Proof of AFC East parity problem

Despite the unfortunate way the NFL's new, form-fitting uniforms makes him look, Green Bay's B.J. Raji likes them.
Despite the unfortunate way the NFL's new, form-fitting uniforms makes him look, Green Bay's B.J. Raji likes them. (AP)
Posted: October 19, 2012

The first are the last and the last are the first in the AFC East, or AFC Least, if you prefer. The Jets, Patriots, Dolphins, and Bills are all 3-3, a rare logjam this far into the season that has coaches and players unsure if they should be happy or concerned.

"It's good news, bad news," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "Let's face it, we're tied for first in our division, so that's great. We're also tied for last. It's a little depressing."

Since the NFL merger in 1970, this marks only the fourth time every team in a division has the same record after Week 6 or later, and first since the AFC East was knotted up at 5-5 after Week 10 in 1987, according to Stats L.L.C. But things were wacky that year because one week was canceled because of a players strike, and Weeks 4-6 were played mainly by replacements. The only other time it has happened was in the AFC Central after Week 9 in 1985.

"I guess the old saying about the parity in the NFL is true, at least through six weeks of the NFL season," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin cracked before getting serious and talking about how he doesn't pay attention to other teams, is only focused on his squad, blah, blah, blah.

The Jets take on the Patriots this weekend, the Dolphins are off, and the Bills host the Titans. That should shake things up a little.

Ray of hope in Baltimore

The Ravens haven't completely abandoned hope of having Ray Lewis back in uniform this season.

Although coach John Harbaugh said Monday that the 37-year-old linebacker - who tore his right triceps Sunday against Dallas - was out for the year, the Ravens on Wednesday placed Lewis on injured reserve with the "designated to return" tag.

The move makes Lewis, who tops the club in tackles and is the defense's unquestioned leader, eligible to return in six weeks.

"We have no idea whether that time frame has anything to do with the injury, but there's an opportunity and we're going to keep the door open," Harbaugh said.

NFL to judge: Butt out

In a response Wednesday to papers the players filed earlier this week, the NFL urged a federal judge in New Orleans to avoid interfering in commissioner Roger Goodell's efforts to discipline four players for the Saints' cash-for-hits bounty pool.

The NFL said its collective bargaining agreement with the players' union gives Goodell the power to handle discipline involving conduct detrimental to football "at his discretion."

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan is considering the players' request to overturn suspensions to linebacker Jonathan Vilma (full season) and defensive end Will Smith (four games) of the Saints, free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (seven games), and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita (one game).

The players also want Berrigan to appoint a "neutral arbitrator" to handle any discipline in the matter.

The NFL argued that the players' request "turns the CBA (and the law) on its head."

The players have argued Goodell's public comments about the matter prove he cannot be impartial, and therefore has violated the players' industrial due process rights, which are an inherent part the CBA.

Not a flattering look

The NFL's new form-fitting uniforms are a big hit, especially among players with sculpted physiques.

"It makes you look like you're playing out there with nothing on," Broncos safety Rahim Moore said. "It makes you feel like you're free, like you're wearing a napkin it's so thin."

That's precisely the problem for players who don't have the Adonis-like bodies. The shrink-wrap fit of Nike's new lightweight, body-contoured uniforms doesn't look so flattering on jelly-belly linemen.

"If you're going to put a lineman in it, there's not too much you can do with a tight jersey and tight pants," said B.J. Raji, the Packers' 334-pound defensive tackle.

"We don't like the tight stuff," said 314-pound Giants guard Chris Snee. "You know, stuff's falling all over, your stomach is hanging out."

Still, Snee and many other beefy players say they like the new uniforms, despite their unfortunate look, because there's less material for opponents to grab.

Nike spokesman Brian Strong said the uniform's shrink-wrap element is "about reducing grab points."

Statistics show they could be happening. Although holding penalties are holding steady, sacks are up slightly this year, with 415 leaguewide so far, the most through Week 6 since there were 431 in 2000 and 10 more than there were at this point last season, according to Stats L.L.C.

The Eagles, however, have not benefited from the uniform's enhancements. With a total of just seven sacks in six games, the Birds are last in the league - and on pace to finish with an eye-popping 182/3 sacks.

This article contains information from Inquirer wire services.

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