NFL Parity and 20-Point Blowouts


Courtesy of Jim Feist


For years, pro football has been the sports leader when it comes to parity. Pete Rozelle was credited with, "On any given Sunday any team can beat another." The last few years it seems as though parity has disappeared from the NFL. The Broncos this season and last are dominating, the 2008 Saints and Colts started a combined 16-0 SU/11-5 ATS and the 2007 Patriots had a remarkable 16-0 regular season.

A close look, however, shows that parity is alive and well. The Broncos have had a pair of 7-point wins and lost at Seattle, 26-20. Last year the Packers may have started 8-0, but they had a 5 point win over Minnesota, gave up 38 points in a close win over San Diego, along with 7 and 8 points wins over Carolina and New Orleans. In 2008 four wins by the Colts were by 4 points or less, while the 2007 Patriots were just as lucky as they were good - until the Super Bowl!

What New England did in 2007 was unique, but let's not forget that they were fortunate to run the regular season table. They had wins over the Colts, Eagles, Ravens and Giants by 4, 3, 3 and 3 points. Counting the playoffs, the Patriots went 2-9 against the spread their final 11 games. They were double digit favorites in their final ten and went 2-8 ATS.

Last season, parity really roared its head. The Chiefs and Chargers played much better than expected, making the playoffs, the Steelers and Ravens both finished 8-8. In the NFC the Cardinals, Panthers and Eagles were huge surprises, while the NFC North was won by Green Bay going just 8-7-1! The Bears (8-8) and Lions (7-9) finished just behind.

This year, the Cowboys, Lions, Cardinals, Bills and Browns have defied most prognosticators with consistently strong play in many areas, plenty of wins and covers.

Would you believe just over a year ago the Jets were expected to be a strong team? Seems like 100 years ago after their horrid start to 2014. The Cowboys were expected to roll over the rival Redskins on Monday night a few weeks ago as 10-point chalk, but ended up losing the game. The same for Seattle on Monday night against the Rams, who followed that big upset by getting smoked by the Chiefs, 34-7.

The Falcons and Saints continue to have defensive troubles, particularly in the secondary, while the Jets have already suffered through a 7-game skid with no offense. Injuries are the most obvious factor in leveling the playing field, turning powerhouse teams on paper into paper tigers. The Colts completely fell apart when Peyton Manning was on the shelf with a neck injury. This season offensive line injuries have been the biggest factor, with problems in Carolina, New England in September, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and both the NY Jets and Giants.

There's an old wagering adage about going against pro football teams who roll by 20 points in back-to-back games. That's not easy to do. If a pro team beats another by 20-plus points in consecutive weeks, it can be a good time to look at the other side, as the club off two blowout wins can be overvalued. In order to win by that kind of margin in consecutive games, a team has to play close to two perfect games back-to-back. In this day of parity, that takes a rare combination of talent, execution, health and luck.

Remember how bad the Chiefs started in 2011? Kansas City opened the season with back-to-back colossal stinkers, losing 41-7 and 48-3. They were a +16 dog the next game, but a very different team showed up in a 20-17 loss at San Diego, an easy cover.

Before that the Jaguars got routed by the Chargers (38-13) and Eagles (28-3), then as a +7 dog beat the Colts, 31-28. In 2009 after losing road games by 23 and 37 points, the Raiders stumbled home and not only covered, but beat the Eagles as 14-point dogs, 13-9. That same season the Browns lost back-to-back games by 20+ in Weeks 2 and 3, then got the cover against the Bengals as a +6 home dog. After losing by 35 and 28, the Rams got the cover in a 23-20 loss at Jacksonville as a +9 dog. It is hard to wipe out a pro team by 3 TDs three games in a row.

It might not seem like it at times, but this is parity at work, with salary caps and free agency making it difficult for teams to simply buy players to shore up weak areas, as is the case in baseball. In football, if you pay a lot to get or retain a key player, you may lose a star in another area. Overall, You rarely see pro teams keep up 20-point or more dominance for more than two games.

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