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NFL’s mantra of parity is a ruse

While the NFL has appeased its fans with the narrative that any team could win the Lombardi Trophy in any given year, this year’s playoffs have shown that the NFL is a quarterback and ratings-driven sport.

New England Patriots v Green Bay Packers Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The 2017 NFL playoffs have brought fans both blowouts and crazy finishes. The Wild Card round gave us lopsided games, though this weekend’s games brought us some tight contests that came down to the wire. Whichever NFL team you’re a fan of, it’s the divisional round, last-minute games that keeps all allegiances glued to the television, regardless of who is playing.

In recent years, the NFL has promoted the idea that the achievement of a Lombardi Trophy is well within reach for any team. If we are looking inward, the Bengals were pegged to fall into another dismal decade of futility after the exodus of Carson Palmer, yet, the team has managed to make the playoffs five times in the six seasons since Palmer’s departure.

Additionally, constant NFL whipping boys and small market teams like the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons have all found themselves in the postseason dance. So, the NFL’s “any given Sunday” tagline seems to ring true, right?

Look at the NFL’s current final four, as well as 2016 ratings issues:

For those who haven’t been paying attention to ancillary information about the NFL this year, the league’s overall ratings have inexplicably been down after dominating the airwaves for so many years. Whether it’s folks getting disenchanted with the player injuries, cable cord-cutters or the over-inundation of football throughout the week, Roger Goodell and his braintrust are worried about all things associated with professional football.

While many old school football fans love strong defenses, it’s no secret that today’s NFL fan loves explosive offenses. Even with the small-market Falcons and their potential MVP quarterback Matt Ryan, we’re looking at championship 2016-2017 games that features at least one of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers.

Additionally, the latter three quarterbacks happen to head up three of the most popular franchises the league boasts. Now, there’s a sort of chicken-or-the-egg argument that ensues here. Is it supreme quarterback play that continuously gets these teams where they are, a bit of favoritism that comes with those players and the ratings they bring, or maybe a combination of both?

A look at recent history:

Is it organizational culture, quarterback play or potential NFL favoritism that has painted the playoff landscape in recent years? It might be a combination of all of them, but aside from the random one or two teams that enter the bracket annually, the same, top-grossing teams seem to make appearances in the final rounds of the playoffs.

The Packers, Patriots, and Steelers — essentially the franchises with the biggest fan base volumes — seem to get back to the Super Bowl on a near annual basis. In fact, of the past 15 Super Bowls, those three aforementioned teams have seven titles, with odds pointing to an eighth coming this year.

Additionally, the big market Giants have won two Super Bowls in the span. I don’t know what trend this exactly points to, but some of the forgotten teams who have been in the bracket haven’t been able to call themselves national champions.

Put on the tinfoil hats:

Whether it was Rodgers’ Hail Mary against the Giants in the Wild Card round, or penalties against the Chiefs that Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce aired out publicly after the divisional round against the Steelers, things have been going in the favor of these mega-franchises. One aspect that comes into play here is the inconsistent officiating that has led to a number of unlikely wins, whether we’re talking about the Bengals or not.

A lot of folks don’t want to admit that outside forces have a hand in the game, but with the league on the ropes with its ratings, seeing teams with the biggest fan bases and the potential largest viewership getting far in the playoffs helps the league. With former mafia members publicly claiming they had hands in outcomes of games, it isn’t far-fetched to believe the certain teams gain favoritism in a league that promotes parity.