Is There Something to Parity?
56 Percent of teams 4-6 to 6-4
Maybe there is something to this parity thing. There are a couple dominant teams, a couple pathetic teams, and just about everyone else is 6-4, 5-5 or 4-6.
There is one division that the first- and second-place teams are 5-5, and it's not the perennially wishy-washy NFC West; it's the recent powerhouse AFC West. Oh, the NFC counterpart is still wishy-washy. The top two teams there just a game better at 6-4 and 5-5. And in the NFC South, the leader is 6-4 trailed by a pair of 4-6 teams.
Meanwhile, the other two NFC divisions are almost identical. Both are led by a 10-1 team (they both won on Thanksgiving). Second place in the East is held by 7-3 and the North by 6-5. Third and fourth place are tied in both divisions: 5-5 in the East, 4-6 in the North.
There are no teams tied within the division in the AFC East, North or South. The East is almost symmetric with one undefeated team and one winless team and one .500 team. The other is 2-9. The North is perfectly symmetric: one 7-3, one 3-7; one 6-4, one 4-6. They're all bunched up in the South. The leader is 9-2, and second place is 1.5 games back, but the last three teams are separated by a game each.
Here are the picks:
Sunday, Nov. 25
New Orleans Saints (4-6) at Carolina Panthers (4-6), 1 p.m.
These teams both still have a shot at the playoffs. Well, the one that wins does. Contrary to what I said Thursday about theoretically knowing more about teams in Week 12 vs. Week 2, I have no clue about either of these. Carolina is 0-4 at home, New Orleans is 2-3 on the road. Carolina has lost 4 straight, New Orleans has lost 2 straight.
Prediction: Saints, 27-20.
Tennessee Titans (6-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-7), 1 p.m.
Technically, Cincy is just 3 games out of the wild card, but realistically with 6 to play, they're out of it. Having seen Cincinnati play a couple times and knowing their history, they're about to give up. Meanwhile, Tennessee has the slight edge for the second wild card spot, and they need to win to keep pace. They're not really that good, but they should be able to beat The Return of the Bungles. Besides, playoff teams have to know how to win on the road.
Prediction: Titans, 20-17.
Houston Texans (5-5) at Cleveland Browns (6-4), 1 p.m.
Cleveland is just behind Tennessee for the last wild card spot, and Houston is tied with three others just behind them. Houston's pretty much out of the race if they lose. Cleveland is 4-1 at home and 4-1 in their last five. Houston is 2-3 on the road and 2-3 in their last five, but they're riding a two-game winning streak.
Prediction: Browns, 24-17.
Buffalo Bills (5-5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3), 1 p.m.
As good a story as Buffalo was until last week, they have one of the worst offenses in the league, an ongoing quarterback controversy, and no Marshawn Lynch. Jacksonville has a running game and a pretty good defense. It will be interesting to see how Buffalo responds after last week, especially since their playoff hopes fade with a loss.
Prediction: Jaguars, 28-13.
Oakland Raiders (2-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-6), 1 p.m.
Remember when Oakland was 2-2 and had a half-game lead in the division? And the next week, division leader K.C. (3-3) beat the Raiders in Oakland? Kansas City has lost 3 straight; Oakland has lost 6 straight. K.C. has won the last 9 meetings between the two teams, and a win today gives them a 5-year sweep.
Prediction: Chiefs, 17-10.
Minnesota Vikings (4-6) at New York Giants (7-3), 1 p.m.
After losing fairly badly to Dallas and squeaking by at Detroit, New Jersey is looking a wee bit shaky. After getting crushed and shut out by Green Bay, Minnesota looks like a team defeated, and it's not likely they'll score that much more on Jersey than they did on the Pack.
Prediction: Giants, 24-13.
Seattle Seahawks (6-4) at St. Louis Rams (2-8), 1 p.m.
You know, St. Louis has won two straight, both on the road. A win would leave them just 3 games back in the division, and in this division, very little would surprise me. Can you imagine an 0-8 team eventually making the playoffs? Saying a team "has to do this" or "has to do that" is starting to lose all meaning, especially when teams don't do what they have to do, but Seattle has to be St. Louis at home.
Prediction: Seahawks, 28-16.
Washington Redskins (5-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4), 1 p.m.
If the more desperate team wins, Washington pulls this off. They're on the outside looking in for the wild card. Tampa has a two-game lead in the South, and, at the moment, look pretty safe. But teams hovering around .500 are never safe, even in the NFC South. Washington has had a tougher road to 5-5 than Tampa has had to 6-4. Tampa's defense is playing like Tampa's defense is supposed to, and I don't see Jason Campbell lighting them up.
Prediction: Buccaneers, 17-13.
San Francisco 49ers (2-8) at Arizona Cardinals (5-5), 4:05 p.m.
If St. Louis pulls off the upset over Seattle, Arizona could be tied for the division. That would also leave the Patriots first-round pick all alone in last in the division. Probably not this week.
Prediction: Cardinals, 27-9.
Denver Broncos (5-5) at Chicago Bears (4-6), 4:15 p.m.
Denver is 0-2 against the NFC North, losing in OT to Green Bay on a Monday night and getting crushed by Detroit the following Sunday. But those were winning teams, and Denver has put together a couple decent games since. Every time you think Chicago is utterly finished, they win. Every time you think they're about to make a move, they lose. I think they're about to make a move.
Prediction: Broncos, 28-14.
Baltimore Ravens (4-6) at San Diego Chargers (5-5), 4:15 p.m.
Baltimore is just happy to be playing outside the division after losing three straight, all to division opponents. As inconsistent as San Diego has been, they're 4-1 at home. Baltimore is 1-4 on the road.
Prediction: Chargers, 17-7.
Monday, Nov. 26
Miami Dolphins (0-10) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3), 8:30 p.m.
Pretty sure Pittsburgh's going to take out last week's frustrating loss to Jersey on Miami. Could be worse ratings than San Fran at Seattle on Monday Night two weeks ago. The only thing to talk about will be Ricky Williams's return, and I, for one, don't want to hear a word about Williams from Tony Kornheiser.
Prediction: Steelers, 42-10.
Open Date: None
Despite everything I said about parity, I ended up picking the team with the better record in every game.