Twelve NFL teams have reached the playoffs, which means there are 20 who didn't. Odds are that your team didn't make it and are therefore you may be agnostic about whoever wins this year. We exist to fight agnosticism! The playoffs are more fun for everyone if they have a rooting interest: Every man's gotta have a cause.
So! It is time for your 2017 NFL Playoff Rootability Rankings. Here's your cheering guide for the unaffiliated. If you don't know which squad you should be pulling for, consult this cheat sheet.
12. New England Patriots. The Pats are gonna always show up last in these rankings, but it's worth noting that they're not quite as definitive a No. 12 as they have been years in the past. Sure, Bill Belichick will always be the representation of mortal evil, but if, say, you were an overcaffinated Hollywood movie star ranting and screaming on premium cable television about a massive NFL conspiracy against one of its game's legends because the other 31 owners have deep-seated antipathy toward the franchise he plays for, you might actually have a little bit of a point? Put it this way: If the Patriots win the Super Bowl and Tom Brady, upon receiving the Lombardi Trophy from Roger Goodell, did a profane, Affleck-tinged version of this rant:
… that would be pretty amazing, right? Not enough to cheer for the Patriots but, if it goes down like that, maybe not the worst consolation prize.
11. Dallas Cowboys. This is the most complicated, morally complex NFL Playoff Rootability Rankings we've ever done because, well … the Cowboys are not actually that unlikable!
Ezekiel Elliot -- off-field business aside -- is a treat to watch run, that offensive line is dominant in a way we rarely see in the NFL anymore, Dez Bryant has gone full babyface and, most of all, Dak Prescott is the sort of rookie quarterback breakout that has fueled this league for decades. If this team were wearing any helmets other than the Cowboys', they might the most likable team on this list.
But they are wearing Cowboys' helmets, and Jerry Jones is still the owner, and never forget that Jerry Jones did this.
Or, really, everything else that Jerry Jones has ever done. There's such a nice football story here. It's just a shame it's about the Cowboys.
10. New York Giants. This is a very accurate Tweet:
like obj hasn't been saving his bacon all year long. he earned a vacation after carrying eli for 16 games. https://t.co/FS3C3NDbcR- El Flaco (@bomani_jones) January 3, 2017
Eli Manning seems like an affable enough chap. Nice guy. Surprisingly normal, considering the life he has lived. But that dude is gonna be the guy with three Super Bowls titles? You really want Eli to become the fifth quarterback in NFL history -- along with Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman -- to win three championships? You can't really want this. If the Giants get hot again, and pull it off again, Manning will be a Hall of Famer despite a lower career passing rating than Sam Bradford, Jay Cutler and David Garrard. No thank you.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers. It wouldn't feel like much of a breakthrough if the Steelers won their seventh championship, particularly when they would be doing it in the way it always seems like they're doing it: keeping their powder dry for most of the season and then getting hot just at the end. Not that it wouldn't be fun to see Terry Bradshaw interview Mike Tomlin on the FOX pregame show.
8. Houston Texans. Everyone has been maligning the AFC South all season, but it's worth noting that the division had three teams at .500 or better this year. The NFC West had just one. That said: Whose eyes don't glaze over when they see the Texans in the playoffs?
7. Detroit Lions. The Lions have one of the more tortured NFL fanbases -- No. 4 on last year's list -- and ordinarily they'd be the sort of team you'd get behind come playoff time. But this is a team that still hasn't beaten a winning team and just fumbled away the best opportunity it has had to win the NFC North in many, many years. If they win the Super Bowl, it would be such a fluke that it'd be difficult to even enjoy it; it would be as if everything had turned inside out overnight.
6. Miami Dolphins. Sort of a goofy little playoff team, the Dolphins have the advantage of an energetic young coach -- Adam Gase is 38; you've wasted your life -- and quarterback Matt Moore. You had totally forgotten Moore was still in the league, didn't you? He had a little boomlet a half decade or so ago, back at the end of the Panthers days and the beginning of the Dolphins ones, but he had been forgotten until Ryan Tannehill's injury. I dunno, of all the backup quarterbacks playing in this postseason (and there are a lot of backup quarterbacks playing in this postseason), he's the one I find it easiest to get excited about it. A faded quarterback getting one last unexpected go-around. Good for him. (Though the Steelers might kill him.)
5. Green Bay Packers. I know this is plenty high for a perpetual contender, one of the league's jewel franchises, but what can I say? Aaron Rodgers is my kind of quarterback. He's durable, he's persistent, he's resourceful, he pulls magic out of his hat, he throws to a scrappy wide receiver who went to my college, he has a good sense of humor about himself and, perhaps most important, the guy wins at Celebrity Jeopardy!
Just one of my rules: You wipe out an astronaut and a reality television host on Celebrity Jeopardy! then I root for you in the playoffs.
4. Oakland Raiders. The Raiders might have been No. 1, but now, in the wake of Derek Carr's injury, it almost feels like a pity vote. The Raiders have been waiting 14 years to get back to the playoffs … and then their star quarterback is injured right before they start. Now they are relying on Connor Cook (!) and have to go all the way to Houston. Even if you still have lingering '70s Raiders hate, that seems like a cruel fate.
3. Seattle Seahawks. I know, the Seahawks are a polarizing team, but I'll take the outspokenness of Richard Sherman, the new-age efficiency of the front office and the charming dorkiness of Russell Wilson. Plus, it does seem strange that this run of excellent Seahawks teams only has won one Super Bowl title, doesn't it? Is this really a one-off team? They shouldn't be, right?
2. Atlanta Falcons. Everyone is sleeping on the Falcons. The best team in the NFC according to Pro Football Reference's Simple Rating System, they have Matt Ryan playing the best football of his career. Am I the only person who sees 1998 happening here, with a team (Dallas this year, Minnesota back then) seemingly primed for an epic Super Bowl matchup (Dallas-New England this year, Denver-Minnesota back then) only to have an underrated Atlanta team come out of nowhere and screw the whole thing up? Atlanta (and Georgia) sports are infamous for falling just short of the big prize. The Falcons have quietly been one of the NFL's best teams all year. This is the perfect year to sneak up on everybody. (Or drop a dumb game to Seattle.)
1. Kansas City Chiefs. They finally got their first playoff win in a decade last year, but they're primed for more. The key was winning the AFC West, getting them a home game and a chance to sneak into the AFC Championship Game with just one win. Who in the AFC scares the Patriots other than the Steelers? The Chiefs are the sort of methodical, don't-make-mistakes team that can vex the Pats. Kansas City loves its Chiefs and has had a run off success without much of a postseason breakthrough to match it. If it's ever going to happen, this is the year.