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Parity rules again

One of the best things about the NFL is its unpredictability, even if it leaves you scratching your head trying to figure it all out. In a league where surprise teams emerge on a regular basis, 2011 is no exception. 

The stat that says it all: For the 16th straight season, five or more teams will reach the playoffs that weren’t in the postseason the year before. The Lions, Texans and 49ers are in the tournament this year after failing to get there last season. Dallas and the Giants, who play on Sunday night to decide the NFC East title, didn’t make it last year, nor did the Broncos or Raiders, one of whom will win the AFC West.

The number of teams could grow to six as three teams – Cincinnati, Oakland and Tennessee – are vying for the final AFC wild card spot. 

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