NFL Parity Scheduling:
Who Will be 2008’s Parity Dog?

NFL Parity Dog

Parity Dog Winners 2003-2007
Likely 2008 Parity Dog Contenders

Something that casual followers of the National Football League may not know: the National Football League’s scheduling is rigged.

It’s not an accusation: it’s a fact–and one of which the league is proud. It’s called parity scheduling by the NFL.

Parity scheduling has a purpose: it allows some not-so-good teams a chance to make the playoffs. Fans from even the worst teams have reason to cheer every other year.

Some might call it “planned mediocrity”. The NY Times calls it “socialized football”. From N.F.L. Parity Ensures Anxiety Is Shared Equally :

Coach killers are not rebel players or doomed franchises or the injury fates. What kills a coach most often — whether he is fired, quits or retires — is N.F.L. parity. Or socialized football brought to you by the hard salary cap.

The league put in the hard cap in 1993 to provide every team, no matter how large the owner’s wallet, an even chance to compete for the Super Bowl. Basically, these league landlords devised a system to promote mediocrity while insisting their teams rise above it. In essence, owners are desperate to hire safe crackers for their own homes.

The concept behind scheduling for parity is simple: if you have a good record, you’ll be schedule against tougher opponents the next year. If you have a bad year, you’ll get a break.

The weak sisters of the NFL therefore get to play each other and the best of the previous year’s losers has a chance to make the playoffs–and usually a quick trip home after a sound thumping by one of the team which survived a tougher schedule.

Let’s call this manufactured playoff team, the “Parity Dog”.

There is a formula for each NFL team’s 16-game schedule and it goes something like this:

  • Home and away games are played against their three division opponents, totaling 6 games.
  • There are four teams from another division that are rotating on a three year cycle within its conference, totaling 4 games.
  • There are four teams from another division (non-conference) that play on a rotating four-year cycle, totaling 4 games.
  • The last two inter-conference games are based on the prior year’s last standings totaling 2 games. The games are matched against a first place team and the first place team in a two same conference division team. This is not scheduled to play in that season. The same cycle is matched for second, third, and fourth placed teams each year.

It’s these last two games that put the “par” in “parity”. If a team wins its division, the next year, it will face two other division winners. If the team finishes last in its division, its reward: two games against two other last-place teams.

Not all bad teams get easy schedules: Cincinnati’s 2008 schedule is an example. Call it the (bad) luck of the 2008 draw.

The Bengals are in the AFC North. This is the year the AFC North’s non-conference opponents come from the NFC East (NY Giants, Washington, Dallas, Philadelphia). All of those NFC teams are tough this year and all have winning records.

The AFC North’s matched up with the teams from the AFC South (Indianapolis, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Houston) in 2008. None are push-overs. Intra-divison rivalry games are always tough, so that gives Cincinnati 12 tough games and two easy ones.

Which teams are likely to be 2008’s parity dog(s)?

Who were the parity dogs from the last five years?

Let’s take a look–but first, a look at the eligibility requirements to be awarded the title of “NFL Parity Dog.



Teams which 1) had one of the 10 easiest schedules (according to their record the previous year); 2) made the playoffs; and 3) made a quick exit.

STYLE POINTS: If the Parity Dog contender gets blown out the first round of the playoffs, extra consideration will be given to that team.

TWO DOGS in the FIGHT: (With apologies to Michael Vick)
If two Parity Dogs meet in a first-round playoff game, the winner is not eliminated from Parity Dog consideration, but a playoff victory makes it very difficult to lay claim to being a Parity Dog.

So are the teams in the running for the 2008 Parity Dog commendation?

Continue reading: NFL Parity Scheduling: Some Playoff Teams Are Dogs–Parity Dogs

by Mondo Frazier
Source: NFL Parity Scheduling: Some Playoff Teams Are Dogs–Parity Dogs

Mondoreb blogs at Death By 1000 Papercuts. Interested readers can e-mail him at All DBKP stories are filed under Mondoreb at BNN.

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