The 2023 Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs are just a day away, and while we’d all love to be watching the Detroit Lions right now, any postseason football is a pretty decent consolation prize.
With only seven football games left before the entire season is over, it’s time to hitch yourself to a bandwagon. These playoffs are full of awesome storylines, entertaining football, and individual players worth rooting for, which can make it tough to pick a team. I’m here to help you navigate that decision by ranking the remaining eight teams by rootability.
8th. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys cockily refer to themselves as America’s Team, and while they are a huge national brand, they are also one of the most hated teams in all of sports. Their bravado is off-putting, especially when you consider this is a franchise that hasn’t even reached a conference championship in 27 years.
The Lions have a bit of a rivalry with the franchise, as well, with some of their most notable games of the past 20 years coming against Dallas. None more painful than their playoff matchup from 2014.
Throw in some serious off-field allegations for two of their superstars (Micah Parsons, Ezekiel Elliott) and it’s an easy call to make this your most-hated team remaining in the playoffs.
Admittedly, Jalen Hurts is a fun story and the Eagles play a brand of football that is fun to watch. However, of the teams remaining in the playoffs, the Eagles are the second-most recent to have won a super bowl. In fact, every major sports team in Philadelphia short of the flyers has seen some serious recent success. the 76ers have been to back-to-back conference semifinals, and the Phillies just made it to the World Series. Do we really need another Philly team running the table?
So, it’s just boring to see one of the more talented rosters win it all.
It’s probably no coincidence that the three bottom teams come from the insufferable NFC East. That division consistently gets more coverage than they deserve, and that makes these NFC Playoffs particularly annoying: they actually deserve it this year.
The increased coverage lends itself to exaggerated takes from national outlets. Daniel Jones wins a playoff game, and suddenly all of the questions about him disappear. I get the feeling Giants fans could be in for a rude awakening when he’s forced to play against a non-bottom feeder defense like they did in the Wild Card round. Going up against the Eagles, and then possibly the 49ers defense, will likely knock some sense in to Giants fans.
We’ve reached the point in the countdown where all of these teams are acceptable to root for. The Bengals are only this low because last year felt like the proper year to throw your support behind them. It was a fun run for them, and they nearly pulled off a Cinderella story.
Now with expectations, the Bengals are just a little boring. The allure of Joe Burrow and his cigars have worn off, and there isn’t much else about the team that feels particularly entertaining.
Still, they haven’t won a Super Bowl before, so if you feel that sort of kindred spirit connection with them, I won’t tell you you’re wrong for feeling that way.
I know I just said the Bengals feel like yesterday’s news, so how could I possibly put the Chiefs—a team that has won their division seven years in a row—ahead of them? Well, because the Chiefs keep finding a way to make things fun. Whether they’re pulling off a ring around the rosie in the middle of a huddleor Patrick Mahomes is doing something we’ve never seen before, the Chiefs somehow manage to walk that impossible line of “sustained success” and “still feels like a fresh team.”
They score a ton of points, they’ve got weapons galore, and they just seem to reload their talent with ease. No more Tyreek Hill? No problem at all.
Oh, and they’re one of the youngest teams in the NFL. How are they doing it? I have no idea, but it’s very, very fun to watch.
3.San Francisco 49ers
Speaking of fun to watch, whether their offense or defense is on the field, the 49ers have talent galore. On defense, Nick Bosa is making a solid argument for unseating Aaron Donald as the best defensive player in football. On offense, Kyle Shanahan remains one of the most inventive minds in the game.
Oh, and they have Mr. Irrelevant running their offense right now. Brock Purdy’s talent is almost certainly being overstated right now, but it’s still absolutely fascinating watching a seventh-round rookie light up the scoreboard and meet every challenge he’s faced.
The 49ers seem like a team who has deserved a Super Bowl for several years now, but injuries have gotten in their way. If they could somehow pull off a championship with a third-string, seventh-round rookie at quarterback, it would feel like karmic justice.
For me, there is no quarterback more entertaining to watch right now than Josh Allen. For all of the mobile quarterbacks that we’ve seen throughout the years in this league, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one as physical as Allen. On top of that, he throws one of the most beautiful deep balls in the game. He is, quite simply, a freak.
There’s also a very deserving fanbase behind this franchise. The Bills challenge the Lions as one of the most tortured fanbases. Is it more painful to have never gotten to a Super Bowl, or to have made four straight and lost every single one of them? Regardless of where you fall on that debate, you have to agree the Bills have been through it all, and their fandom hasn’t waned. That sort of loyalty deserves a payoff.
Of course, there’s the Damar Hamlin storyline, too. To see a franchise rebound from witnessing trauma like that just a few weeks ago would be a heartwarming story.
I’ll be honest, since their creation in 1995, the Jacksonville Jaguars have always been an afterthought for me. I don’t think there’s a team who I’ve paid attention to less than the Jaguars.
But I am all caught up in DUVAL fever right now for several reasons. For one, to see a franchise immediately rebound from having a toxic, authoritarian coach—and a former Buckeye, too—should be inspirational for Lions fans. Additionally, last week’s comeback against the Chargers was epic and spawned an amazing video from the Jaguars:
Trevor Lawrence is starting to ball out and could very well be the future face of the league. The team also has several former Lions (Marvin Jones Jr., Jamal Agnew, Riley Patterson) who are very easy to root for. Also, the further the Jaguars make it, the more impressive the Lions’ 40-14 win over them looks.
But most of all, who doesn’t love an underdog story? The Jaguars are really only here because their division sucked. If they can take down some of these AFC behemoths, it would be incredible to watch.