- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 31, 2009

NFL parity has disappeared in a sea of disparity.

Three NFL teams are spotless, and three are winless. Considering recent history with the unbeaten Patriots and 0-16 Lions, posting a big fat zero in the loss or victory column isn’t absurd anymore.

Could it happen at both ends of the standings this season? You bet.

Just look at the chasm between the top and bottom of the league. The Saints can score on anybody. The Rams barely have as many points in seven losses as New Orleans scores in seven quarters.

Peyton Manning is performing at a level even he has not reached often in his three-MVP career, and the Colts look like the NFL’s most balanced team. Their division rivals, the Titans, are so off-kilter they have gone from a 10-0 start in 2008 to 0-6.

The Broncos’ revitalized defense has been so stingy and their offense so spectacular late in games that all the summer turmoil over Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall has morphed into choruses of “Rocky Mountain High.” In Tampa, they might be singing Boz Scaggs’ “Lowdown” to describe the Bucs’ offense. And defense.

Most of these top teams have some common elements, highlighted by coaching stability. Who is more secure in their jobs than Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin, Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton?

Also, in the cases of coaching turnover, the decision makers at the top - Jim Irsay, Pat Bowlen - have solid track records in their past hirings, such as Tony Dungy in Indianapolis and Mike Shanahan in Denver.

Poor drafting has been damaging for some of the big-time losers, particularly Kansas City, Oakland, Cleveland and Detroit.

Not that having no wins this year gives a team all the dibs on ignominy. The Chiefs, Browns, Raiders, Redskins or Lions all have the potential to wind up with the league’s worst record.

Of the three undefeated teams, the Saints might have the clearest route to perfection. They appear to be in the middle of a special season, as their comeback win at Miami on Sunday demonstrated. Their toughest contests outside the division will both be in the Superdome, against the Patriots and Cowboys. And they have a pair of games with division rival Atlanta, including Monday night in New Orleans.

Indianapolis hasn’t missed a beat with Jim Caldwell replacing Dungy. If anything, the Colts are more efficient than ever and deeper than they’ve been, especially on defense. A series of injuries, mainly in the secondary but at other spots, too, has forced backups to develop, resulting in quality depth few teams enjoy.

But 16-0, with matchups against New England, Denver and Baltimore? That’s a tough chore.

Tennessee, one of three winless teams, is a total pretender in that mix. The Titans will not go 0-for-2009 a year after being 13-3.

The Rams and Bucs are different stories. Neither team has a semblance of an offense or defense. Both have new coaches trying to find their way with a dearth of leadership on their rosters. St. Louis could sneak away from Detroit with a win Sunday. If not, Dec. 13 at Tennessee might be the only other chance.

Tampa Bay lost all 14 games of its debut season in 1976, and another 12 in a row to start ‘77. That was an expansion team. This squad looks like one, too.

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