Those NFL-MLB Comparisons

It happens every year around this time: someone will point to the NFL’s mounting chaos in the standings and argue that Major League Baseball needs to do a better job of aping the structure of professional football. Never mind that MLB has caught up to the NFL in terms of fan loyalty, MLB Network will soon be in more homes than the NFL Network, and MLB’s digital-media presence outstrips the NFL’s to the point of embarrassment. Most of all, never mind that you simply can’t compare the two leagues.

Consider a few points:

    - In terms of competitive parity (real or imagined), the NFL plays roughly one-tenth as many regular-season games as MLB does (ergo, small sample size; ergo, more fluke-ish outcomes), gives teams a week or so between games to scout and game-plan the opposition, allows a larger percentage of teams into the playoffs, has a one-and-done postseason format, and generally rigs the schedule to benefit weaker teams.

    - The NFL equally shares local revenues, whereas MLB does not.

    - The MLBPA is one of the strongest unions around. The NFLPA, until very recently, has largely functioned as an accommodating valet to ownership.

    - NFL franchises are tasked with selling tickets to eight home games per season. MLB teams are tasked with selling tickets to 10 times as many home games per season.

    - NFL owners and the league’s commissioner did not, for year after year in an attempt to turn the public against the union, indulge in an anti-marketing campaign that highlighted imagined weaknesses. MLB and Bud Selig, of course, did exactly that.

Notice that none of those distinctions involves the salary cap, which sportswriter populism tells us is the driving force behind the NFL’s reputed competitive balance and something baseball desperately needs. Of course, the NFL is functioning without a salary cap this season, and the contending fray is no more or less muddled than usual and spending is holding steady.

As ever, the facile comparisons do not hold. The structural differences between the NFL (and its football-related product) and MLB are simply too great. Baseball would do well to realize this.




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120 Responses to “Those NFL-MLB Comparisons”

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  1. oh dear says:

    All you have to do is look at the list of playoff teams over the last 15 years to understand there is no parity in football. No more than any other sport.

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    • SF 55 for life says:

      i think its a lot easier for bad teams to turn things around in football than it is in baseball. i think a portion off that has to do with the salary cap

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      • oh dear says:

        I think it is also easier to mask a bad team “turning it around” under the auspices of small sample size 16 games). in baseball you need real effective change to improve your club, bandaids don’t hide problems over a full season.

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      • DonCoburleone says:

        SF55 that is a myth. The reason it’s easier for bad teams to turn things around in the NFL is because of the high attrition rate in the NFL for position players and the second reason, and the most important, is that 1 player (a QB) can single-handedly win games and get a team into the playoffs. Baseball has no such thing. 1 player, no matter how good he is, can’t get a baseball team to the playoffs on his own. In the NFL you’ve had franchises do complete 180′s and 99 times out of 100 its because they acquired an elite QB (Peyton and the Colts, Brees and the Saints/Chargers, Brady and the Pats, McNabb and the Eagles, Favre and GB, Matt Ryan and the Falcons, etc..). The list is endless. And until team’s like the 49er’s and the Bills and the Lions acquire an elite QB they will continue to suck year in and year out…

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      • gnick55 says:

        I think it’s because a lesser proportion of top picks bust in the NFL. They also help their teams much quicker than baseball prospects, just look at Sam Bradford vs. Bryce Harper.

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      • SF 55 for life says:

        @Don
        But isn’t it easier to keep those elite talents for many years in the NFL? Many teams trade away elite talents because they won’t be able to afford them once they hit the free agent market.

        Let’s say the Chiefs originally drafted Peyton Manning, and he was as great for them as he has been for the Colts. Let’s also say there is no salary cap. Would the Chiefs be able to keep Peyton Manning? Would they be forced to trade him or even lose him to the richer teams? Its entirely probable. I will agree that baseball and football are entirely different but I just don’t believe the salary cap doesn’t help parity.

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      • The Ancient Mariner says:

        A lot of those “turnarounds” are the result of fifth-place schedules; the number of teams that keep winning the following year when they have to play a contender’s schedule is a lot lower.

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      • Jason says:

        It’s not just the short 16 game season, it’s also the way the NFL does scheduling. They essentially make it so it’s easier for teams to turn it around. If a team has a good record one year, they’ll have a tougher schedule next year and vice versa. This last year’s performance based scheduling only affects 2 games (I think), but that’s a large chunk of their season.

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      • Dwight S. says:

        Also it’s easier to turn things around because they play such few games. Since there are fewer games played it takes fewer breaks for a team to go from say 4 wins to 9 wins. Since I’m a Lions fan(unfortunately) I’ll use them as an example. This year they are 3-10 but they have lost by 1 possession or less in 7 of those games. So essentially in 7 of those games they were 1 play or drive away or turnover away from possibly winning the game, so even if they came through in 4 of those games they would be sitting at 7-6 right now.

