Week 3 of this season was arguably the most exciting of this season to date. A big reason why this was a great week of football was the level of parity on display. One of the reasons the NFL is king in the United States among major sports is because it’s the one where almost everyone’s team has a reasonable chance to be good in a given week or season. It doesn’t always work out that way, but when it does, we all remember why the NFL holds its crown. If anyone had told you the Buffalo Bills would somehow be undefeated through the first three weeks and beat the New England Patriots with something short of divine intervention aiding the process, you would’ve undoubtedly called that person a crackpot, unless you were a delusional Bills homer yourself. Somehow, this scenario that seemed so unlikely as of about four weeks ago has become reality.
The even more insane thing about it is that it doesn’t seem like a fluke. They’ve giving up too many points defensively, but it doesn’t look like the Bills are suddenly going to stop scoring points on the other side of the ball. That all adds up to the Bills ending the season as about average team, but as we all know an average team can make the playoffs with a couple of breaks here and there. I mean this team is a season removed from 4-12, where it’s offense was one of the bottom five in football in terms of points per game. As of now, they look like they have what will be one of the upper echelon offenses in the game. It’s too giant a leap to start talking playoffs at this stage in the season, but the fact that we can even entertain the idea that the Bills might make the playoffs is proof positive of the greatness of the NFL’s system of parity.
There is a related story of a doormat getting off the ground going in Detroit with the 3-0 Lions, although their success has been much more predictable than Buffalo’s. The Lions were a sexy pick with many touting the Matthew Stafford/Calvin Johnson connection and their fearsome front as reasons why they would RISE UP, to steal a slogan from some disappointing team in the NFC South. I personally didn’t buy the stock on the Lions because they still don’t have much defensively when you move past their front and their offense is pretty reliant on Matt Stafford’s oh so brittle shoulders not cracking, though you can argue quarterback health is an issue that plagues many teams in the NFL. What you can’t argue with are the results they’ve gotten so far. They have been what many thought they were and good for Lions’ fans. Eventually everyone has their day on some level in the NFL. For the sake of their fans, let’s hope it’s finally the time for doormats like the Bills and Lions to get off the ground is here.
Elsewhere in the NFL, we had an eventful week of football. In the Sunday Night game we had a matchup between the Andrew Luck sweepstakes front running Colts and the defending AFC Champions Pittsburgh Steelers. On paper this looked like it would be a bludgeoning, but as we’ve all figured out by now the games have to actually be played. And this proved to be one that we all deserved to watch be played out. I’m not a big believer in the human element in regards to sports. Largely, I think teams and players are either good or they’re not. Positive things happen to inferior players/teams sometimes and negative things happen to good players/teams sometimes. There is no real rhyme or reason to it aside from the luck of the draw. In particular, I think ideas like choke and clutch are generally hogwash.
Some human elements I do buy into, especially in football, include those of momentum and intensity level. It was very hard to watch this game and not believe those are not real principles in football. On one side, you had a flat Steelers team that appeared to think it was a walk in and win. On the other, you had a Colts team that has gone from a team that expects to contend to laughing stock in the span of a year. Those were no doubt factors that turned this into an awesome game. Initially, it looked like the game everyone expected it to be. I considered turning it off and doing something else actually. Thankfully I didn’t because this one got good out of nowhere. The Steelers committed the cardinal sin of letting the opposing team think they were in a game, when they were in the process of stomping the out. Committing turnovers on back-to-back drives allowed the Colts to believe they could play with them and maybe reminded them that they have been a contender as well. It was hard to watch this and not think the Steelers were still just that much better than the Colts and all of the Colts efforts would prove futile, b
ut it was still fun to watch. Probably the most important part thing to take out of this game is that it presented some question marks about the Steelers. In the first three weeks, they’ve been in a game where the Ravens threw the kitchen sink at them, they killed the Seahawks and got a trap sprang on them by the Colts. It’s difficult to evaluate where they are because of the first and last games they played. The Steelers still have plenty of season left to prove their worth, though I’m starting to wonder if they are actually one of the best teams in the league this year.
Keeping with the parity theme, Monday Night Football featured two teams that went 6-10 a year ago in a battle a battle for first place in their division. A big reason why? The much-heralded Dream Team in Philadelphia has dropped back-to-back games. You know that one team that was supposed to run away with not only the NFC East, but also possibly the NFC? I hate to keep saying this, but it’s obviously early. However, you have to appreciate yet another instance of the NFL being turned on its head. I don’t think very many people thought the Cowboys, Redskins and Giants would all be ahead of the Eagles on the ledger nearing the end of the first month, if ever. It’s just another example of why this sport is as big as it is and why we watch every year hoping this is the one where it all happens to break right for the colors we support.