NFL Still Wide Open After Week Six

Tim SeemanAnalyst IOctober 13, 2008

What a crazy week in the NFL.

Arizona beat Dallas in overtime on a blocked punt. Atlanta trailed Chicago after receiving a kickoff with 11 seconds remaining and won. A winless team from St. Louis beat a Washington team that had just beaten Dallas and Philadelphia in Dallas and Philadelphia.

The defending Super Bowl champs, who simply had to beat a seemingly inept Cleveland squad to confirm their standing as the best team in the league, lost badly on Monday night.

What does it mean?

It means that prognosticating is futile.

It means that anything Mike Ditka, Howie Long, Dan Marino, and Emmitt Smith (especially Emmitt Smith) tell you is probably wrong, even if the four of them give you four different opinions.

It means that the "NFC South Rule" (the last-place team in a division from the previous season wins the division the next) may extend to other divisions.

It means that the waiver wire in a fantasy league near you is burning up.

It means it's time for professional football to be exciting again.

Even the most loyal Patriots and Colts fans have to admit it was getting tiresome.  Peyton Manning and Tom Brady playing for a Super Bowl berth while LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers watch another good regular season go up in smoke. Been there, done that.

Seahawks fans wanted a challenger in their division. Now they're re-learning the cliched adage, "Be careful what you wish for."

The parity couldn't be better for the league.

Casual football fans looking for the next big upset started watching college football last season, and rightfully so. The top five teams changed on a near-weekly basis, and that pace carried into this college football season.

The top five teams in the NFL have been predictable for the past few years. New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Dallas, San Diego, in any order.  Argue with me if you like, but most will probably agree.

This year is much different.

Tennessee is still undefeated. Pittsburgh, the Giants, and Buffalo all have one loss. A slew of two-loss teams follow these four, including the New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and Denver Broncos.

With only a few teams excluded (Detroit, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Oakland), any team could beat any other team in any week of the year. Over 20 teams are still legitimately in the early playoff hunt, meaning that many more fringe fans are still interested in the league.

And for people who will be watching anyways, the parity should account for many significant games in Weeks 16 and 17. Star players won't have the chance to sit out, and the winners will be the fans who will get to watch the highest level of competitive American football in the world.

Isn't that what we want, after all?