We’re hours away from the NFL’s divisional playoffs weekend, and fans are filled with the quivering thrill of anticipation, much like Jerry Jones gets when he’s about to fire somebody. Rather than do the usual capsule previews or power rankings, let’s change it up.
Let’s rank our contenders this weekend by who truly deserves to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Who has put in the months of effort, the years of frustration, the decades of hope? Whose victory could bring a little light to these dim gray times … and whose win would be another entire season of grim despair?
Well, with that intro, you know exactly where we’re going to start.
8. Tampa Bay. No. No. No more Super Bowls for you, Tom Brady. You’ve done everything you need to do to prove you’re the GOAT. You’ve won in every conceivable way, with two different teams, you have nothing left to prove. And Tampa? You’ve got rings upon rings these days. Sit back and let some more deserving teams dance in the confetti.
7. Kansas City. The Chiefs have been in the Super Bowl the past two years and won one. They have Patrick Mahomes locked down for the 2020s. They’re going to be fine. They don’t need another one just yet.
6. Green Bay. This is the only if-then ranking of the bunch: if Aaron Rodgers stays with Green Bay, then this ranking stays right here. With a presumptive two-time MVP quarterbacking your team, you’ve got nothing to complain about (well, outside of those multiple missed playoff opportunities). If Rodgers bolts, though, we’d retroactively move this up to No. 2 because Green Bay deserves to get a little more out of 30 years of immortal QB play than it has received.
5. San Francisco. The 49ers seem to pinball between horrid and pretty darn good. They’re a mystery, but they’re two years removed from one Super Bowl and they’ve got Montana/Young/Rice to fall back on whenever times get tough. Plus, they just beat the Cowboys. They’re good for now.
4. Los Angeles. Sorry, citizens of L.A. You’re already getting the Super Bowl itself, and you’ve had the Rams back for only a few years. As for the team itself: you just had a trip to the Super Bowl, and boy, did you screw that up. A Matthew Stafford ring would change the entire complexion of his career, but there are other, more deserving teams.
3. Cincinnati. The Bengals vaporized a whole lot of ghosts with last weekend’s win, their first postseason victory in three decades. Everything else from here on out this season is gravy – and given that this is Cincinnati, the gravy probably has chocolate or marshmallows or something else horrible in it. The Bengals are on the ascent; they’ll be back.
2. Tennessee. The Titans have spent the entire season as the “Oh, yeah, they’re good too” of the NFL, getting disrespected even though they’re the No. 1 seed! Nashville is a wonderful city and ought to add “Super Bowl Champion” to “Home of Country Music” and “Land of Chaotic Bachelorette Parties That We Shall Never Speak Of Again.”
1. Buffalo. Here it is. The runaway No. 1, and nobody is even close. Those four straight Super Bowl losses still sting even if you’ve never even been to Buffalo. The table-busting, bare-chested loons that have dedicated their lives to this underachieving franchise deserve a quarter-century of acclaim capped off with a trophy that gets dipped in bleu cheese.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.