The NFL Is Achieving Its Ultimate Goal of Parity

With more than half of the season over, 19 of the league's 32 teams are .500 or better with a solid shot at the postseason

George Kittle of the 49ers catches a touchdown against the Rams. The Rams have lost two in a row, and seemingly prove that the NFL is becoming more about parity.
George Kittle of the 49ers catches a touchdown against the Rams.
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty

Prior to the NFL trade deadline, the (at the time) one-loss LA Rams traded for star linebacker Von Miller and then added to their depth chart at wide receiver by signing Odell Beckham Jr. after he was released by the Browns.

The Rams, clearly, are going all-in on a Super Bowl run and burning through future assets and salary-cap space in order to help give it the best chance of succeeding. However, since those all-in moves, Los Angeles has been held out of the win column and now sits at 7-3 on the season following back-to-back losses in primetime.

The NFL schedule, with its six divisional games and tiered scheduling based on the previous season’s standings, is designed to promote parity and the “any given Sunday” narrative of unpredictability each week. The model doesn’t always work, but when it does — as it is right now during the NFL’s first 17-game season — it’s a thing of beauty.

Following a slate of games in Week 9 that saw three teams that were favored to win by seven or more points, like the Rams, lose outright and division leaders go 3-4, five teams that entered Week 10 with a record under .500 and beat a team with a winning record that began the week in first place or tied for first. Wrapped up in those five games were the Panthers, Dolphins and Washington Football Team all pulling off long-shot upsets of the Cardinals, Ravens and Buccaneers, respectively.

Entering Week 11, 13 teams have either four or five wins, the most ever this late in the season and 19 of the league’s 32 teams are .500 or better with a solid shot at the postseason. Based on their remaining schedules, there are even some teams below .500 who could sniff the postseason and 22 of the NFL’s 32 teams have a chance of 20% or more to make the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight.

With eight weeks of regular-season action yet to be played, it is shaping up to be an epic finish, especially in the AFC where 12 of the conference’s 16 teams are .500 or better, including all eight teams in the North and West divisions. The Titans, who lead the AFC at 8-2 and play five of their remaining seven games against teams with losing records, should run away with the conference and secure a first-round bye, but the rest of the playoff picture is far from clear.

In the NFC, the Packers are also 8-2, but so are the Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys are just a game behind at 7-2. All three of those teams have more than one difficult game on the schedule and could certainly lose out on the top seed in the NFC to a team like the Buccaneers — or the Rams. With two months left, let the NFL’s parity party roll.

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