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      • sean says:

        Mariner only two games are affected by the previous year’s schedule. the real reason for the “turnarounds” is the year to year change in the divisions played. we know what teams play each other years in advance, we just don’t know the alignment. whatever teams play the NFC west or AFC west over the past few years have gotten the “bump” in wins

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      • Dwight S. says:

        I just like to add I often hear about the schedule differences for last place teams but as a Lions fan I never seem to see that. We’ve been the laughing stock of the league for years and this year are non divisional opponents include the Eagles, Cowboys(were expected to be good), Giants, Dolphins, Redskins(another team some thought would contend), Patriots, Jets, rams, bucs and Bills. So out of those 10 teams 5 of them were considered legit Superbowl contenders coming into the year, the Redskins who some considered sleepers and even the Dolphins were atleast a .500 team and have a winning record thus far. Only the Rams, Bucs and Bills were considered sub par teams. On top of that they have to play 4 games against playoff teams from last year in their division and 2 against arguably the most improved team in football the Bears.(Judging by what they did in the offseason) So if this is considered a last place schedule I hate to see what a 1st place schedule looks like.

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      • Dwight S. says:

        Oops didn’t see Sean’s response ahead of mine, which essentially answered what I was asking in my post. Sorry

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      • Bill says:

        I think we are missing the point by arguing about the reality of NFL team turnarounds. Yes, a bad team may win more games because of a weaker schedule. But as a fan, I don’t care if the reason my team is winning because they are good or because their opponent is lousy. The NFL wants to have as many people in as many cities excited about their teams. They would rather maintain excitement throughout the league than have the 12 best teams make the playoffs each year. The NFL put’s the league first whereas MLB is a conglomeration of teams that put themselves first.

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      • johng says:

        Are you guys seriously making the “strength of schedule” argument? Take the Packers and Lions. The only difference in their schedules is that the Packers play the 49ers and Falcons, while the Lions get the Rams and Bucs. 2 teams. Was the Lions’ schedule noticibly easier by those 2 games, the 2 games are supplanted by the Packers getting to play the easy Lions twice, and the Lions getting the difficult Packers twice.

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      • philkid3 says:

        Masking bad teams under small sample size or legitimate turnarounds is irrelevant. The bottom line is hope being easier to possess in the NFL.

        I’m on FanGraphs, obviously I love baseball, but it is much easier to feel hopeless in baseball if you’re a fan of most teams than it is in the NFL.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Simply because the draft in the NFL and NBA has a much higher chance of making an impact in the upcoming season or two.

        If a player is drafted in the top 5, he’s likely a starter for the upcoming season, without spending 1-4 years in the minor leagues.

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    • “Is there parity? IS THERE PARITY?? There’s no parity! THERE’S NO PARITY IN FOOTBALL!”

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  2. verd14 says:

    Confusing article, not sure what the point is.

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    • People love to talk about how there is Parity in the NFL while there’s always only a couple of teams dominating baseball. Then they like to talk about how those dominating teams in baseball can spend a shit ton of money because there’s no salary cap like in the NFL. Etcetera.

      Most of these people who make these arguments miss, as you apparently are, the finer points of relevance and interest. The NFL and MLB are just vastly different on several more points that are all relevant to the discussion. The overly simplistic argument for a salary cap is just ridiculous. Capping the good major league teams who want to win wouldn’t do as much as people think.

      Another aspect of the NFL that MLB fans miss, including this article, is that the NFL also has a salary FLOOR. You have to keep your payroll over a certain point. NFL teams aren’t allowed to do what Jeff Loria does in Florida. You can’t just ditch all your higher priced veterans and run around with young players under team control for league minimum prices for six or so years. You have to field a team that is at least paid like a regular team.

      There is talk, btw, of the NFL players union wanting to mirror MLB’s CBA regarding young “unproven” talents not deserving high paychecks until they’ve paid their dues. I dearly hope this does not happen.

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      • Justin says:

        This comparison should be between the NHL and MLB. Football is a completely different scenario, different roster sizes, developmental paths, career lengths, and individual player impact.

        In the NHL the roster sizes are similar, the makeup of the teams are similar, one player can’t make or break a team, the season is shorter in the NHL yet not a small sample size, the developmental paths of prospects is similar (although guys play in the NHL at 18), but for the most part make their way into the league at 21-24. And there is a professional minor league system. Also there are the connections to the pre-lockout finances of the NHL and the current baseball finances. There were many teams spending all kinds of money (Rangers, Leafs, Wings) with varying degrees of success, as is baseball currently. Since the lockout the talent has spread more evenly througout the league, and has made for a better game. Teams can rely on skill to win, instead of installing a trap as a shortcut to success.

        And honestly every team has a chance to turn it around quickly without having to go through ten years of hell.

        The NHL has a cap, I don’t see why it can’t work in baseball.

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      • D-Train says:

        Actually, even the NHL’s parity is an illusion of the amount of teams allowed in the playoffs. Since the lockout, if you only allowed in the three division winners and top wild card, only 19 teams would have made the playoffs. In the same timespan, 22 MLB teams have made the playoffs (compared to 16 for the NBA, and only 20 if you put in just the NFL division winners).

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      • anon99 says:

        Aren’t there a bunch of franchises in NHL struggling to afford the salary floor?

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      • chisox24 says:

        Let me get this straight. You have said that in order for people to talk about how different two leagues are, they have to be more similar than they already are? Excuse me if I do not understand that logic, but wouldn’t the point be that the leagues are very different, and thus not comparable?

