For some football fans, things just aren’t the same when you aren’t watching your team. The food tastes a little blander. The drinks feel a little warmer. You don’t throw a party to watch the game. Maybe you channel surf to check in on reruns of MacGyver.
But some of us have a love for football that goes past normal team allegiances. We don’t just love our teams that play the sport. We love the action, excitement and strategy that make the sport what it is. But who can you possibly root for as the fan of a team that didn’t make the playoffs? Besides whatever team you picked while in Vegas, that is.
Luckily, we have it all figured out. Here are the teams you can and can’t root for as a fan of an AFC team that didn’t make it this far in the postseason.
Considering that half of the AFC North was knocked out of the playoffs last week in agonizing fashion, chances are that any fan not affiliated with the Baltimore Ravens is taking a break from football. For Cleveland Browns fans, this break probably started a month ago, but now Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers fans can join in. I hear building snow forts is a time consuming but fun pastime.
But if you really need to watch football, you can probably get away with rooting for the Carolina Panthers. They’re far enough away geographically, and don’t usually do enough to warrant any hatred, unless you want to fault them for their release of Steve Smith. Bengals fans probably would enjoy rooting for the Seattle Seahawks considering their rivalry with the 49ers, who beat the Bengals in the Super Bowl twice in the 80s.
It’s hard to believe that there are many fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars, much less any fans that would care to root for or against any other team in the playoffs. The expansion team rivalry with the Carolina Panthers probably has a drop of juice left. The Houston Texans have that great cross-state rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys that only Texans (as in people who live in Texas) could define. That same rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys is probably still with any Tennessee Titans fans that stuck with them since they were the Houston Oilers.
No self-respecting fan on the losing end of this division is rooting for the Indianapolis Colts, but it’s more than just a divisional rivalry. The Indianapolis Colts have now developed two franchise quarterbacks while the other teams are still looking for someone better than Jeff George. The Jaguars have Blake Bortles who’s coming along. But other than that, the AFC South only has a line of train wrecks: Vince Young; Matt Schaub; Blaine Gabbert; Jake Locker; Kerry Collins. And that’s just me counting quickly on one hand!
Who can anyone in the AFC South root for in the playoffs? Maybe the Green Bay Packers, since they’re geographically and divisionally as far from the AFC South as possible.
If you’re a fan of the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins or Buffalo Bills, there is only one team that you will root for whenever your team doesn’t make the playoffs: the team playing the New England Patriots. This bitterness has a lot to do with the New England Patriots’ monopoly on the AFC East crown for the last decade. And this success, of course, has a lot to do with Tom Brady being the only great quarterback in the division.
Besides the Patriots, you rarely see a Jets fan rooting for the Baltimore Ravens or Indianapolis Colts due to the Jets’ history with the Baltimore Colts. Yes, it was a long time ago — before I was even born — but the Jets once had a championship team, and a rivalry with the Colts to go with it. Bills fans will surely be rooting for whatever team plays the Cowboys as well, thanks to back-to-back losses in the 1993 and 1994 Super Bowls.
So who can you root for? The Carolina Panthers are a safe bet for all teams except the Dolphins, and that’s more about geography. Jets fans could probably root for the Packers since they were gifted Brett Favre for a whole broken-down season, and they share the color green. Bills fans can’t even use the Buffalo Sabres as a distraction, so maybe the Colts can be their team.
The most obvious team that San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs fans root against is the Denver Broncos. And it’s not only due to the divisional rivalry. Just when the Chiefs and Chargers were starting to improve, the Broncos go and grab possibly the best quarterback of the past decade or more. Half the country issued a giant collective sigh, possibly worsening polar vortixes for many winters to come.
Then there are the specific rivalries. Fans of the Oakland Raiders hate all teams not named [insert city here] Raiders, but they reserve a special spot in their black and silver hearts for the New England Patriots due to the infamous tuck rule. They also have serious history with the Packers and Colts. So Raiders fans are pretty much only rooting for the Raiders in the playoffs. Weird, but probably true.
As far as rooting interests, fans of the Kansas City Chiefs will, if anything, jump on the Seattle Seahawks bandwagon. It’s not just because Alex Smith was ousted from San Francisco, and nothing annoys 49ers fans like Seahawks fans. (How many times have I’ve repeated that statement?) More importantly, the Chiefs beat the Seahawks this year. So if the Seahawks win it all, Chiefs fans fan say, “Meh. We beat them.” With logic only a fan can understand, that would mean that the Chiefs are the best team in the NFL.
Patrick Emmel is a sports humorist who once punted a soccer ball fifty yards to his teammate, who then scored the only goal for his college intramural soccer team’s season. Seriously, that kick was placed PERFECTLY. He is also still a believer that Colt McCoy is going to break out as an NFL quarterback. You can read more of his obnoxious commentary at This Jeer In Sports and heckle him on Twitter @Patrick_AE.