The NFL is taking this parity thing too far in 2021. Through the first nine weeks, 12 AFC teams have at least four wins. Four of the bottom seven teams in the ESPN NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 9 -- the Atlanta Falcons (No. 25), New York Giants (No. 26), Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 29) and Miami Dolphins (No. 30) -- won Sunday, and three of those wins were against top-10 teams. And that's not even counting a curious loss by the Dallas Cowboys.
It feels like just about any team can contend for a playoff spot over the final two months. Nineteen teams are projected to win between eight and 13.6 games, according to ESPN's Power Football Index (FPI). And per ESPN Stats & Information research, there have been 28 games with the game-winning score coming in the final minute of regulation or in overtime, the second most through nine weeks since the 1970 merger -- and 21 of those have been decided on the final play.
Some teams should continue to create separation. In the NFC, the Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers are in a race for a playoff bye. The Cowboys, Packers and Tennessee Titans sport comfortable divisional leads. The Buffalo Bills, meanwhile, hold the FPI's second-highest playoff probability in the AFC (94.8%) even after this weekend's ugly 9-6 loss to Jacksonville.
Some of it won't matter if several underachieving teams pick up steam in time to salvage the season. Yes, we're talking to the Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers, among others. What's safe about the NFL is nothing is safe. To make sense of the second-half playoff picture, we reached out to league execs, scouts and coaches for some old-fashioned forecasting. What will happen in key division races and the tightening wild-card hunts -- and which team will win the Super Bowl?