The NFL is consistently praised on ESPN and sports talk radio for its ability to create parity.  Parity generates an exciting, watchable product.  With the exception of maybe Oakland and Detroit, most years the fans of each team believe they have a chance to make the playoffs and proceed to the Super Bowl.

Each year, on average, I would say 28 of the 32 team have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs (either via the Wild Card or winning the team’s division).  Of those 28 teams, most have realistic shots appearing in their respective Conference Championship Game, if not the Super Bowl.  No other sport can boast that type of parity.  The NBA, being by far the worst culprit, is dominated by four to six teams every season and which four to six teams rarely changes from year to year.

So what’s the secret to this parity?  How can the NFL achieve what the other leagues cannot?  My answer: attrition.  Attrition resulting from injuries is out of control.

Injuries obviously play a roll in all sports.  It’s always a factor in who wins games and wins championships.  But in the NFL, injuries are relentless.  Football players are pushing the limits of the human body with the mass they accumulate and the increasing violence of their hits.  Every other play someone is popping a tendon/ligament or suffering a concussion.

Here are some of the big names lost in week 1 for a significant amount of time: Kolb (Eagles), Grant (Packers), Jenkins (Jets), Stafford (Lions), and Sanders, (Colts).  The Packers may have just gone from the clear favorite in the NFC to just one of the team’s in the mix with the loss of Grant.  The Eagles, in addition to Kolb, lost both their best offensive linemen and their full-back Weaver, who is an essential part of this team’s offense.  In an instant, a team’s line can be decimated or the franchise quarterback can be lost for a season.  Contenders in the NFL miss the Super Bowl or Playoffs far more often because of injuries than under-performance or poor coaching.  The two teams playing for the Super Bowl may not be the two best teams, but simply the two teams that got lucky and avoided significant injuries.

I expect you will continue to see the NFL institute more rules to protect players, but it will not be easy because protective rules do not necessarily help the NFL’s product either.  For example, you always hear analysts and players complaining about the Brady Rule (cannot hit the QB in the knees) that was the outgrowth of the hit on Tom Brady a few plays into the 2008 season that left the NFL without one of its star players for the entire season.  It’s almost a no-win situation.  Do you cut-down on the violence of the NFL, which is attractive to most of the games fans, or do you try to minimize the risk of injury to the games stars and the foundation of teams?  Only time will tell.  Until then, I recommend investing in your team’s second-string running-back’s jersey.  It’s only a matter of time before he is your starter…

Agree or disagree? Comment below and let me know.

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