Thursday, October 11, 2007

Most NFL upsets these days -- aren't

By Rick Morris

At this time last week, the experts were still agog about the almost unprecedented scope of upsets and general silliness yielded by NFL Week 4. As the dust has started to settle, one crystal-clear conclusion has shown itself to be undeniably true: none of these games were gigantic upsets, and we’re likely to see few legitimate ones the rest of the year.

Why? When you examine the league as you would a fantasy sports draft board, with tiers included to delineate where teams should truly be slotted, it becomes clear that for all of the talk about the league being parity-ridden in recent years if not decades, that it has never been truer than right now. There has rarely if ever been a time in the history of professional football that a good 20 teams are separated by so little.

Standard power rankings are insufficient to display the full gist of the way the league is configured through six weeks of the season. Here’s an assessment, with the aforementioned tiers included to give an accurate sense of where teams are at as of today:

TIER I: Mutant Super-Teams

1. New England

2. Indianapolis

3. Dallas (subject to falling to the top of the next tier if they get exposed by the Pats this week)

TIER II: Above-Average Teams That Should Make the Playoffs and Lose to the Top-Tier Teams

4. Pittsburgh

5. Green Bay (how lethal would they be with any kind of a solid running game?)

6. Tennessee (in the all-time overachieving and overcoaching example this side of Bob Melvin – at a time when much more talented squads like San Diego, Carolina and Philadelphia have proven to be gutless disgraces, the Titans are to be hailed)

7. Seattle

TIER III: One Large Amorphous Mess That Will Ultimately Yield Some Complete Cannon-Fodder Playoff Teams, Possibly with Records as Bad as 7-9

8. Jacksonville

9. San Diego

10. Baltimore

11. New York Giants

12. Tampa Bay

13. Washington

14. Houston

15. Carolina

16. Arizona

17. Chicago

18. Philadelphia

19. Cincinnati

20. Oakland

21. Detroit

22. Denver

23. Cleveland

24. San Francisco

25. New York Jets

26. Kansas City

27. New Orleans

28. Minnesota

29. Buffalo (and they wouldn’t even be on this tier without the breath of fresh air known as Trent Edwards)

TIER IV: Bottom-Feeding Slugs

30. St. Louis

31. Atlanta

32. Miami

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