The exciting first half of the NFL season: parity reigns supreme

By Justin Cohen

Contributing Writer

For the last several years, one or two NFL teams have asserted dominance over the rest of the league by being undefeated or having one loss by the halfway point of the season. This year, a shocking 12 teams have played well enough to earn at least six wins after nine games played.

In many games, teams have won at the end of regulation or in overtime as recently last Sunday. Some teams predicted at the beginning of the season to go nowhere, including the Chiefs, Rams, Seahawks and Raiders, are all in the thick of their respective divisional races for the first time in years. Playoff teams from last year, like the Vikings and Cowboys, have endured turmoil early on and are virtually out of the playoffs already. The “best team in the league” title has changed hands practically every week this season.

In the AFC, the usual stalwarts, like the New England Patriots and the New York Jets, who are currently tied in leading the conference, are reminding everyone they live in the postseason. Not far behind are the Colts, Steelers and Ravens.

Along with the backbone of the conference, the Jets are making headlines almost every week for either their on-field performance or off-the-field antics. Most people figured they would be the talk of the league with all of the high-caliber free agents they signed in the offseason, such as Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, Jason Taylor and LaDainian Tomlinson.  Their star power, along with their outspoken coach Rex Ryan, have them at the top of the conference, but joining them are several teams, like the Chiefs and Raiders, who have usually been seen by other teams as not much of a challenge. Their rebuilding phases are starting to show progress and if they keep up at this rate, they will return to the elite of the NFL.

In the NFC, all of the top teams are defeating each other, so a cluster of strong teams resides at the higher echelon of the conference. But a larger group of teams is right behind them sitting at 6-3, waiting for an opportunity to permanently show they belong at the top.

The NFC South division has impressive depth with the Super Bowl champion Saints, Buccaneers, and conference leading Falcons all making strong pushes for the postseason.

The NFC North brings the upstart Bears and injury-ridden Packers to the mix, and while the Bears are winning with their strong defense, the Packers are showing their depth and resilient will that will keep them in the hunt for the coming weeks.

The NFC West teams have beaten each other so much that the 49ers, who started the season 0-5, are still in contention for their divisional title. Finally, the NFC East, which has sent two teams to the postseason for the last four seasons, has the Giants and Eagles making claims for the top spot this year.

This season has seen players such as Michael Vick, LaDainian Tomlinson and Mike Williams all experience spectacular campaigns in order to earn back the elite status they had lost in the last several years. Teams have put on historic performances and this generation’s spectacular players have met milestones set by those historic players who helped make the NFL what it is today. A season of parity will only bring more of it, which will make the second half of the 2010 season even more exciting than the first.

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