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Quality of top teams, players unchanged in the last decade

>Q: I can't remember when the quality of play in the NFL has been so bad. There are almost no really good teams in the league. Players out of control lacking discipline and fundamentals, poor officiating and NO ONE can stop the pass. It's not parity, its mediocrity, or worse. Tough watching. Your thoughts?

-- George Wojciechowski, Buffalo

Answer: I agree that the quality of play is not nearly as good, in relative terms, as it was in the 1980s and most of the 1990s, before the salary cap took full effect. That's because the best teams of those decades had far more quality depth than exists now. Consider all the veteran backups the Bills and Cowboys had in the early '90s. That doesn't happen any more.

I also agree there is no dominant team this year. The Patriots might win it all, but they're not as good as the 2003 and 2004 Pats title teams. The Saints looked more dominant last year than this year's top teams. I agree that tackling fundamentals are a long-term concern in the game. Players seem to try to deliver a hit a bit more than wrapping guys up. That's just an anecdotal observation.

All that being said, I don't think there is much difference in the overall quality of play this year compared to the past 10 years.

As far as no one being able to stop the pass, I have to ask: Have you been watching the Bills' offense for most of the past decade? But seriously, I think offenses have evolved to a point where more teams use some short passes as a substitute for runs. But overall yards and points have stayed pretty consistent the past decade.

As far as the enjoyment of watching the game is concerned, I think it's all relative. I think watching the best teams play is just as much fun as it ever was.

I think the quality of quarterback play is as good as it ever has been, given the number of great veterans and good young QBs in the league. Bad quarterbacking makes for ugly games. But the teams with bad quarterbacks in the '70s and '80s played pretty ugly, too.

If I recall, there were Bills fans complaining about the declining quality of play in the NFL in the pre-Kelly days.

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>Q: Did the Bills feel they needed to play games in Toronto in order to keep other NFL teams from playing games there?

Since the NFL is really pushing international games right now, would other teams have been allowed to play games in Toronto if the Bills didn't stake their claim there? -- Mike Bourg, Anthem, Ariz.

A: The motivation to play there didn't have anything to do with closing out another team, because no other team would have an interest in moving home games to Toronto. It had everything to do with the extra money the deal brought the Bills and the desire to further regionalize the franchise.

None of the other teams in the region -- Cleveland and Detroit -- has any problems with the size of their market. (The Lions have had one blackout this year, but that's due to their long-term losing.) Fans from Southern Ontario now account for about 15 percent of the crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium, about the same percentage as fans from the Rochester metro area.

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Bills beat reporter Mark Gaughan answers your football questions every Friday, online and in the paper. Send your e-mails to mgaughan@buffnews.com or join his live chat at 11:30 a.m. on the BillBoard blog.

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