Dawn’s harsh light

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Monday night’s much-hyped showdown between the supposed two best teams in the AFC turned into nothing more than a beat-down administered by the conference’s old stalwart New England Patriots to the young, upstart Houston Texans. I had high hopes going into the game that, at the very least, I would be in for a night of good football, and hopefully, so much more. Unfortunately I myself, like anyone else who tuned in hoping to see a good game, got nothing of the sort.

There has been a lot of hype surrounding the Texans as they ran off 11 wins in the first 12 games of this season. Heck, there was a lot of hype about the team even before the season started, as many pundits picked them to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Based on their performance against the Patriots, it seems like a lot of pundits will be eating their words once the playoffs get here. The Texans didn’t just look bad in the game, they looked awful and, on the flip side, New England and Tom Brady looked every bit the dominant team of the last decade that they are. Houston did not have the ability in the defensive backfield to even slow Brady down, and their vaunted offense wilted underneath the Patriots’ attacking defense.

The win seems to set New England up as the team to beat in the AFC heading into the playoffs, but plenty of questions remain just three weeks before wild card weekend. The NFC’s best team all year, Atlanta, lost to a pretty miserable Carolina team on Sunday which puts in question just how deep a run they can make in the playoffs. The Packers, the only other team to beat Houston, have been inconsistent all year, while the 49ers aren’t exactly a juggernaut either. It’s hard to believe Atlanta will lose home-field advantage, and maybe that will be key for them. Both of their losses this year have come on the road, so maybe they are safe enough in the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome that they can run the table once the playoffs start.

I think what all this really illustrates is just how much parity there is in the NFL this year. The league is most definitely without a great team, much less multiple great teams, which should make both the playoffs and the race to the playoffs incredibly interesting for a lot of people. Heading into this weekend’s games there are only three teams in the AFC and four in the NFC that have absolutely no chance of reaching the postseason. If you take out the four teams who have already clinched a playoff spot you are left with 23 other teams still fighting for the remaining eight playoff berths. Thus, if you are a fan of parity, or playoff races, then you should be pretty happy with the way the NFL season is playing out, even if the rest of the regular season’s super-games turn out to be more fizzle than sizzle.