Parity: noun. The quality or state of being equal or equivalence. The National Football League.
The ability for a franchise to turn itself around in a short amount of time is one of the reasons why the NFL is so immensely popular.
It is almost a certainty that some team that finishes last in their division one year will finish first in their division the next year. The New Orleans Saints in 2009. The Kansas City Chiefs did it in 2010. Who will play the part of Frogger and leap from worst to first in 2011?
Here are five teams that are most likely to finish over .500 in 2011 after finishing under .500 last season.
It was supposed to happen last year. The Houston Texans were everybody's dark horse to make a playoff run.
After a disappointing 6-10 season last year and sporting a horrendous defense, the Texans are finally ready to reach the postseason for the first time in franchise history.
Wade Phillips is back where he belongs as a defensive coordinator, converting the Texans to a 3-4 defense. They have a solid front seven with a few playmakers as well. The secondary was the team's biggest issue and they addressed it in a large manner.
Houston signed Johnathan Joseph to a five-year deal worth $48 million. That is money well-spent. Nnamdi Asomugha got all the headlines this offseason, and rightfully so, but Joseph was the second best corner on the market. He immediately improves a secondary that continuously was torched last year.
The offense will still be electric, even with the departure of Arian Foster's lead man Vonta Leach. Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels need to stay healthy as they are top tier players at their respective positions. Matt Schaub is among the league's top passers and Foster exploded onto the scene last year.
The AFC South is wide open. For the first time in Peyton Manning's career, his health is being questioned. The Jaguars might be looking at rookie quarterback starting the majority of their games. The Titans have a number of question marks and their stud back is demanding more money.
Indianapolis is still the class of the South until proven other wise, but expect the Texans to finish second in the division and take down a Wild Card slot.
And the Texans thought they had high expectations last year?
The script was written before training camp even started. The Dallas Cowboys were going to play in the Super Bowl until the bright, expensive lights of their brand new stadium. Ten loses later, disappointment still looms in Dallas, Texas.
2011 is a new season under a new regime. Playing under Wade Phillips, the head coach, is like going to your grandmother's house for the weekend. You are going to get spoiled and be able to stay up way too late. The lack of discipline under Phillips obviously did not work.
Enter Jason Garrett. Expectations are not quite as high this year, but this team is too talented for there to be no expectations.
Tony Romo is healthy following a season-ending injury last season. He seems to be focused this year and needs to do a better job of adjusting routes and reading defenses this year. Fortunately for him, he still has a plethora of offensive weapons.
Many quarterbacks would love to have Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Felix Jones.
Jones is set for an explosive season. Through his first two years, he has been the Goldilocks of the running back position. During his rookie season, his weight was too low. During his sophomore season, his weight was too high. Well, in year three, it appears to be just right. Felix Jones will be a fantasy and reality sleeper in 2011.
The 2010 Dallas Cowboys defense can be described in one word: undisciplined. Rob Ryan will change that. Abe Elam was a key addition in the secondary and DeMarcus Ware is still one of the best defensive players in the game. The team will still struggle against the run and have issues against top-tier passing games, but it should improve this season.
Expect a second place finish from the Dallas Cowboys, right behind America's new favorite dream team.
Only in the NFC West.
The Seattle Seahawks were the first team in the Super Bowl era to win their division with a sub-.500 record. Of course, they went on the defeat the defending champions in the Wild Card round.
The winner of this division will be over .500 this year. That obviously is not a bold statement, but does mean the Seahawks need to improve on their seven-win season of last year if they want to repeat.
They were as busy as anyone when the free agency period finally was underway. The most significant reason they will improve is because they addressed their positions of need. They needed offensive weapons, offensive line help and more large frames on the defensive side of the ball.
If (and it is a big if) the offseason acquisitions can stay healthy, the inept offense will improve by leaps and bounds. Yes, the same offense that has Tavaris Jackson and Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. Sidney Rice, Zach Miller and Robert Gallery gives the offense some much needed talent.
The defense is solid. The front seven has the potential to be dominant against the run. Linebacker David Hawthrone is set to have a monstrous season after the departure of Lofa Tatupu.
The 12th man and an overall poor division will help this team win around nine games. They face a tough schedule outside the division, but as long as they are not absolutely pathetic on the road as they have been in recent years, Seattle will improve.
It is not often that two NFC West teams make a list that consists of anything in a positive light.
But the division will see two teams over .500 this year.
St. Louis will hover around .500, but ultimately fall short. The 49ers' new coaching regime will be a season behind after that long lockout.
Kevin Kolb is unproven, but has all of the intangibles of being a Pro Bowl-caliber signal caller. A motivated Larry Fitzgerald can only mean good things for the Cardinals organization. Todd Heap needs to stay healthy, but could be a pleasant surprise. Andre Roberts will suffice as the No. 2 target for Kolb.
Adrian Wilson is an absolute stud. Unfortunately, for the second consecutive season he might not be one hundred percent. The Cards did draft the best player in the 2011 draft when they took Pat Peterson.
Their young linebackers will surprise much of the league this year.
The Arizona Cardinals will rebound in 2011 and win the NFC West. It is a quarterback's league these days and the Grand Canyon State has theirs.
The Detroit Lions are the sexy pick this year.
And they absolutely should be.
The NFC North is one of the toughest divisions in football, but the young talent in Detroit will finally get back to the playoffs.
Calvin Johnson might be the best wide receiver in the NFL. He demands a double-team and possesses the rare combination of size, speed and strength.
Ndamukong Su, right now, is the most physically gifted defensive player in the league. He made rookie mental mistakes last year, but he is only going to get better. That is a scary thought for anybody in his way.
The injury bug has already hit the Lions' draftees, the same reason why the team struggled to win games last year. They simply must stay healthy.
Matt Stafford does look healthy and he looks elite early on in 2011. He has been pinpoint in training camp, but obviously must prove it in the regular season.
The defense will be surprisingly great. Arizona might have an underrated linebacker core, but Detroit might have one of the best in the league. With Su playing in front of them, opposing quarterbacks are going to be dealing with a lot of grass stains in 2011.
The Green Bay Packers will probably win the NFC North this season, but the Detroit Lions are the front-runners for a Wild Card spot. Barring more significant injuries, this team will learn what it is like to play football in January.