        Another point. You state that capping the good major league teams who want to win wouldn’t do as much as people think, but fail to provide any proof for this. I assume (correct me if I am wrong) that you imply that things such as winning tradition, team chemistry, or the coaching staff have a large influence on why people go to good teams. However, you fail to recognize that a large reason for those differences stem directly from affluence of teams. For example, the Yankees and Red Sox have been two of the most successful teams (in terms of regular season wins and playoff wins) of the last decade. They are also the two highest spenders consistently of the last decade.

        You spell out exactly what verd14 is saying, that the leagues are so wildly different that there is almost not point comparing the two. Both are great in their own way.

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      • “Let me get this straight. You have said that in order for people to talk about how different two leagues are, they have to be more similar than they already are? Excuse me if I do not understand that logic, but wouldn’t the point be that the leagues are very different, and thus not comparable?”

        Yes. That was pretty much the point of the article and my response to Verd. They’re not at all similar enough for comparisons. To “compare” something is to point out how they are similar. To “contrast” is to point out the differences. The problem is that people are taking two completely different organizations and trying to lazily apply one factor of one organization to another and proclaim that it would work out the same.

        “Another point. You state that capping the good major league teams who want to win wouldn’t do as much as people think, but fail to provide any proof for this.”

        To explain what I meant by that would require a longer post. I didn’t feel it was necessary to go into it. Especially when we’re comparing the NFL to MLB.

        “You spell out exactly what verd14 is saying, that the leagues are so wildly different that there is almost not point comparing the two. Both are great in their own way.”

        This is all Verd typed out:

        “Confusing article, not sure what the point is.”

        I don’t know how you’re making that conclusion from what he typed out. I really don’t.

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  3. GhettoBear04 says:

    It would be unreasonable to conclude much or make strong predictions of what a salary-free NFL would look like based on this one, “punishment” uncapped year that was agreed upon as a means to get the NFL and NFLPA back to the bargaining table earlier than is usual in this process. Owners across the league knew that signing free agents with abandon would then make it harder on them to argue for a more stringent salary cap 3 months later when they were negotiating with the NFLPA.

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    • MikeS says:

      Furthermore, it’s only been one year, with next year’s status unknown. Most players were already under contract so owners already ahd resources committed and weren’t bidding on every single player. What if they hand out huge, long-term contracts and the cap comes back? What do they do with the roster then – as you pointed out. What if a player anticipates a lockout and negotiates getting paid in that event? Not many owners would go for that.

      One real risk of no cap is that you create a Marlins or Pirates in the NFL. That can’t happen in one year either.

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      • Earl Clay says:

        To add to this: player movement was severely restricted by special rules in the uncapped year. 6 NFL accrued years were required to become an unrestricted free agent, up from 4, and additionally there were major restrictions on the ability of the top 4 teams to buy free agents (and some restrictions on the top 8).

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  4. adam says:

    With respect to point #1, you also have to consider that the NFL has many games in which a team wins 75% or more of the time, while the MLB has essentially none of those.

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    • Brian Tallet's Moustache says:

      As far as I can tell, MLB has lots of games in which a team wins 100% of the time. Every game, actually.

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      • Anon says:

        I assume he meant seasons (12 wins = 75%), but there’s no way you’re being pedantic, right? That _never_ happens on the internet.

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      • adam says:

        Are you serious?

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      • Jason B says:

        Actually I think he means that there are NFL games that a team may be a 3:1 favorite to win, which very rarely happens in MLB. A Buf-at-NE tilt in the NFL this season would be one that NE would be expected to win probably 90% of the time.

        A best-vs-worst matchup in baseball (PIT-at-PHI or SEA-at-NYY) doesn’t ever tilt as far as a 90% favorite.

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      • R says:

        “Actually I think he means that there are NFL games that a team may be a 3:1 favorite to win, which very rarely happens in MLB”

        Except that never actually happens. I think the only time we’ve had 70%+ favorites were the Pats in the middle of 07.

        Favorites in the NFL only win about 60% of the time.

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      • Jason B says:

        Not favorites *against the spread*. Favorites *straight up to win the game*. In that case there are times in the NFL that would be favored to win a matchup 70%+ of the time. Like I said, a BUF-at-NE tilt would be an example of that, or CIN-at-PIT, etc.

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      teams win 75% of games*

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  5. Souldrummer says:

    This Redskins fans asks what is this parity of which you speak. We’ve been losing with rare interruption since 1992. All the parity in the world doesn’t makeup for ownership idiocy. Right now, it’s got to be a push as far as whether the Nats are the Redskins will make the final 8 teams of their sport first.

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    • jlebeck66 says:

      The forces of idiocy are stronger than the forces of parity.

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    • SF 55 for life says:

      Aren’t the Redskins one of the richest franchises in all of sports? If there was no salary cap they could buy players left and right.

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      • Bronnt says:

        They’re already doing that. They spend a ton in free agency every season, the problem is that it’s on the wrong players, like Albert Haynesworth. They don’t use their assets wisely, which is why they’ve struggled repeatedly for years, despite having some great talents.

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      • SF 55 for life says:

        but it’s controlled. They aren’t spending more than other teams can. That’s the point I’m making. Without a salary cap what is stopping them from signing even more players.

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      • Nothing, essentially. But you also have to understand that the NFL has a completely different structure for player contracts as well. Aside from a portion of the money in an NFL player’s contract, most of it is non-guaranteed and an NFL player can be cut at any time with the rest of the money he signed for voided by the team.

        So even if they did, say, sign the equivalent Alex Rodriguez contract in the NFL, they could drop it a year later owing that player a mere smidge of what they originally promised. This helps teams avoid having to pay a player who isn’t productive or gets injured (or both).

        Thus, it wouldn’t matter if the Redskins did go way the heck overboard and have a Yankee-esque 200 million payroll. They could just drop a bunch of those contracts at any time they wanted, because most of that 200 million wouldn’t be guaranteed. It’d be more like 50 million guaranteed and 150 million in fluff.

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    • pounded clown says:

      Daniel Snyder fails to realize that he is the driving force behind the nascent Capitals fanbase.

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  6. AK707 says:

    “The NFLPA, until very recently, has largely functioned as an accommodating valet to ownership.”

    Made me laugh a little. Those guys and their non-guaranteed deals look silly signing contracts that are 90% backloaded only to get cut the year before their payday. Its silly that you sign to agree to a salary, are held to do your job, but your employer isn’t.

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    • Bronnt says:

      The NFL has more serious problems with its collective bargaining agreement than baseball. Professional baseball players simply do no “hold-out” in order to get bigger contracts, largely a result of having guaranteed contracts.

      On one hand, NFL does have a high attrition rate, and teams don’t want to be saddled with huge guaranteed deals for guys who will never play again. There still needs to be some security for the players who risk career ending injuries several times a game.

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      • AK707 says:

        Isn’t that an opportunity for owners to invest in ways to keep guys healthy? There are ways to improve on helmets that are designed to prevent death but not concussions, body armor is being worn by players to prevent paralysis, and yet we can’t come up with a way to design a knee brace to prevent ACL blowouts. It should be possible for players to go all out without constant mangling.

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      • NBarnes says:

        I’d love to play in MLB, if I had the talent. But you couldn’t offer me enough money to play in the NFL. I value my health and the NFL is only very slightly short of bloodsport.

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  7. DonCoburleone says:

    It’s all about the Quarterback in football. The quality of your Quarterback in the NFL is the equivalent to payroll size in baseball in that they both are the driving force for CONSISTENTLY good teams…

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    • adam says:

      This is absolutely wrong. If you want to throw in a mediocre (i.e. barely better than average) quarterback with a great offensive live, or a mediocre quarterback with a fantastic defense, okay. But it’s not a one-tool game.

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      • DonCoburleone says:

        I agree. But I said to CONSISTENTLY win year in and year out in the NFL you need an elite level QB…

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      • Anon says:

        That’s a good point, but there’s so much more that goes into it. The Colts are finding out how much injuries can hurt your season even if you have a HoF QB.

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    • SF 55 for life says:

      A lot of that is only recently though. The NFL has historically been a runners league. Rule changes and the insane restrictions they put on hitting quarterbacks has made it that way. Joe Nammath for example is a hall of fame quarterback and is considered a legend but only had a 50.1% completion percentage. Joe Montana who is considered the greatest quarterback of all time arguably never had as good of a season as Aaron Rodgers did in his second full season last year.

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      • If by “recently” you mean “the last 30 years”, sure. The league changed a lot earlier than you think and it didn’t really have to do with rule changes and whatnot. The rule changes to protect the quarterback came about as a RESULT of the QB becoming more important to the team, not the other way around.

        Now, I wont lie and say that some of the rule changes, especially those regarding pass coverage by defensive backs, have not helped open up the airborne attack for teams. But there was already an evolution towards passing attacks before these rule changes went into effect.

        Montana may not have had as great a season as Rodger has had, but Montana had a really good team around him and was also coached by someone who had already recognized the need for a superior pass-important offense. Bill Walsh didn’t pioneer and force change on the league, but he sure helped influence it.

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      • BlackOps says:

        “Joe Montana who is considered the greatest quarterback of all time arguably never had as good of a season as Aaron Rodgers did in his second full season last year.”

        That’s because Joe Montana isn’t the best QB of all-time, not really close to it. He’s the best QB on the best team who ran the best game-ending drives.

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      • fredsbank says:

        john elway would like to have a word with you

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      • philkid3 says:

        The extent of the importance of running in football is over-dramatized. It’s not historically a runner’s league, it’s historically a lot of different things, including a passer’s league more than a runner’s league for most of that. The extent it’s a passer’s league has changed, but there was only a brief blip of time from the late-60s to the late-70s that it’s been a runner’s league since the advent of the relatively-modern passing game decades before that.

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    • SF 55 for life says:

      @adam
      Good point look at Mark Sanchez last year. The Jets were two quarters away from going to the super bowl with a QB that led the league in interceptions.

      There are too many moving parts in football to say that one is the cause of the other. Though I think some players (Peyton Manning) would be great regardless of who they played with.

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      • Anon says:

        If Nate Kaeding doesn’t miss a bunch of field goals, the Jets don’t make it to the AFC title game. I’m a Jets fan and I’ll fully admit they lucked their way into the postseason AND the AFC title game. Too bad they don’t have a good QB, they should be winning 10-12 games a year with that defense.

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    • short says:

      I’d take an average QB behind a great O-line over a great QB behind an average O-line any day. If you can’t control the line it’s a rare skill-position player that can perform well. Barry Sanders is one example, and some running-type QB’s can pull it off. But a QB like Manning, who’s a pure pocket passer, would fail if his line didn’t max protect every down.

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      • markw says:

        Exactly. Offensive Line is more important than any other “position” in football. No matter how good your skill position talent is, they’ll only produce as much as the line play allows them. The Cowboys are looking at a top pick in the draft right now, but if they had even slightly above average O-Line play this year they’d probably have 8 or 9 wins.

        And a team who’s offensive line allows them to control the clock makes their defense that much better. It’s not suprising that the Jets defense has been less dominating this year now that their offense is putting them on the field more often.

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    • zzyzx says:

      If baseball were only played one day a week, the pitcher would have the same effect. Imagine if the ace of the staff pitched every game and number two pitchers were used mainly for mop up work…

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      • Joel says:

        You don’t have to imagine that. It’s called college softball where Danielle Lawrie can go 42-8 with a 0.84 ERA in 315 IP

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    • Greg says:

      The Baltimore Ravens haven’t had a good QB in the history of their franchise. Since 1996, they’ve been to and won the Superbowl (with Dilfer) and are yearly contenders in the playoffs. They did it on the back of a stifling defense, and not a premiere QB talent. Joe Flacco is a decent QB, but he’s not elite talent.

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      • a seattle fan says:

        But if the comparison of QBs in NFL is to payroll size in MLB, doesn’t that just make the Ravens the A’s/Twins of NFL? Certainly there’s enough defensive talent to sustain one or two teams with a lack of good QB like the Jets and Ravens, just like there’s enough young, cost-controlled talent to sustain a few poorer teams in MLB like the Rays and Twins.

        Generally though, teams are more consistently good in the long term having a lot of payroll in baseball, or an elite QB — because otherwise, there’s an awful lot of parts that need to go right in each season.

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      • Anon says:

        They also get to play the Browns and the Bengals 4 times a year. 4 free wins!

        Making the playoffs is one thing in the NFL. Going deep is another. That stifling defense has only won them one SB.

        The Ravens are what the Jets would be with a good QB. Say what you will about Flacco, but he’s improved each year he’s been in the league and he’s miles ahead of Sanchez.

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  8. MH says:

    Regarding the NFLPA, it’s probably worth pointing out how badly the NFL chews up and spits out its players. With non-guarenteed contracts and a continually increasing incidence of major injuries, including and especially head injuries, a lot of NFL players get a few good years of pay and a significantly reduced quality of life for decades after. All so fans can enjoy the game and owners can make a lot of money.

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    • short says:

      Yeah, football sometimes is a little too close to blood sport for my taste. Injuries play a much too important role in determining who wins and who loses during the course of the season.

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  9. philosofool says:

    I think the regular season should end on April 19th, then a single-elimination tournament.

    Additionally, if the base runner drags the fielder to the ground and the fielder drops the ball as a result, the base runner is not out, and may proceed to run bases if he chooses. However, the pitcher should be allowed to tackle the base runner and hold him down until a fielder with the ball can tag him out.

    And if every play could result in a small marginal gain after 3 seconds of play, followed by 40 seconds of decided which way to make the next marginal gain, that would be sweet.

    And if there could be a clock instead of innings…

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    • a seattle fan says:

      Some may prefer a game where plays last as little as 1.5 seconds, and then procession to the next play can last anywhere from 10 seconds to over an hour, depending on whether or not it’s Red Sox-Yankees.

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  10. Luke in MN says:

    Someone pointed this out in an article this year (can’t remember who): take a look at the MLB standings 16 games into the season and ask yourself if there’s not similar parity in baseball as football. Much of football’s parity is just the illusion of small sample sizes.

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    • I’m not so sure that’s true. Due to the punishing nature of the game, in football, the better team is more likely to win a given game than in baseball.

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    • gorillagogo says:

      Whoever made that point is a fool. If the Panthers played the Patriots 10 times in a row they’d be lucky to win one game. More likely they’d lose all 10 by an average score of 59-3. If the Pirates played the Yankees 10 times in a row they’d probably win two or three games, maybe even more.

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      • Dwight S. says:

        I don’t know about that. The Patriots got smoked by the Browns earlier this year, now obviously the Browns aren’t as bad as the Patriots but there also not a playoff team either, yet they won by 3 TDs. Anybody can beat anybody in the NFL on any given Sunday.(as over used as that cliche is it’s true)

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      • Dwight S. says:

        *I meant Browns aren’t as bad as the Panthers

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      • Luke in MN says:

        Doesn’t that cut the other way? You’re suggesting that there’s more parity in baseball than in football.

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  11. diderot says:

    Any comparison between the NFL and MLB drives me crazy. The NFL is a real pro sports league on training wheels.
    Specifically, don’t overlook the key difference in developing talent. Baseball teams have scout, sign and develop their own through costly minor league systems. The NFL (and NBA) have the colleges to do that for them.

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  12. gorillagogo says:

    This is a poor article. The author laments that every year around this time people start calling for MLB to have more competitive balance like the NFL, yet he doesn’t link to a single article where someone does this or cite any arguments people make in support of that. Instead, he points out how the MLB Network will be in more homes and that the NFL plays fewer games. He can’t even set up and then knock down his own straw man.

    My favorite part is where he points out that the NFL shares local revenues while MLB does not, apparently oblivious to the fact that if MLB did share local revenues it would go a long way towards evening out the competitive balance in the game. Do you think the Indians would be better off today if they’d been able to keep Sabathia and Lee in their rotation instead of being forced to trade them because they had no chance whatsoever to sign them in free agency?

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    • Tom B says:

      Do not mistake the owners desire to turn a profit with a teams ability to sign a player.

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    • Tito Landrum says:

      I’m pretty sure the author realizes that sharing a greater amount of revenue would/could improve competitive balance. He’s saying, I think, that NFL parity is not all that greater than the NFL despite their salary cap and higher percentage of revenue sharing.

      And you are right, I too wish that he had linked to some articles or blog posts talking about NFL superiority having to do with their salary cap. But, honestly, this stuff is easy to find with a simple google search.

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      • Westman says:

        Thanks for homer you hit for ’83 Baltimore v Chicago playoff series. You won the game and smacked a homer against the wind!!!!! I’ll remember that forever.

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    • Chris says:

      They’d look a lot more like the Giants than the PIrates

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  13. Westman says:

    The problem with baseball is salaries are out of control and when a small market team competes like San Diego in 2010 the big sharks offer big money to get the better players like Adrian Gonzalez. The tradition of the home team hero is gone and now what? Football gives the franchise tag on players to keep stars and get compensation for.

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  14. Justin says:

    This comparison should be between the NHL and MLB. Football is a completely different scenario, different roster sizes, developmental paths, career lengths, and individual player impact.

    In the NHL the roster sizes are similar, the makeup of the teams are similar, one player can’t make or break a team, the season is shorter in the NHL yet not a small sample size, the developmental paths of prospects is similar (although guys play in the NHL at 18), but for the most part make their way into the league at 21-24. And there is a professional minor league system. Also there are the connections to the pre-lockout finances of the NHL and the current baseball finances. There were many teams spending all kinds of money (Rangers, Leafs, Wings) with varying degrees of success, as is baseball currently. Since the lockout the talent has spread more evenly througout the league, and has made for a better game. Teams can rely on skill to win, instead of installing a trap as a shortcut to success.

    And honestly every team has a chance to turn it around quickly without having to go through ten years of hell.

    The NHL has a cap, I don’t see why it can’t work in baseball.

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  15. SOB in TO says:

    NFL could “balance” schedules even more by having the highest division (sum of W-L) in each conference play against each other, and the two highest divisons (sum of W-L, not including non-conference) within the conference play each other.
    Only issue with this is that two teams might not play another for a decade or so.

    A cap with no General Manager parity would still result in a few dominant teams. And that’s something that can be done with rules.

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  16. Z says:

    I think the better team wins a football game way more often than the best basseball team so 16 games is really not that small a sample size, espcally compared to 16 baseball games

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  17. beasleyrockah says:

    I agree with most of this article, but the opening is just terrible…

    “Never mind that MLB has caught up to the NFL in terms of fan loyalty, MLB Network will soon be in more homes than the NFL Network, and MLB’s digital-media presence outstrips the NFL’s to the point of embarrassment.”

    You know what’s embarrassing? The mediocre regular season NFL games are getting better ratings than the World Series in head to head matchups. You can’t even compare the popularity of the two sports, the NFL is so far ahead it’s not even worth discussing. Yet the author points to digitial media and MLB Network as some type of victory? I like baseball more than football, but come on. This whole SSS crap doesn’t translate into football either, its a completely different sport. The people that only follow baseball will never understand why football can’t be analyzed like the other sports, and it will forever drive them crazy. Anyways, the MLB shouldn’t try to be the NFL, but clearly the NFL is much more successful, so why the opener?

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  18. Pirateball says:

    The buccaneers will make the playoffs this year, and not beat a single team with a winning record. Enough said.

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  19. Westman says:

    I hate the DH rule and it sucks. Football has no such rule for its conferences. NL is much better competively that the AL every year because the DH eliminates strategy.

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    • jwb says:

      Every offensive NFL player is a DH. Chuck Bednarik retired in 1962. People seem to think that using different players on offense and defense increases strategy.

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  20. R says:

    “and MLB’s digital-media presence outstrips the NFL’s to the point of embarrassment. ”

    Are you high?

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  21. Jon says:

    Your argument seems to be:
    - MLB is almost as popular as the NFL
    - NFL is unfair due to small sample size
    - MLB has a strong union
    - NFL games have little live action anyway

    Your conclusion is:
    - The MLB shouldn’t have a salary cap

    Your first point is debatable, your second is due to the nature of the game, your third is irrelevant, your fourth is ridiculous since I doubt there is more live action in a typical baseball game, and your conclusion doesn’t follow from your arguments.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. markw says:

    You guys are totally overrating the importance of the QB position in the NFL. And elite QB with a subpar line and subpar skill postion players will provide below average production and will not turn you into a winner. QB’s are often just as much a function of the team around them as RB’s are.

    Look at Tom Brady. He’s now running away with the MVP race – now that the Pats O-Line is playing at a high level. Did he suddenly become a better QB, or did he just get more time in the pocket?

    Look at Peyton Manning. He can’t get the Colts anywhere, despite being an elite QB, because the team around him is falling apart.

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    • Anon says:

      Give Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez the same offensive line. Who’s more successful?

      I’

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Tom Brady has the accuracy that few QB’s ever experience. Strip away all the pop culture BS and and accuracy and decision making is what separates Brady from others.

        Basically yhe only reason why we head of Sanchez week after week is because [1] he plays for a loud coach that gets attenetion non-stop, and [2] he plays in NY.

        Put him in Cleveland or Arizona and there’s no such thing as Sanchize.

        Kurt Warner, same type of accurate QB as Brady. Took two horrible teams and led them to Super Bowls. Look at what happened to the teams after Warner left.

        It’s a tough decision who is more important to NE, Brady and Coach Bill, but an accurate QB that makes good decisions is probably the single most important thing in the NFL. As a Bears fan, with Mega-Talented, Big-Armed, Jay “Not Quite Jeff George” Cutler, I’ll take some more accuracy, please.

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      • markw says:

        Uhmm Brady? Brady’s clearly the better QB at this point in their careers.

        Now give Brady an D level supporting cast (line and skill players) and give Sanchez an A level supporting cast…Sanchez is probably more successful.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Give ANY QB a bad offensive line, and they cannot do much. The difference between Steve Young in TB and in SF wasn’t the West Coast scheme or Young’s own individual improvement.

        Brady’s accuracy goes beyond “completion percentage” and into the realm of the ball being exactly where it needs to be.

        As a side note, watching the Colts today. Dierdorf, following a dump to the FB in the flat, commented how when manning throws the ball, the receivers catch it. Manning was in a 1 for 5 stretch where he threw a deep ball too far inside (hit the CB on the helmet), underthrew a deep ball (DB turned it into a jump ball), and a ball that hit Collie in the sternum (in between “catch it in the hands” and “catch in the body” .. the receiver’s in-between hop, if you will).

        IMO, Sanchez needs an ideal situation in order to be elite. Brady could likely be that in multiple places.

        Let’s let Sanchez get into the “Joe Flacco” class of QBs before we start comaring him to Tom Brady. I mean really. *grin*

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  23. markw says:

    The other big difference is how much more important coaching is in the NFL than in MLB. Schemes and playcalling can have a huge impact, as well as how motivated and cohesive your team is. Football allows for strategy to play a much bigger role, and the results are more dependent on the mental side of things rather than pure physical talent. The actual talent of your team matters much less in football than it does in baseball.

    A team like the Jets can hire Rex Ryan and get a big bump from how much more effective his scemes make their defense. Or look at the impact the coaching this year has had on the Bears.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Or look at the impact the coaching this year has had on the Bears.

      [1] Coaching? No.
      [2] Health? Yes
      [3] Schedule? Yes
      [4] Division? Yes

      [1] The team with a poor O-line and erratic QB brought in a coordinator whose teams increase their amount of both sacks and INTs (while increasing scoring), might not have been the best idea.

      [2] Urlacher is healthy, and back to previous speed. The DT’s have done a good job of keeping linemen and FBs off of him. When they don’t, Urlacher earns titles like “Most Over-Rated player”.

      [3] Firstly, the Bears have had an abnormal number of games where teams are starting their 2nd and 3rd QB’s. Secondly, only 4 games against teams with winning records (2-2).

      Total W-L of Bears opponents: 80-98

      The Bears have had 8 of 13 games decided by 7 points or less. But that’s kinda typical Bears. Stay close and then pull it out on a Hester return or fumble/pick for 6. The Bears are +25 in point differential. GB is +117 for a comparison.

      [4] The division is weaker. Essentially, GB is little less and the Vikings feel apart. MIN was 12-4 last year, GB 11-5.

      Games against the NYG and NE have shown the worst of the Bears. The game against PHL showed the best (Peppers and Urlacher are fast enough to keep Vick from going nuts).

      I’m a Bears fan and I can easily see us losing our first playoff game. Our impressiveness is inflated.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. Koch says:

    “and generally rigs the schedule to benefit weaker teams.”

    This is a myth, btw. Last year the Colts were 14-2, the Jags were last in the same division at 7-9. In 2010, their schedules differ by a whopping two opponents. That’s the system. And given the penchant for NFL teams to jump from bad to good or vice versa from one year to the next, sometimes this isn’t even an advantage.

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  25. Koch says:

    “The Colts are finding out how much injuries can hurt your season even if you have a HoF QB.”

    Yeah, they’re going to win their division and probably get to at least the Divisional Round. What a disaster.

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    • markw says:

      When that comment was written the Colts had the 15th best record in football. They still have to win out to even make the playoffs, despite your confidence in that fact. In recent weeks they’ve played 3 of the worst teams in football – they lost to the Cowboys, barely beat the Titans, and barely beat the Bengals.

