Keeler: Parity balances out NFL

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

It’s the week before Thanksgiving, and as usual the NFL’s parity makes it very tough to figure out which teams are playoff teams, let alone trying to figure out who is the best team overall.

I’m all for parity, but I have to admit I miss the days when one team dominated and seemed like the clear-cut favorite to win it all. Those teams didn’t always win the Super Bowl, but at least you knew those teams were the one’s to beat. Now you could say that about a lot of teams.

All season long I’ve heard different ‘so-called experts’ give their differing opinions. Is it Seattle, Kansas City, New Orleans, Denver, New England or even some other random team?

At the start of the season I picked the New England Patriots to win it all. Of course, I also picked Atlanta to win the NFC, maybe that’s why I’m nine games out of first place in the football forecast.

Maybe it’s me just being stubborn, or stupid or a little bit of both, but I’m sticking with the Patriots — for now.

They are currently in third in the AFC playoff standings, tied with Indianapolis for the second position (the Colts own the tiebreaker). I think the Patriots will finish second behind Denver in the AFC race.

The Broncos are probably the cool pick, but I’ve never been cool, so I’m not too worried about that. It’s tough to win in Denver, but I’m not sure how Peyton Manning’s health will hold up with an offensive line that at times has been downright offensive.

The Broncos and Patriots play this week in New England, and I may change my mind once I see the two teams play in Foxboro, Mass.

It’s hard for me to see anybody but those two teams in the AFC Championship. Besides, a Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning game is always must-see TV, or at least that’s what the networks tell us.

The Colts have been way too up and down. They lost 38-8 to the St. Louis Rams (shouldn’t they be awarded two losses for that?), and barely beat the Tennessee Titans.

The Bengals have looked good at times, but other times not so much. I don’t think Andy Dalton is ready to make a big playoff run — yet.

The Chiefs were the only undefeated team going into last week’s game, now they are in the fifth-seed spot. They host Denver next week with a chance to change that, but I simply think the Broncos are a better team. Denver’s defense showed last week that they can play some defense, too (or maybe that was just how bad Kansas City’s offense is).

The NFC is an even bigger mess than the AFC, although I think one team is clearly the team to beat — Seattle.

The Seahawks at 10-1 have a little cushion at the top, but they play the 8-2 New Orleans Saints next week on Monday Night Football (that will make up for some of the terrible games they’ve had this season).

The game is at Seattle, which is why I like the Seahawks to keep that top spot. I think they will be tough to beat at home in the playoffs. If somehow the Saints can grab the top spot, they might become my pick to win the NFC. Sean Payton and Drew Brees know how to win in the playoffs.

The other team to watch out for in the NFC could be the Carolina Panthers. I was impressed with Cam Newton’s performance against the Patriots on Monday night. With the game on the line, Newton calmly drove the Panthers down the field for the game-winning touchdown. Maybe Newton has finally arrived. Of course, it helps to have such a strong defense to help him out.

The San Francisco 49ers seemed to have lost their sizzle. They were one of the sexy picks by all those experts to start the season, but the offense just isn’t getting it done like it did last year.

If Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore can turn things around down the stretch, they could be a sleeper team in the postseason.

I’ve also been impressed with the way the Detroit Lions have played. However, when it comes to playoff time the Lions are the Lions — enough said.

With all the parity in the league, more teams now feel like they have a true chance at going all the way. If the regular season is an indicator, we should be in store for another exciting playoff season.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd