NFL 2020: A Season of Parity
When the National Football League crowns its champion at this season’s Super Bowl it will end what will go down as the strangest, most controversial, disruptive, and bizarre seasons in the league’s history. All because of COVID-19.
This season has been a mishmash of players being placed on IR due to a positive result for the virus as well as most stadiums either being empty with the restrictions on fan attendance or only up to 25,000 fans being permitted in some stadiums. It’s very eerie to watch some of the games without a single fan taking a seat inside the stadium.
Still, games have gone one and all of them have been played up to date unlike in the NCAA where games have been canceled. Through it all, 2020 may also be remembered as being one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory with parity the keyword as there are a handful of teams that have been playing excellent football and there truly is not just one or two teams standing head and shoulders above the rest.
Because of COVID-19, the normal playoff rules have been thrown out the window and for this season only the team with the best record in each conference will receive a first-round bye. The top seven teams will advance to the post-season and aside from Pittsburgh’s 11-1 record that is matched by Kansas City, New Orleans is the only other team to have two or fewer losses. The rest of the playoff races are tight and the way winning teams are playing right now, there is no clear favorite in any matchup.
As of this writing, in the AFC, Pittsburgh holds the #1 spot thus if the season were to end today they would get the bye. Then you have Kansas City and their one loss, Buffalo (9-3), Tennessee (8-4), Cleveland (9-3), Miami (8-4), and Indianapolis (8-4). The division leaders are the Steelers, Chiefs, Bills, and Titans. But on the outside looking in are the Raiders (7-5), Ravens (6-5), and still with a shot are the New England Patriots (6-6). Matchup any of these teams and any of them would have a chance to beat who they are facing.
If the season were to end today, the matchups would be Kansas City vs. Indianapolis with the Chiefs at home. Buffalo would host Miami, and the Titans facing the Browns at home. All of those would be competitive games.
Over in the NFC, the parity is even more competitive. The New Orleans Saints hold the top position for the moment edging out the Green Bay Packers’ three losses by one game. They are followed by the Rams (8-4), Giants (5-7), Seattle (8-4), the Bucs (7-5), and the Vikings (6-6). Just on the outside are the Cardinals (6-6), and the Bears, Lions, 49ers, and Redskins are all still alive at 5-7.
Division leaders are the Saints, Packers, Rams, and Giants. If the playoffs began tomorrow, New Orleans would get the bye and the matchups would be Minnesota at Green Bay, Tampa at Los Angeles, and the Seahawks visiting the Giants a team Seattle just recently lost to at home. Again, all tough games and matchups where any team could beat the other.
Whatever the reason, 2020 has become a very competitive season except for teams like the New York Jets who can’t buy a game, or the Jaguars who won their season opener and have not tasted victory since. 11 straight losses for Jacksonville. Only one other team has two or fewer losses and they are the Cincinnati Bengals with a 2-9-1 record.
When this is all said and done we can all say we witnessed the most upside-down season in NFL history that will be capped off by a Super Bowl where only a portion of the capacity of fans will be allowed to attend. But for this writer, the most bizarre moments of this season have been the empty stadiums with games still taking place as it was with the Steelers' first loss of the season to the Washington Football Team in week 12.