We’ve all got a team that we were born rooting for, but at some point every fan likes to kick his/her legs up and throw on the ol’ RedZone Channel. It’s a football hodgepodge with a side of uncertainty that requires a snap judgment: Who do I root for? Let us help you out with a quick and easy-to-follow 2013 rooting guide to the teams of the NFC, ranked in rough order of projected quality (within each division).
1. NFC East: Washington Redskins
– Robert Griffin III sends thank-you notes. (Have you ever sent a crapload of thank-you notes after a wedding? It’s hard work! Good for him.)
– Alfred Morris is one of the better underdog stories to come along in a while. Not counting on making a team, much less becoming a star, he spent last season driving a 1991 Mazda.
– London Fletcher hasn’t missed a game in 15 years. That’s 240 games. HE’S A LINEBACKER.
– Say what you will about this franchise — and we’re about to — but its fans are not short on passion.
2. Dallas Cowboys
– Tony Romo throwing to Miles Austin in the slot and Dez Bryant on the outside should, in theory, be the best or second-best WR/QB combo in the NFL. (Atlanta’s in that discussion.) It certainly produces the most highlights, good and bad.
– And there’s Jason Witten, who by Week 3 will have the second-most catches of any tight end in NFL history. Not too shabby, and if you squint you can almost make Witten into an underdog given how much more attention Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski get.
– If you’re an unabashed frontrunner, their strength of schedule is eighth easiest in the league, and they could easily be 4-0 going into a Week 5 showdown at home against Denver (which has the easiest schedule this season).
– Tony Romo says, hey, what’s up?
– The ironically anti-democratic idea that any franchise can decide to call itself “America’s Team” should make your skin crawl.
– You probably wipe the smudges off your own glasses. Not Jerry Jones!
3. New York Giants
– They’re the only team in this division that actually wins Super Bowls.
– Eli Manning’s posture and mannerisms make him come off as your mopey Uncle Jerry who’s always complaining at Thanksgiving dinner about how his alimony payments are just killing him and could someone please pass the Red Label to his end of the table and why won’t she call anymore? but then he goes out and throws for 510 yards and three touchdowns and you remember he’s 6’4” and 220 pounds and has a laser bazooka where his right arm should be.
– Victor Cruz’s salsa dance is nonsensical and enraging and you have to love it.
– Tom Coughlin’s rosy cheeks are basically a living mood ring.
– The running game is an uncertain mess, the offensive line is getting weaker by the day, the defense is suspect at best, and Eli’s completion percentage is always teetering on the edge of respectability. Not the best bandwagon choice by any means.
– This man is a two-time Super Bowl MVP:
4. Philadelphia Eagles
– LeSean McCoy could be a destruction machine in new coach Chip Kelly’s offense. He’s a near-lock to eclipse last season’s 840 rushing yards and two TDs… Given the number of plays Kelly runs per game, 8,400 yards and 2 million TDs is probably closer to what you can expect.
– A weak defense, combined with McCoy/Michael Vick/DeSean Jackson on offense, should make every game interesting and high-scoring — even if the Eagles don’t win many of them.
– So, uh, yeah, there’s that.
– And this.
– And some other thing.
– Oh, right, Michael Irvin’s neck.
– Don’t forget the irrational hatred of Donovan McNabb.
– Seriously, it is very difficult to voluntarily align oneself with this team and its fans.
5. NFC West: Seattle Seahawks
– Russell Wilson (along with his counterparts in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.) is reorienting the expectations of what a quarterback can do. If you want to see some expectations get reoriented like nobody’s business, Russell Wilson is your man and watching some Seattle option football is your plan. (But seriously, it’s nice to see an organization get rewarded for taking a risk that makes the game more interesting.)
– A big part of Seattle’s newfangled offense is the oldfangled power running of Marshawn Lynch, who could go Beast Mode at any time.
– A No. 1 scoring defense that got better? Better believe it.
– Home of the loudest stadium in the NFL, causing more false starts than any other in the league. The 12th Man is real, and it is LOUD.
– Pete Carroll’s smirk walk (see below).
7. San Francisco 49ers
– Colin Kaepernick’s badass Biblical tattoos bring motorcycle gang members and seminary students together.
– They’ve got an crazy cool stadium on the way! (Well, it’ll have full Wi-Fi coverage, and that’s certainly something.)
– Chris Culliver, who made all those horrid anti-gay comments before the Super Bowl, is out for the year with a bad case of karma.
– The second-best defense in the NFL, powered by swift and merciless middle linebacker ballhawks NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, will keep the Niners in step with the Seahawks juggernaut.
8. St. Louis Rams
– Kicker Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein has played all of one season and is already the only man in league history to kick two field goals of 58 yards or longer in the same game.
– Rookie WR Tavon Austin is only 5’8”, but seems primed to be a standout from the start.
– Former wide receiver Torry Holt’s fingers (NSFW, maybe).
– Defensive end Chris Long hasn’t missed a game in his five-year career and anchors a deceptively devastating pass rush.
– Sam Bradford, former No. 1 pick in the draft, hasn’t been better than “meh” in the league.
– Their most experienced rusher, Daryl Richardson, has all of 98 yards in his pro career. Ooooooof.
