Jason Friedman’s NFL Picks, Week Six: Forget Dog Fighting. Parity Is the League’s Biggest Problem.

Talk about a bizarro version of before and after.

Before I begin, let me make one thing abundantly clear: I heart the NFL. I love watching the games, I love playing as my favorite teams on Madden and I love, love, love fantasy football. But the NFL has a problem. Namely, it’s being overrun by awful teams. ESPN.com’s

Bill Simmons

calls it “Perpetual Putridity.” For years, I was able to ignore the putrescence. But no longer.

Take a look at the current NFL landscape. It’s not pretty, is it? In fact, I’d argue that even the sight of Tara Reid in a bikini is more appealing right now. Suffice it to say, when the greatest league in the country is being compared to Tara’s ingrown stomach, something’s gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Nearly one third of the way into the season, it’s clear there are only two elite teams: New England and Indianapolis. Don’t even try to argue that Dallas belongs in that group. The Cowboys are still far too susceptible to the deep ball and Tony Romo may or may not be Rex Grossman (I don’t think he is, but he at least planted the seed of doubt Monday night). If Dallas can keep things interesting against the Pats this weekend, perhaps we can revisit the issue at a later date. But for now, the Cowboys belong in the very good group with Pittsburgh.

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So there’s your top four. And after that, we’re left with nothing but a steaming pile of crappy teams ranging from ever so slightly above average, to just plain god-awful. Green Bay can’t run the ball. Tennessee barely snuck past woeful Atlanta. At home. Jacksonville is, well, Jacksonville. They’ll look great one week and abhorrent the next. We’ve seen this show before. The only team that might deserve a status upgrade is Washington, but I want to see more from them before I’m convinced. Everyone else? Forget about it. They’re just biding their time until they become fodder for the big boys.

So is this really our fate? Are we stuck with a league consisting of only four or five teams which can truly be considered good? Will the pursuit of parity ultimately ruin the NFL? Consider the words of warning emanating from the Godfather of sabremetrics, Bill James. In his column for the Boston Globe, James argues that the NBA’s major problem (besides refs fixing games, players fathering illegitimate children and the mere existence of the New York Knicks franchise) is that the element of predetermination is far too high. Simply stated, the best team wins too often. Of course, the NFL doesn’t have to worry about that. It’s problem is just the opposite. Says James:

“The NFL is a well-managed league, but it runs a risk of pushing too hard in the other direction. If every team has the same chance to win, whatever you do is just as meaningless. Of course, the NFL has not approached that point, but it needs to be careful about parity.”

So there you have it. The NFL’s parity problem is getting worse. Even if you don’t believe me, you certainly ought to believe it from a man who made Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Now that the Vick debacle is over, maybe commissioner Goodell will start working on a solution for this issue which – while far less vile and gruesome — is certainly much more of a threat to the league’s overall health than dog fighting.

But enough of the scholarly stuff. You didn’t come here for statistical analysis; you’re here to get winning football picks and bootylicious shots of pseudo-stars like Coco. In other words, on with the show.

Home team in caps:

Houston (+6 ½) over JACKSONVILLE

What is the deal with Houston’s dominance over Jacksonville anyway? Even Bryan Pittman doesn’t have a clue. I’m just hoping David Carr didn’t take the Texans’ mastery mojo with him. Do you think it resides within those fancy white gloves he wears? God, I hope not. Otherwise, the Texans have no chance and Houston fans will have yet another reason to hate D.C.

Jaguars 17 – Texans 13

KANSAS CITY (+3) over Cincinnati

Every bone in my body is telling me to take the Chiefs here. They’re at home and Cincinnati is wildly overrated. Yet, for some reason, I found it practically impossible to type them in as my pick. I guess that tells you all you need to know about my faith in Herm Edwards and Damon Huard.

Bengals 24 – Chiefs 23

CLEVELAND (-4 ½) over Miami

Man, what a horrific game. In a week loaded with awful match-ups, this is far and away the worst. Let’s call it the Gilbert Gottfried game, because there’s absolutely nothing appealing about it on any level whatsoever.

Browns 24 – Dolphins 13

Minnesota (+5) over CHICAGO

If the Vikings are smart, they won’t throw a pass the entire game. Just run, punt and let the Griese/Grossman combo toss pick after pick. So yeah, you might say I wasn’t really impressed with the Bears’ victory Sunday night.

Bears 17 – Vikings 13

NEW YORK JETS (+3 ½) over Philadelphia

Unless it’s New England or Indianapolis, my plan is to stay away from road favorites. Yes, even when Chad “Noodles” Pennington is involved.

Eagles 27 – Jets 24

Editor's note: Sorry, Jason.
BALTIMORE (-9 ½) over St. Louis

My God, my 2007 sleeper team may very well go 0-16. To distract you from that realization, I’m hoping my editor throws in a saucy picture of Kate Beckinsale here. That’s really my only hope.

Ravens 27 – Rams 10

TAMPA BAY (-3) over Tennessee

The Titans will play better this week (they couldn’t possible play any worse), but I just don’t think Tennessee is good enough to be 4-1.

Buccaneers 21 – Titans 17

Washington (+3) over GREEN BAY

A win over Green Bay at Lambeau field would go a long way toward convincing me that the Redskins are in fact a good team and not merely slightly above average.

Redskins 19 – Packers 17

ARIZONA (-4 ½) over Carolina

David Carr is questionable for this game, which means Carolina does have a ray of hope come Sunday. Of course, If Carr doesn’t play, Vinny Testaverde gets the start. So that whole ray of hope thing? Forget I even mentioned it. When your potential starting quarterback is old enough to be Wilford Brimley’s dad, you might as well start planning for next year’s draft.

Cardinals 24 – Panthers 9

New England (-6) over DALLAS

If I were Roy Williams, I’d be putting a lighter beneath my thermometer right about now and showing the Dallas coaches that I have a fever of 120 degrees; anything to get out of playing against Randy Moss and Donta Stallworth. He hasn’t had to play against a good offense in over a month, so people have started forgetting how often he can be beat deep. Well, guess what? I haven’t forgotten. And neither have the Pats.

Patriots 35 – Cowboys 20

Oakland (+10) over SAN DIEGO

So San Diego destroys Denver and now they’re a great team again? Did I miss the memo that detailed Norv Turner’s firing and how he was replaced by Bill Parcells? No? You mean Norv is still coaching the Chargers? Alrighty then. That’s all I need to know.

Chargers 16 – Raiders 13

SEATTLE (-6 ½) over New Orleans

So I guess the question has been answered: New Orleans is actually a bad team this year. And not just bad; apparently, they’re abysmal. Worse yet, Reggie Bush reportedly got dumped by Kim Kardashian. Oh, and that little matter of him receiving improper benefits while at USC isn’t exactly going away either. Man, it’s hard being a Bush these days.

Seahawks 34 – Saints 17

ATLANTA (+3 ½) over New York Giants

Repeat after me: I will not pick road favorites. I will not pick road favorites. I will not pick road favorites.

Giants 24 – Falcons 23

Last week against the spread: 8-6 (39-32-5 in ’07) Last week straight-up: 10-4 (43-33 in ’07)

-- Jason Friedman

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