The New England Patriots’ trip to the 2021 playoffs was a short one. The team was eliminated in the wild card round, falling 47-17 in Buffalo.
While this means there are three relatively stress-free weekends ahead for fans and journalists alike, it also creates a different question: Who to root for through the rest of the postseason? Let’s try to find an answer by looking at all eight teams left standing in this year’s tournament, ranked by their respective conferences and seeds.
AFC playoff race
(1) Tennessee Titans: After ending the regular season with a 12-5 record and as the top seed in the AFC, the Titans did not have to suit up on wild card weekend. They will enter the playoffs on Saturday against Cincinnati.
Why should you root for the Titans? There are plenty of Patriots connections in Tennessee — from head coach Mike Vrabel and general manager Jon Robinson to tight end Ryan Izzo and wide receiver Cody Hollister. The Titans would also be a first-time winner after famously coming one yard short in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Why should you not root for the Titans? The Titans ended the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era in 2019. Other than that, there’s really not much speaking against them.
(2) Kansas City Chiefs: Despite some early-season struggles, Kansas City won the AFC West for a sixth straight year. Along the way, the team secured the second seed in the conference. Kansas City beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild card round.
Why should you root for the Chiefs? Kansas City is one of the most balanced teams in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes is among the top quarterbacks in football, leading a creative attack, while the defense came up strong down the stretch. Also, long-time Patriot Joe Thuney is starting at left guard.
Why should you not root for the Chiefs? The Chiefs already talked about establishing a dynasty after winning Super Bowl LIV, and a second victory in three years would only add fuel to an insufferable hype machine.
(3) Buffalo Bills: The two-time AFC East champion entered the playoffs behind a 11-6 record. Buffalo hosted the Patriots in the wild card round, winning in convincing fashion to advance to the divisional round. There, a trip to Kansas City awaits.
Why should you root for the Bills? Few fan bases in football have suffered more heartbreak than the Bills’ over the years, and yet the so-called #BillsMafia stood by the team the entire time. And after losing back-to-back-to-back-to-back Super Bowls in the early 1990s they now have another very good team worthy of a trophy. Buffalo is due for one.
Why should you not root for the Bills? A Patriots division rival winning the Super Bowl has not happened since the 1973 Miami Dolphins. Why should such a beautiful streak end now? Especially given that Buffalo already owns a lot of bragging rights after blowing out New England in the wild card round.
(4) Cincinnati Bengals: One year after going 4-11-1, the Bengals rose to the top of the AFC North. They then went on to beat the Las Vegas Raiders in the division round to set up a game with the top-seeded Titans on Saturday.
Why should you root for the Bengals? The Bengals won their first playoff game since 1990 last week, ending the longest such streak in the NFL. A team without a championship, Cincinnati is an easy team to root for.
Why should you not root for the Bengals? There really is no real reason to root against Cincinnati.
NFC playoff race
(1) Green Bay Packers: Green Bay earned the top seed and first-round playoff bye in the NFC thanks to its 13-4 regular season record. The Packers will host the lowest remaining seed in the conference — San Francisco — on divisional round Saturday.
Why should you root for the Packers? Few cities in the league have as rich a legacy when it comes to pro football as Green Bay. If you’re a fan of the sport’s history and one of its most storied franchises, root for the Packers. Also, they have been playing some pretty good football this year.
Why should you not root for the Packers? Aaron Rodgers winning a second Super Bowl ring would surely motivate some the talking heads — who you shouldn’t listen to in the first place but whom you can’t escape — to reignite the old “Is he better than Brady?” question. Nobody wants that.
(2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers tied the Packers for the best regular season record in the NFL, but lost out on the top seed due to a disadvantageous tiebreaker. As a result, Tampa Bay had to go up against the Philadelphia Eagles in the division round. It was basically a no-contest for Tom Brady and company.
Why should you root for the Buccaneers? Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, it’s as easy as that.
Why should you not root for the Buccaneers? If, for some reason, you are hold leaving New England against Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski then, please, feel free not to root for the Buccaneers. Also, they defended Antonio Brown even after he faked a Covid-19 vaccination card.
(4) Los Angeles Rams: The NFC West winners took care of business at home against the Arizona Cardinals in the divisional playoffs. Now, they will travel to Florida to go up against the defending Super Bowl champs — a rematch of a Week 3 contest that saw the Rams come away with the W.
Why should you root for the Rams? The Rams’ only Super Bowl was won during their time in St. Louis, and that just does not feel right for a franchise as storied as the Rams.
Why should you not root for the Rams? The Rams’ only Super Bowl being won during their time in St. Louis is actually pretty fun, when you think about it. Also, a championship probably means that a new wave of Sean McVay clones will soon get released into the NFL head coaching world.
(6) San Francisco 49ers: The only road team to win its wild card game, the 49ers advanced to the divisional playoffs thanks to an upset over the Dallas Cowboys. Now, a much bigger challenge awaits: the Packers at Lambeau Field.
Why should you root for the 49ers? Ex-Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had his chance at a title in 2020 but lost to the Chiefs. Now, he is back leading one of the league’s most historic franchises on another playoff run. They also eliminated Jerry Jones’ Cowboys, which is nice.
Why should you not root for the 49ers? The 49ers would tie the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers with six championships. Also, if you’re against a former New England backup leading a team to the Super Bowl, San Francisco is also not the team for you.