Diego Chargers who have already doubled their win total from last year and now sit atop the AFC West with a 2-0 record.
It all started two seasons ago when the Titans and Rams, after going 8-8 and 4-12 the season before, turned around their franchises to play in Super Bowl XXIV. Then last season it was the Ravens and Giants turn to surprise the experts and go all the way to the big game. And now, if the first two weeks of the season are any indication, that trend will continue all the way to the Super Bowl this year in New Orleans.
So, with the constant change in the NFL today can anyone really make informed play-off and Super Bowl predictions? Well, maybe not, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t try.
In the AFC East, it looks like the Indianapolis Colts and the Miami Dolphins are the cream of the crop. But a Colts offense that is second to none puts them on top of the division, with the ‘Phins claiming a wild card berth. In the Central, look for the Tennessee Titans to rebound from their slow start to make the play-offs. But it’s all over for the Ravens, who will be overtaken by the Jacksonville Jaguars for another wild card. And in the West, the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos will fight for the Division Title, with Denver coming out on top.
In the NFC East, the Philadelphia Eagles with Donovan McNabb look like the team to beat, with the New York Giants claiming a wild card. The Central is full of contenders, but a healthy Brett Favre spells division title for Green Bay. The NFC West is also full of contenders, but look for the top two teams, the St. Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints, to be playing in the postseason. And claiming the final wild card out of the NFC West will be the young, but talented, San Francisco 49ers.
And now for the fearless Super Bowl prediction: Denver 34, New Orleans 17.
But of course, all of this could change next week.