By: Joe Pohoryles
Tomorrow marks the start of the divisional round for the NFL playoffs. It’s one of the most exciting times of the year, where the best teams in the league battle it out all weekend long in their fight to this year’s Super Bowl.
With the elimination of the New England Patriots during Wild Card Weekend, there is a lot of fresh blood in this year’s playoff race, as the Kansas City Chiefs are the only team playing this weekend who made it this far last year.
Like every year in recent memory, Redskins fans will be tuning in without a horse in the race this weekend, and what I find myself doing every year is hopping on one team’s bandwagon just to instill my own rooting interest to the playoffs, even if I only temporarily support the team.
I will never abandon the Redskins, no matter how depressing the franchise gets, but cheering for another team in the playoffs when the Skins don’t qualify always makes the games more interesting to watch. If you’re like me and looking to jump in another fanbase’s shoes for a couple weeks, here are some options:
The case for the Baltimore Ravens…
This one is almost too easy to make the case for for some Redskins “fans,” as many have already jumped ship to the DMV’s AFC counterpart. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a temporary team this January, the Ravens are a fun option.
Lamar Jackson had a breakout sophomore campaign, one which will likely earn him MVP honors. He has dazzled all season long, but he still has to prove he can be successful in the postseason. The circumstances were different a year ago, but I witnessed firsthand the atrocious outing Jackson had in the postseason last year in a 23-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Some garbage time yards and touchdowns elevated his stat line to 194 yards and two touchdowns, but he didn’t crack 100 passing yards until the fourth quarter. He also had an interception, and he fumbled the ball three times, losing it once. He was even booed off the field as fans began chanting for former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco to take over.
Needless to say, this year has a totally different tune to it, but if you want to root for the redemption of a budding superstar, support the most local team in the field, and believe the best regular season team should end up as champions, then you should be rooting for the purple and black this weekend. (Plus, if you ever hoped to see Robert Griffin III get a Super Bowl ring, this will be his best chance, so that’s just one other reason.)
The case for the Kansas City Chiefs…
Speaking of fun quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes will be leading the Chiefs again after nearly taking them to the Super Bowl last year. A Dee Ford offsides penalty that overturned a game-sealing interception cost the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game last year, so fans all over Kansas City certainly feel they deserve to make it this go-around.
And if any coach in the NFL deserves a Super Bowl win, it’s the Chiefs’ Andy Reid. He had three close chances in the early-2000s with the Philadelphia Eagles, but the Lombardi has eluded Reid through his entire head coaching career.
The Andy Reid coaching tree is among the most successful in league history. John Harbaugh and Doug Pederson have won a Super Bowl, and both coached under Reid at some point. Sean McDermott of the Bills led the team to their first playoff appearance since 1999, and the Redskins’ new head coach, Ron Rivera, is a two-time Coach of the Year, and made a Super Bowl appearance with the Panthers.
Reid has made a huge impact on the landscape of the league, and based on all accounts is a great person, so if you’d like to see one of the most influential coaches in league history finally get his due, or a superstar QB not named “Lamar Jackson,” win his first ring, then the Chiefs are your team.
The case for the Houston Texans…
Ok, I’ve spoken a lot about star quarterbacks, so I’ll leave it at this: Deshaun Watson is pretty dang good. The Texans have made plenty of playoff appearances in recent years – they practically own the four o’clock slot on Saturday during Wild Card Weekend – but have never been able to make a full run.
JJ Watt has been among the best defensive players in the league for awhile now, and the three-time Defensive Player of the Year has been through many ups and downs in his career, but never a Super Bowl. He is hampered by a pectoral injury in these playoffs, so he is not at full effectiveness, but he will still play a huge role in Houston’s run.
If you’re a fan of defensive greatness and would like to see an all-time great reach the mountaintop, then Houston is your team. Plus, I think we all remember what happened in Houston this past October. Sure, the Astros may be cheaters, but there’s no such dirt on the Texans. Perhaps DC fans owe the city of Houston a little support after what we did to them on the baseball diamond.
The case for the Tennessee Titans…
To be the best, you have to beat the best, and that’s exactly what the Titans did last weekend. Well, they did not beat this year’s best team, but they were the ones to topple the Patriots’ dynasty (or so it seems, anyway).
In order for the Titans to win, they’ll have to beat the best of 2019 as well, as they face the Baltimore Ravens, so if you prefer the underdog, then you may want to look into Tennessee.
Ryan Tannehill has found new life in Nashville after many mediocre seasons in Miami, and may earn himself a big contract this offseason, especially if he can lead his team to the promised land. Derrick Henry has also broken out in a big way. He was the league rushing champion this season, and his aggressive running style, busting through anyone in his way, is just thrilling to watch.
Mike Vrabel has done a solid job in his first head coaching gig, and has even claimed he would cut off his own penis in exchange for a Super Bowl win, so… take that as you will. If you prefer the team/coach that wants it most (or have something against Vrabel’s junk, I’m not judging), then the Titans are your team.
Edit: I have published a piece for the NFC teams, where I also listed my personal rooting preferences of this year’s playoff field from least to greatest, so if you missed it, check it out here.