The Cold, Hard Football Facts have laughed in the face of so-called parity since we were little pre-pubescent pigskin potentates a decade ago.
The reality is that “parity” in the NFL is no more common today than at any point in history. In fact, if anything, there is less parity now in the NFL than in the past, especially in the AFC.
In fact, the modern AFC is quite simple: if you got Tom Brady or Peyton Manning at quarterback, you’re probably going to dominate the conference – and the league at large.
Manning’s Broncos and Brady’s Patriots enter the 2013 playoffs as the top two seeds in the AFC for the second straight year.
The Broncos, at 13-3, are the AFC's No. 1 seed; the Patriots, at 12-4, are the AFC's No. 2 seed. Both enjoy a week off while the AFC's playoff refuse battle it out for the right to visit Mile High or Gillette in the divisional playoffs. Worth nothing the Patriots (8-0) and Broncos (7-1) went a combined 15-1 at home this year.
Denver easily dispatched of the Raiders, 34-14, in Week 17. And along the way the Broncos became the first 600-point team (606 total) in NFL history, breaking the previous scoring record set by, of course, Brady's Patriots back in 2007 (589).
New England easily dispatched of the Bills, 34-20, in Week 17. The Patriots are 25-2 against Buffalo since 2000, one of the most lopsided rivalries in NFL history, and scored 444 points this year: good enough for No. 2 in the AFC behind (well behind) Manning's Broncos and No. 5 in Patriots franchise history.
We've seen this dominant act out of Brady and Manning teams many times before:
- Manning or Brady have led their team to the No. 1 seed in the AFC five straight seasons
- Manning or Brady have led their team to the No. 1 seed in teh AFC eight times in 13 seasons
If you define “parity” as the same two quarterbacks dominating the AFC year after year for more than a decade. Then, sure, we got parity. Otherwise, we got something different.
AFC Playoffs Since 2001 (Seeds for Brady, Manning Teams)
2001: Patriots No. 2 seed; Colts no playoffs (AFC champ, Super Bowl champ: Patriots)
2002: Colts No. 5 seed; Patriots no playoffs
2003: Patriots No.1; Colts No. 3 (AFC champ, Super Bowl champ: Patriots)
2004: Patriots No. 2; Colts No. 3 (AFC champ, Super Bowl champ: Patriots)
2005: Colts No. 1; Patriots No. 4
2006: Colts No. 3; Patriots No. 4 (AFC champ, Super Bowl champ: Colts)
2007: Patriots No. 1; Colts No. 2 (AFC champ: Patriots)
2008: Colts No. 5; Patriots no playoffs – Brady injured all year
2009: Colts No. 1; Patriots No. 3 (AFC champ: Colts)
2010: Patriots No. 1; Colts No. 3
2011: Patriots No. 1; Colts no playoffs – Manning injured all year (AFC champ: Patriots)
2012: Broncos No. 1; Patriots No. 2
2013: Broncos No. 1; Patriots No. 2 (TBD)
Barring a pair of big upsets for the second year in a row, there’s a very high likelihood that Brady or Manning will be the quarterback who represents the AFC in the playoffs for the eighth time in 13 years; eighth time in 11 years that both were on the field.
That's not parity, folks. That's dominance.