Unless you're a complete sporting agnostic, you're going to need an NFL team to cheer for over the next month. If you're a fan of one of the teams already eliminated you needn't disavow them - it's just that things are more interesting when you have a rooting interest, however light it may be. So which bandwagon should you join? We rank the seven teams* still alive to become Super Bowl LI champions.
* Yes, we're aware there's eight teams left and especially aware one of them is the Texans.
Tim HeitmanTim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
N/A. New England Patriots
Getting on the Patriots bandwagon is like trying to find a seat on the T at Park Street. Why so tough? After all, the Patriots have next-to-no national following and are a regional phenomenon like Dunkin' Donuts or Mark Wahlberg. Should be easy. But, unlike most bandwagons, the Patriots one is comprised almost exclusively of fans from New England who'd ignored the Pats for years, choosing to latch onto the success of the Celtics and Bruins or enjoying the self-martyrdom of Red Sox fandom. When Bill Parcells came to town the bandwagon started chugging, when Bill Belichick arrived everybody hopped off and then when he, Tom Brady, the worst rule in sports, Adam Vinatieri and a camcorder helped New England start its dynasty, that thing filled up faster than a football inflated with an electric pump. Oh, the Pats had their die-hards, of course. Every town does. Respect to the fans who lived through five playoff appearances in 31 seasons. But in 1992, the last year before Parcells invigorated the city's NFL fandom, the Patriots were dead last in NFL attendance, behind even the Phoenix Cardinals, who were watching a horrible team with a cheap owner playing in a college stadium with metal benches that reflected the hot Arizona sun. But, no, Boston isn't a bandwagon town. (Also, if you want a window into the psyche of your average Pats fan and/or WEEI listener, the picture above is a perfect summation. Even at a victory parade, the natural inclination is to be defensive even though they're ostensibly celebrating a title surrounded by hundreds of thousands of like-minded fans Whose face are you rubbing it in?.)
Greg M. CooperGreg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Infinity. Dallas Cowboys
There are two types of Cowboys fans: Cowboys fans and people who say they're Cowboys fans. The first group is filled with fine folks, mostly from Texas but with representation everywhere. To fully stereotype, these fans are among the nicest in the NFL. The second group is made up of people like LeBron, who also love the Yankees, Lakers Warriors and (checks Spotify to see which band is hot) Migos. These frontrunners leave their "teams" at the first sign of mediocrity and don't come back until there's something they can brag about. For their sake, it's a good thing Dallas never changes its logo so they can find their Cowboys hat and Aikman jersey at the bottom of the drawer and be dressed to the nines for Sunday which, incidentally, is probably how many points the Cowboys are going to have.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY SportsJerome Miron
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
I know what the surveys say (Dallas), but Pittsburgh seems to have the biggest national following of fans who are actually true blue black-and-yellow. No matter where Pittsburgh is playing those terrible Terrible Towels can't be avoided and that's kind of commendable, if, you know, they weren't so annoying. The towel-waving is a gimmick that's stuck and is still purely Pittsburgh's even though every team seems to have tried to copy it at some point or another. Pittsburgh fans seeing, say, Bengals fans waving around orange terry cloth should feel like Redskins fans do when they hear "Fly Eagles Fly." Already did it, fellas. All of that means Pittsburgh does not need, or particularly want, your presence on their bandwagon. They'll get the usual stragglers from around Western Pennsylvania, the same way any team's fanbase increases when a deep playoff run is in the making. Add those folks and the Steelers will be just fine, thanks.
Christopher HanewinckelChristopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
5. Seattle Seahawks
Seahawks fans are the most likely to resent you for elbowing your way onto their bandwagon, which is more than enough reason to join it.
Troy WayrynenTroy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
4. Houston Texans
Don't even bother. In about 36 hours, the Texans' bandwagon will be broken down just outside Route 1 in Foxborough. Brock Osweiler will insist he can fix it, then as soon as he gets under the hood it'll all blow up.
Erik WilliamsErik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
3. Green Bay Packers
How Green Bay could finish third on this list is a testament to the blue blooded, annoying or irrelevant teams remaining in the playoffs. If you don't like the Packers now, you didn't like them when Aaron Rodgers won his Super Bowl, you didn't like them when Brett Favre was playing like a kid out there and you didn't like them during those never-discussed 20 years post-Lombardi, pre-gunslinger in which Green Bay made the playoffs just once (and that deserves an asterisk because it came in that funky nine-game 1982 strike season when 16 of 28 teams played the postseason). This all makes Green Bay a reasonable rooting interest in 2017. They're non-controversial. Lambeau seems like a fun place full of good people. They'll probably have to beat a far more unlikable team en route to a title. And if they make Super Bowl week, there's like a 90 percent chance someone asks an awkard question about Aaron Rodgers' estranged brother, Jordan, who won The Bachelorette and thus has seen a ring in the past five years unlike some people.
Jeff HanischJeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
2. Atlanta Falcons
You know how you can tell Atlanta is truly the worst sports town? Nobody from Atlanta gets mad when you call it the worst sports town. There's a lot to like about these Falcons. Who doesn't love a prolific offense? Julio Jones is on the shortlist of best-liked players who aren't on your team. The downside of the Falcons is that, with them, comes a playoff game held inside a dome, which is like watching Goodfellas on cable -- still good, but missing the essence of what makes it great. In one case, the f-word. In the other case, winter weather, which can sometimes be the biggest star of a postseason game. (But it's going to be 66 degrees on Saturday in Atlanta, so the dome isn't exactly keeping away a blizzard). If none of that made you want to root for the Falcons, then this last thing will: Matt Ryan and Co. may be the last line of defense between America and a Cowboys Super Bowl.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
If you're going to root for one team this postseason, make it the Chiefs, a franchise with one of the best fanbases in sports, a sad, single playoff win since the still-bizarre Joe Montana era and a lone title back in Super Bowl IV, a championship game that was almost as big an AFL over NFL upset as the one that preceded it but without any of the hype or lore. It's even enough to forget that the Chiefs somehow skate criticism on doing that awful tomahawk chop. Andy Reid is one of the best coaches to never win a title, Alex Smith will provide a feel-good Super Bowl week story, Tyreek Hill is the most explosive player on any field this weekend and, c'mon, the mere idea of replicating this moment (click on it; we'll wait) is the healing, uniting moment our country needs. Add in the fact that the Chiefs' path to a title could be wins against Roethlisberger/Brady/Rodgers (or Steelers, Pats, Cowboys) and that's a team you can be confident in rooting for each week. Do it. Hop on that bandwagon. Enjoy the ride. (All this totally ensures they're losing to Pittsburgh on Sunday, by the way.)
And if none of this interests you, there's nothing wrong with rooting against the Cowboys and Pats and calling it a day.