People moan about parity in the NFL. They gripe about it because griping is the thing to do, because they've read about it or heard it somewhere. They complain without fully understanding what parity means. I even heard it last year, which was definitely not a season when parity was an issue. I mean, the good were very good and the bad were just as bad, and that ain't parity.
Now I'm hearing it again, because form's gone out the window. Everyone seems capable of beating everyone else, and the three heaviest underdogs on the board—Philadelphia, Chicago and Denver—all pulled off upsets on Sunday. I drink it's terrific, and unless you get a thrill out of watching Penn State score 70 points against Akron or Kansas run up 71 against Cal State-Northridge, you'll have to agree that competition is what it's all about.
The only problem is, parity makes it tough on handicappers, such as yours truly, but not impossible if you avoid picking games with big spreads, as I do. Who wants to fatten up on puppies?
Which leads us to this week. Do I see a shocking upset on the horizon? No. I'm not that smart. Do I see any minor surprises? Sure, Seattle over San Diego, which registered another one of Sunday's upsets with its win in Detroit. The Chargers, who added Lions quarterback Charlie Batch to their list of victims, play heroic defense. But they're also pretty badly banged up, and the Seahawks are coming off a bye week. I feel that Seattle will have a bit more zip in its legs.
Denver and Green Bay meet in the Inspiration Bowl, after each team overcame much adversity to win on Sunday. The Broncos worked through an unbelievable succession of injuries to beat the Raiders: Bubby Brister was a late scratch, tight end Shannon Sharpe went down with a broken collarbone, wideouts Ed McCaffrey and Rod Smith were wobbling around like punchy fighters, the running game fell to rookie Olandis Gary after Terrell Davis's backup, Derek Loville, was scratched with a strained hamstring, and on and on. The Packers pulled out a victory at the end against the Bucs, despite the fact that Brett Favre banged up his shoulder to go with his already sore passing hand. The game's at Mile High, where the Pack has yet to win in four tries. Ordinarily I'd be highly tempted to go the upset route here, but the Broncos are simply too worn down. Green Bay gets the win.
Miami goes to New England in the biggest AFC game on the board, and both are coming off games that were decided in the final seconds. The teams are almost dead even in the matchups. Both pass a lot better than they run, both have fine secondaries and at least one serious go-to wideout now that Dan Marino has discovered Tony Martin. But the Dolphins have dropped four straight at New England; the Foxboro factor means a win for the Pats.
The Bills, who looked at times like the AFC's most efficient machine against the Steelers, will beat the Raiders. The Redskins, who have lost nine of their last 12 games against the Cardinals, will win this one in the desert. The Jets will have to blitz Indy's Peyton Manning to slow down his high-powered offense, but the young man is becoming a master at going to the hot reads, and I see a throw-short, run-long or two in a Colts victory. The Vikings will stop scratching their heads over their lost offense long enough to hang an L on the Lions. Finally, there's the Monday-nighter, the Cowboys at the Giants. I see the Dallas blitzers pouring through in waves against Kent Graham or Kerry Collins. I see batted balls and turnovers. I don't see a lot of yards for Dallas, but I do see a Cowboys win.