Statistically speaking, you are probably not a fan of the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers or Atlanta Falcons. Odds are that you either like another football team, or you don't like any football team. Regardless, football is going to be around every corner and on every screen for the next three weeks (even though there are only two days left with games), and it's going to be more fun if you have a rooting interest. So, here for football watchers still on the market, is your 2013 rooting guide:
The Safe Option: The New England Patriots
The Pats, led by QB Tom Brady and Coach Bill Belichek are not just the safe option in these playoffs, they have been the safe option for over a decade. In a run nearly unprecendented in professional sports, the Patriots have finished in first in their division almost every year since the turn of the millenium, appeared in 5 Super Bowls and won three of them. This year, they are once again the favorite to go the distance. If you appreciate dominance, dynasties, and relatively safe bets, and Tom Brady being an extremely handsome individual, then go Patriots.
The Charmingly Underappreciated: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are both really good, and always the "other" team in the matchup. That was true last week when they barely dispatched the Broncos, and it will be equally true this week when they take on the Patriots. The Ravens are your choice if you want to take the "not many people realize it, but these guys are one of the best teams" angle. It's only sort of true, but the coverage will be so New England-heavy that you will be able to say that line at least four times during the game. So, pick the Ravens if you want to be that guy.
The Trying To Prove They Have It Under Pressure Team: Atlanta Falcons
Do you feel like you are one smoothe operator when no one's looking, but fall apart when it matters most? Meet your spirit animal, the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons finished with the best record in the NFC (13-3), and yet were picked by many to fall to the Seahawks, which they nearly did after blowing a 20 point lead. Quarterback Matt Ryan has embodied the "falls apart under pressure" narrative with repeated, often embarrassing playoff failures. If you would like to see a repeated flop finally make it, go Falcons.
The Out Of Nowhere Star Team: The San Francisco 49ers
For the last two years, the 49ers have been defined by QB Alex Smith, and how he didn't meet the hype. Smith showed signs of life last year, but the 49ers fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Midway through this season, Smith was looking better than ever when he had to miss two games due to injury. In stepped Colin Kaepernick who took the ball and hasn't looked back. Though Alex Smith has been healthy for a while now, the 49ers have bet heavy on the unpredictable Kaepernick. Last week, Kaepernick set a record with 181 rushing yards (a playoff record for a quarterback), leading a dangerous offense over the Packers. Kaepernick makes the 49ers the most exciting team left. If you want excitement, go 49ers.
So now you have your team, but what if they lose on Sunday? Who do you root for in the Super Bowl? Easy: go vengeance. Root for the team that beat your team (your other option is to mitigate your losses by hoping you lost to the eventual champion, but that's less fun).