– Often regarded as having the worst stadium in the NFL.
9. Arizona Cardinals
– The Cardinals finally have a quarterback! The ghosts of Jake Plummer and Kurt Warner have finally been laid to rest. Stepping in this season is… the ghost of Carson Palmer.
– New arrival Bruce Arians was named Coach of the Year last season after stepping in for Chuck Pagano and guiding a young Indianapolis Colts team to a 9-3 mark under his watch. So, maybe more of that?
– Poor rich Larry Fitzgerald. He’s got to best last season’s 798 yards and four TDs… right?
– It’s hot. VERY HOT.
– The fact that owner Bill Bidwell seems jovial doesn’t quite make up for the fact that he’s run a almost exclusively awful team for what seems like six decades.
10. NFC North: Green Bay Packers
– Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league, with a knack for making big throws on broken plays.
– The Packers are consistently competitive — only two losing seasons in their last 13, and looking this year for their third straight NFC North championship.
– Lambeau Field is one of the best football environments in the country.
– Donald Driver is gone.
– Greg Jennings is gone.
– Charles Woodson is gone.
– Can you name their starting running back? Have THEY named their starting running back?
– Lambeau Field is in Green Bay. They have winter there. We get it.
11. Chicago Bears
– The Bears defense is rock solid and they capitalize on takeaways. If you want to see some takeaways get capitalized on like nobody’s business, this is your team.
– Brandon Marshall is a walking one-handed touchdown catch. He just always seems like he has more energy in his body than other humans.
– If Martellus Bennett can make one single catch this year, he will be the most reliable tight end the Bears have had since Greg Olsen.
– Jay Cutler is not afraid to throw the ball.
– Soldier Field: another classic stadium with serious fans.
– Jay Cutler is not afraid to throw the ball. In fact, he does it too much. Like way too much. He should probably stop doing that.
– Brian Urlacher, the face of the Bears, is gone.
– Head coach Marc Trestman is used to Canadian football and will probably try to rugby-punt on ninth down or something.
– At best, the Bears offensive line is “eh.”
12. Detroit Lions
– Megatron is the best wide receiver in football and impossible to defend. His hand strength can best be described as “stupid strong.”
– Matthew Stafford’s arm is definitely in the Stupid Strength Club as well. (It’s a really cool club.)
– Johnson and Stafford and new addition Reggie Bush should make for one of the most spectacular offenses in the league.
– The Lions ended last season on an eight-game losing streak.
– Matthew Stafford is really inconsistent and coming off one of the worst seasons of his career.
– Everyone hates coach Jim Schwartz.
– Lions fans like to put paper bags on their head.
– The team is pretty much guaranteed to have at least five players arrested and Ndamakong Suh might actually kill someone.
13. Minnesota Vikings
– Adrian Peterson puts up video game numbers.
– Christian Ponder can hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson like it’s nobody’s business.
– Purple is a cool color that both genders can enjoy.
14. NFC South: Atlanta Falcons
– Unstoppable offensive machine.
– Atlanta is in the good part of the Dirty South, before things get too dirty (like Florida dirty).
– In the song that goes “Welcome to Atlanta where the playas play / And we ride on them things like every day” it’s funny to imagine that “them things” refers to Fisher-Price tricycles.
– Their coach, Mike Smith, has the stones to go big on fourth down, an attitude that is not only mathematically justified but is in general a better way to live one’s life than being the kind of person who always punts. YOLO.
– It’s been said before, but Atlanta fans never really seem that excited about their teams. Is it the weather? Are all the playas played out from playing too much in the heat?
15. New Orleans Saints
– Passing! Long bombs all over the place up in this Superdome.
– Jimmy Graham can probably dunk on a 14-foot rim.
– Some of their players got suspended on very flimsy evidence in the bounty scandal.
– No one has ever complained that the atmosphere at a Saints game was “just a little whatever” or “a little quiet sometimes” or “not full of insane screaming bayou swamp people.”
– Saints fans are tripping if they think they didn’t deserve some punishment for having a defensive coordinator who instructed his players to “kill the fucking head.”
– Dome stadium + passing-based spread offense + lousy defense = definitely not the team for football traditionalists. (The team they’re looking for plays in Pittsburgh.)
16. Carolina Panthers
– Cam Newton gets the headlines but this fellow above, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, might be even more talented. Can Kuechly take over for Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis as the NFL’s most intimidating ‘backer against both the run and the pass? I’m not sure, but one of the headlines that came up when I googled “Luke Kuechly stats” certainly seems to think so.
– Cam Newton is also pretty aiight.
– It seems like Texas barbecue is getting all the attention right now. But don’t sleep for a second on Carolina’s vinegar BBQ game. Q: What’s wrong with a little tangy sauce on some savory smoked meat? A: Nothing at all.
– Newton’s a potential superstar on offense and Kuechly on D. But who else on this team makes you want to stop on the channel where they’re playing? Bear in mind in answering this question that Steve Smith is 34 and that both of their running backs’ names should be legally changed to DNP—INJURY.
– Can you name a single thing Carolina Panthers fans are known for besides, we’re assuming, leaving empty Skoal cans in the parking lot?