Sunday, September 21, 2008

Parity shall inherit the AFC

Imagine if we did one of those "In the Year 2000's" last year. You could have gone hog-wild and still not come up with these statements:

In the year 200(8)...

"The Patriots will go from undefeated... to getting ROUTED by the Dolphins at home, and the QB of the game will be... Chad Pennington!"

In the year 200(8)...

"Manning will outperform his brother, as will his team. ELI, not Peyton."

In the year 200(8)...

"The Broncos will dominate the AFC West, aided by a bonehead call from Ed Hochuli."

Is it a wild 2008 or what? And the irony of 2008 so far is: the NFC, of all things, is showing more stability than the AFC! That's quite a shock, even through 3 weeks. The NFC East and North looked dominant in '07. In '08, more of the same. Meanwhile, *all* of last year's AFC division winners are struggling out of the gate. The only exception is the Steelers, but even they were exposed by the Eagles' front seven.

Now to make sense of all this...

The winds of change were long overdue. In a world where NFL rosters render a lot of turnover (R.I.P. Mr. LaFontaine), even great organizations were due for a rebuilding year. Every core of players hits their stride, peak, and then decline. The peak usually hits before we even know it.

The Colts, for example, hit their peak back in 2005. I think we'd all agree that was their best group.

The Patriots, meanwhile, hit their peak, *not* last year, but in 2004. I felt their defense was at its finest then. Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, and the coaching staff were at their best.

The Chargers are a tough one. Strange as it sounds, THIS year is supposed to be their peak, but leave it to San Diego to fumble away their championship window. Either the Chargers have been overrated for 3 years, or the talent level is starting to whittle away. Losing Merriman isn't a huge deal, but it doesn't help. The coaching is downright awful. All told, we're about to see if the Bolts can make their definitive Super Bowl run.

These franchises are smart enough to turn it around, but in 2008, the meek shall inherit the earth.

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