Somewhere up in the heavens, Pete Rozelle, the Prince of Parity, must be smiling his California smile.
At the NFL's midway point, everyone, from lowly Buffalo to lordly New England, has lost at least two games. Injuries, the controversy over hard hits, sharp declines in some places and outright embarrassment in others (not to name names, Dallas) has made this season impossible to figure. Oh yeah, and the lockout in 2011 still looms and the league is dead-set on 18 games once it's over, no matter how damaging it is to player's bodies and brain cells.
So where are we? Division-by-division, here's a possible explanation..
AFC East - Already it's a two-team Patriots-Jets mudfight. New England is close to invincible at home in the Tom Brady regime, but the next two games (Steelers, Colts) will tell a lot about whether jettisoning Randy Moss really was the right thing to do. Despite hiccups, and despite all the big talk, the J-E-T-S are on a playoff pace and have won six of seven, so mouthy Rex Ryan is doing something right. Miami can't threaten anyone if they can't win at home, and it's sad to see the Bills' downfall, for they play harder than half the teams in this league every week and have 0-8 to show for it.
AFC North - With and without Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh found a way to cope with the usual elements of defense and ground game so familiar to the Steeler faithful. Baltimore kept pace with much the same formula, and there's a chance the Steelers-Ravens Dec. 5 tussle in crab cake land may determine home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Cincinnati's implosion, as much the fault of the defense (what defense?) as it is Carson Palmer, has allowed Cleveland to step up. Maybe Eric Mangini has figured it out, if the Browns' strong wins over the Saints and Pats are any indicator.