Chances are your favorite team didn't make the 2011 NFL playoffs. But you can still hitch your wagon to a team that did make it in, provided you act now. For each conference, here are all six playoff teams ranked according to how hard you should root for each to remain in contention:
America loves an underdog, but America has a limit. If the Seahawks somehow manage a win, it'll only be appreciated in a ha-ha-no-seriously-somebody-do-something-about-this kind of way. Were this college hoops the Seahawks would be an instant hit, but they're treading on thin eggshells here already, and it would probably be best if they just saw themselves out now.
I haven't even gotten to the horrible Pete Carroll yet, nor his horrible decision to sit the deeply entertaining Charlie Whitehurst.
The best gift you can ever give the ironic football hipster in your life, provided he or she somehow hates football:
The perfect team for the sort of fan who only tunes in for the last five minutes of an NBA game.
On paper, they're the most boring team in the NFL, leading the league in nothing but penalty avoidance and Gob Bluth jokes. But look at some of these finishes: the Roddy White "push-off," six Matt Ryan game-winning drives, two overtime games, and beating the 49ers on a field goal enabled by a fumble-forcing wide receiver. This team is football's short attention span theater, and if it reaches the Super Bowl you will swear the first three quarters did not happen.
You'd also like to see the Falcons welcome Michael Vick to the Georgia Dome with the Super Bowl at stake, if only to witness Atlanta digesting itself on national television.
The Black Eyed Peas are playing the Super Bowl halftime show, and they eat a lot of black-eyed peas in Louisiana. There are two or three Black Eyed Peas songs that no one should mind all that much, and at least one that is acceptable at just about any event populated by people who don't hate fun, but by and large the Peas are inexcusable, and that's somehow on you, New Orleans.
... and oh, Saints, America can't stay mad at you.
There are two scenarios. Either you're a Bears fan, or you have another team you'd prefer to see winning the Super Bowl. In both of these cases, you should root for the Bears. Because "Jay Cutler in the NFC Championship Game/Super Bowl" gives your team a sensational chance to win on every play.
Q: Wait, it would help my team win, or it would help the Bears win?
A: Go Bears!
[Full disclosure: I'm a Falcons fan. Go Bears!]
Vick's road to redemption storyline is one thing, (and does anybody ever talk about roads to redemption in any context besides sports?), but you're more excited to see a Super Bowl-winning Vick given the keys to Philadelphia only two years after local sports talk radio stations burned to the ground upon his signing.
The creeping terror of January: football is almost over.
Strain against the yoke of time, clenching at football as it filters into the skies.
Who can delay the inevitable?
Only Green Bay's abandoned running game can.
The longer the Packers go without running the ball, the longer each game will take, and the longer football season will last.
In the event of a rooting tie, root against the Pack for one reason: from being about the only quarterback with a touchdown dance to signaling himself Safe! after sliding to avoid a tackle, Aaron Rodgers has a lot of fun out there. We've already seen what happens to the media once Packers quarterbacks start having fun.
/Googles Steelers roster
/sees Ben Roethlisberger
/roots against Steelers
When Peter King writes that a Super Bowl loss by your team would be as big an upset as that time the New York Giants beat that one 18-0 team, even though your team got smashed by the 5-11 Cleveland Browns this year, your team does not need any third-party rooting assistance.
Let the thought of Wes Welker running to the end zone only to reveal he's but a nesting doll for Danny Woodhead power your hate, but remember that it's not the Patriots or their success that you hate -- it's Red Sox Nation.
Red Sox Nation prefers it this way though, so at least feign fondness for the Pats every now and then.
I would rather watch a San Antonio Spurs shootaround than ever watch the Colts play football again. Or click through those time lapse videos people make where they take pictures of their own face for 365 days, trying to find the world's most boring time lapse video. Or look up boring on YouTube and listen to the entire first song that comes up, trying to isolate the most boring line. Or spend 10 minutes trying to find a video that was on Reddit of two girls vlogging at the same time -- it was so annoying!
If I could find it I'd put it here, and then you'd understand how unappealing the Colts are, but it would get you off track because it was annoying, not boring.
While researching the Colts for this story, I did all the things listed above, and none of them worked.
Can you imagine what havoc Old Spice would unleash during its Super Bowl commercial if Ray Lewis was playing in said Super Bowl? For reference, this is the kind of thing they're OK with doing when nobody's even paying attention:
The sports fan who prefers Super Bowl commercials to sports should root for the Ravens, as should actual sports fans.
A theory: the Chiefs are the NFL's least unpopular team. While the Cowboys and Redskins have a lot of fans, more people root against them than for them. But have you ever met anybody who really, really hates the Chiefs? Does the average ESPN-watcher even know the Chiefs are in the playoffs?
Egregious misuse of Jamaal Charles docks KC several points here -- actually, every single thing Todd Haley has ever done hurts their standing in this list. But they're a fun, young team, their fans give a crap, and Arrowhead Pride's traffic would go through the roof once Who are the Kansas City Chiefs? became the nation's most pressing question.
SCENE: REX RYAN tugs the Lombardi Trophy from ROGER GOODELL's hands. JOE BUCK, anxious and small, eases a microphone into REX RYAN's face. ROGER GOODELL flinches as REX RYAN addresses EARTH.
You should root for the Jets, and yeah, that's pretty much my entire argument as to why.