By: Joe Pohoryles
Today 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 San Francisco 49ers…
One of the worst teams in the league from a year ago has completed a major turnaround and is now a top team in the NFC, led by a former Redskins’ offensive coordinator in the NFC West division. Sounds familiar? Well that described Sean McVay’s Rams in 2018, but that story applies to Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers this year.
The Rams fell just short in the Super Bowl a year ago, but the 49ers have a chance to rewrite that part of the story themselves. The 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo already has two Super Bowl rings, but both came as the backup on the New England Patriots. After years of sitting behind Tom Brady, Jimmy G has a chance to build his own legacy.
For the Niners, though, it was their great defense and dominant running game that elevated them to the top of the NFC. Raheem Mostert has gone from bouncing around practice squads to leading the San Francisco rushing committee, a classic story of perseverance that’s easy to root for.
The addition of likely-Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa in last year’s draft proved to be the finishing touch on a defense GM John Lynch has been constructing for the past few years, mainly through the draft. Three of their last four first round picks were used on defensive linemen. Another team that holds that distinction: the Redskins. Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne and Montez Sweat were added in consecutive drafts, and with the expected addition of Bosa’s former teammate Chase Young this year’s draft, the Skins have taken a page out of San Francisco’s playbook.
As a Redskins fan, if you want to see the team’s blueprint to success prove its worth, a deep run by the 49ers will be an encouraging sign, so they may be the team you want to root for.
The case for the Green Bay Packers…
Here we see yet another former Redskins’ offensive assistant at the helm in Matt LaFleur, with Green Bay back in the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 season. The Packers have had some questionable performances, but still wound up with a 13-3 record and a first-round bye.
Another person in the Packers’ organization with ties to the Redskins is defensive end Preston Smith, who is having a breakout season in his first year in Green Bay after four years in Washington. If you like supporting former Redskins’, the Packers could be a strong candidate.
Another reason could be seeing Aaron Rodgers win a second Super Bowl. One of the great quarterback talents of this generation has just one ring to show for it. One is better than none, but multiple championships is what helps separate the generational talents from the all-time ones.
Rings don’t tell the full story, but at 36 years old, Rodgers only has a few seasons left to deliver, so if you want to see an aging star cement his legacy, then the Packers are your team.
The case for the Seattle Seahawks…
Speaking of another star quarterback looking for a second Super Bowl, a deep run for the Seahawks would mean a lot more for Russell Wilson than their back-to-back Super Bowl appearances several years ago. The Legion of Boom Seahawks are no more; this is Wilson’s team.
A bigger reason to root for Seattle is linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who had his left hand amputated as a child and was the first one-handed player drafted into the NFL. One of the most inspiring stories in the league, seeing Griffin win a Super Bowl would be icing on the cake. He gets to play with his twin brother Shaquill Griffin, so that would be a major achievement for their whole family.
Seattle has the most recent success in the Super Bowl of all the teams in this year’s field, so they may not be the most obvious candidate, but the team’s “12th Man” fanbase is among the best in the league, and they certainly deserve the enjoyment of success, which isn’t to knock the other great fanbases in this year’s field, but at least it won’t be another LA Rams situation where there are fewer passionate fans to actually enjoy the run.
The case for the Minnesota Vikings…
It seems the Redskins have ties to practically every team in the playoffs, and none is more obvious than Kirk Cousins on the Vikings. Kirk could never deliver in the big moments while in DC, and had the same trouble in Minnesota until winning his first playoff game in overtime against the New Orleans Saints last week. If you were a fan of Cousins in DC and want to see him reach the mountaintop, then the Vikings are the obvious pick.
The Vikings also have another player with ties to the DMV, but not through the Redskins. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs is a DC-area local, dominating at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Md. before becoming a star player for the University of Maryland. He already has his name stamped in NFL lore from being on the receiving end of the “Minneapolis Miracle” just two seasons ago, and a Super Bowl would just add to that.
Until the Caps, Nats and Mystics all won championships in the past couple years, Washington fans were familiar with losing and disappointment (and that still exists for us with some teams). In fact, the only sports cities who were more miserable were likely Atlanta and Minneapolis-St.Paul.
The Falcons are not in the playoffs this year, but the Vikings have a chance to bring happiness to the Twin Cities (and the entire state) that they have not experienced in nearly 30 years. If you want to see a former Redskin quarterback win it all, see a DC-area native lift the Lombardi, or support a fanbase deprived of championship joy for decades, than the Vikings are your team for these playoffs.
If you missed it, check out the AFC section here.
My personal rooting interest for the 2019-20 NFL Playoffs:
- Kansas City Chiefs
- San Francisco 49ers
- Tennessee Titans
- Minnesota Vikings
- Houston Texans
- Seattle Seahawks
- Baltimore Ravens
- Green Bay Packers