      All this despite having the best QB in football.

      As it stands right now, only one of the four elite QB’s in football (IMO at least) has their team leading their division. Manning, Rogers, and Rivers could all easily miss the playoffs this year. And this is with a current set of rules that allows the passing game to thrive like never before.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  26. Koch says:

    “Look at Tom Brady. He’s now running away with the MVP race – now that the Pats O-Line is playing at a high level. Did he suddenly become a better QB, or did he just get more time in the pocket?

    Look at Peyton Manning. He can’t get the Colts anywhere, despite being an elite QB, because the team around him is falling apart.”

    Look at MarkW, making two completely false statements in support of his weak ass argument.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  27. CircleChange11 says:

    A fans can follow football by investing 3 hours per week and all on a day that most people have off.

    A fan if baseball needs to invest 3 hours a day 6 days per week.

    While ignoring that football is more entertaining to watch, anyone with kids or hobbies will have difficulty following baseball.

    I’m a baseball lifer, and contine to coach prep and youth teams. I could not watch my pro team’s games even if I wanted to. The only folks that can devote 3 hours a night are single guys and my dad.

    Throw in that youth prefer NBA and baseball is becoming the sport of retired guys. MLB and retired guys have the same pace and schedule.

    Baseball was a game designed in a society that no longer exists.

    I’m for both shorter games (7 Inn) and a shorter schedule (120-144). Welcome to the 21st century MLB. You’re no longer the only game in town, and everything else has changed.

    I love the game, but don’t always have time for the sport. Combine that with our family being at the diamonds every night, and I might catch baseball tonight.

    I can and do watch the Bears every sunday … And so does my 9yo son.

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  28. hk says:

    As part of the NFL CBA, there is no salary cap this year.

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  29. James C says:

    i would say the my biggest gripe with MLB is the draft. bottom dwelling teams shouldnt have to overpay to bring top talent to their struggling franchise. MLB should go the way the way of NBA with fixed hard cap on rookie salaries and signing bonuses for the first 3 rounds. if teams want to overpay later in the draft, thats fine. and local revenues SHOULD be shared around the league. that way salary cap and floor can be put in place, which would be adjusted depending on revenues from year to year. comparing MLB to NFL is laughable for so many reasons, but the funniest thing is that you actually think baseball is close to NFL in popularity. baseball stopped being America’s favorite pastime a long time ago. no matter what sport, every play counts, so replays are important, and the NFL and NBA have done a much better job of embracing it than MLB has.

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  30. James C says:

    also, i dont think its fair to players who get the Type A free agent classification. if a 30 year old reliever has an amazing year, he cant cash in on a nice two year contract. instead, he has to settle for a low end one year contract, because whatever team signs him gives up a draft pick. it actually punishes players who had great seasons. at least in the NFL, when a player gets franchised, they get a salary equivalent of the top 5 at their position. there are just too many things wrong with how MLB is managed that its frustrating to be a fan, which doesnt help the sport at all.

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  31. SixFourThree says:

    In an effort to prove I have not read half of the article, and skimmed through the comments, I offer this…

    Baseball needs a friggin’ salary cap. I am a fan of a team with top 10 spending-habits, and I would be in total support of having a cap. The idea that the biggest bidder(s) (And, yes, we’re looking at you NY and Boston!) get the best players, with no recourse aside from ownership taking a hit in the wallet, is becoming laughable. And, no, this BS system currently in place does not count as a salary cap. The Yanks laugh their behinds off as they mail in the $25~ check for “Luxury Taxes”, I’m sure.

    It stinks that teams with great Front Office minds, great farm systems, and great current rosters are completely screwed when time comes to offer a free agent contract… And, I find it awful that a team can do all the scouting, work, and preparation of a young player, only to trade him after 4 years, knowing they would not be able to compete with the “Big Three” for his services.

    On and on and on… I could go forever.

    And the assertion that this years NFL spending is “holding steady” is garbage. NFL owners are not spending this year, largely because of the unknown ramifications upon future salary cap numbers, and will not be known until the new CBA is ratified. C’mon, man.

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  32. Anders says:

    This is an incredibly facile comparison and not worth response.

    A midseason Sunday Night Football game outdrew game 4 of the World Series. Almost as many people watched the Super Bowl as did all 5 World Series games this year. Football and Baseball are not in the same league, so pretending they are is disingenous at best.

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  33. Anders says:

    *Almost twice as many people watched the Superbowl as Games 1-5 of the WS.

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  34. RPS says:

    NFL outcomes are ridiculously luck-based. I don’t know what the actual number is, but it seems reasonable to say that half of the games are decided by two or fewer plays made or not made by a couple inches over several dozen feet. Randomness looks a lot like parity.

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    • neuter_your_dogma says:

      “NFL outcomes are ridiculously luck-based.” No more than baseball is “luck based.” Obviously Tom Brady gives the Patriots a better chance to win than Joe Webb gives the Vikings.

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  35. Kevin says:

    Parity is the ability of every team to be able to compete. Want an Example? The Championship game decided between the cities of New Orleans and Indianapolis. If that happened in Baseball Bud Selig’s head would explode.

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