Maybe your team didn’t make the playoffs — RIP, Jets, RIP — or maybe you’re looking to find another squad to follow to maximize your chances of not being sad. Either way, picking a team to put your weight behind is a hallowed rite of playoffs time. The trick is, to maximize the satisfaction and pleasure you’ll experience if/when your squad cruises to a Super Bowl victory, you have to pick the team that’s right for YOU. Fortunately, BuzzFeed is here to make the choice easy. Here are the 12 NFL playoff teams organized based on the kind of person who should be rooting for them to succeed.
2. The AFC
Lovers Of Beauty — The New England Patriots
Emblematic player: Tom Brady
This might seem contradictory, considering that Boston sports fans have a reputation for being as nuanced and sophisticated as an ‘87 Honda Civic filled with Jack in the Box wrappers. But the Patriots’ offense looks like an evolved version of what other teams play, with the fluid movement of receivers and running backs perfectly orchestrated by football’s premier maestro, Tom Brady. Meanwhile, the defense attempts to make up for its shortcomings with speed and complex schemes, and coach Bill Belichick has all the bile and technique of John Cheever. If you could put an NFL team in the Met, it would be the Patriots.
Also, Brady’s a handsome dude, even if he does have questionable taste in footwear.
Old-Schoolers — The Baltimore Ravens
Emblematic player: Ray Lewis.
Ah, Ray Lewis — the league’s top advocate of SMASH-MOUTH FOOTBALL and inspirational speeches that make you want to dropkick an elephant. Lewis will be retiring after this year, meaning our “NFL moments that could pass for WWE moments” quotient will go unfulfilled in 2013. (Speaking of which: what’s better than those times before games when the camera pans into the amp-up huddle and the guy in the middle is someone you completely didn’t expect, like Keith Brooking or Drew Brees? “WHAT TIME IS IT?” “Uh, I don’t know, Keith — like, five after six?” Also, can we please please please let Joe Flacco do the pre-game honors now that Lewis is gone?)
But yeah, other than Lewis, the Ravens are exactly the kind of boring, mediocre team that traditionalists hold up as Real Football. Ray Rice is cool, though.
People Who Cry During Movies — The Indianapolis Colts
Emblematic figure: Coach Chuck Pagano
On the one hand: according to Football Outsiders, the Colts are the worst 11-5 team in NFL history, a squad that compensates for its terrible defense by letting its rookie quarterback throw 97 passes a game against the league’s easiest schedule. On the other: Chuckstrong. The Colts’ first-year head coach, Chuck Pagano, battled and appears to have beaten leukemia this year, returning to the Colts’ sideline in Week 17 to oversee the team’s best win of the season over division rival Houston. Most observers will be rooting for an amazing story to get even better via the Colts beating the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs, but they’ve already overachieved — this team went 2-14 last season. If they can somehow make the Super Bowl — which would require a heroic effort from Andrew Luck, not to mention a hell of a lot of good fortune — prepare for the Hollywood treatment.
3. War-History Buffs — The Denver Broncos
Emblematic player: Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning most clearly exemplifies the idea of “strategy” that is obviously so present in football, an immensely complicated and esoteric game. Part of the reason for this is because Manning’s a genius field-general and football mind; the other part is that he shows his work, constantly shifting schemes in the flow of play and otherwise making it very clear that He Is In Command. Manning doesn’t want anyone to have any questions about who’s running the show on a Peyton Manning team, and it reminds you of the legendary generals in history, the Napoleons and Grants and Eisenhowers — these guys were all peacocks, and so is Peyton, waving his arms around like a guy directing armies.
Animal Lovers — The Cincinnati Bengals
Emblematic figure: A.J. Green
The Bengals, in addition to being named after animals, might be the most under-the-radar playoff team in either conference — they started off 3-4 and have been more or less ignored since. They’re the marginalized underdogs of this year’s playoff bracket, just looking forlornly for a place in your heart. And their biggest star is A.J. Green, an ascendant athlete and football technician who appears to be from a leonine, Avatar-like species superior to the stupid humans on the field around him. Also, Andy Dalton has orange hair. Like a cat!
Would-Be Warriors — The Houston Texans
Emblematic player: J.J. Watt
No team this year has had more “I’m going to beat the shit out of you” moments than the Texans. This exists on both sides of the ball: offensively, the team’s strategy consists of a) letting Arian Foster slam his body into other football players as many times as possible, and b) letting Andre Johnson out-guile and out-work every other player on the field. On defense, though, is where we really see it, because on defense, the Texans are J.J. Watt Vs. The Universe. Watt’s 2012 was arguably the greatest season by a defensive lineman in NFL history: he led the league in sacks, threatening Michael Strahan’s Favre-aided record, and also invented a new way for defensive linemen to impact games by swatting an enormous amount of passes at the line. Watt is one of the few football players who can single-handedly alter the landscape of a game, changing how teams play offense based on where he exists on the field, and he has the kind of motor and aggressiveness that characterizes anyone who basically wants to just destroy the opponent as totally as possible.
4. The NFC
Superhero Fans — The Minnesota Vikings
Emblematic player: Adrian Peterson
“The origin story of Purple Jesus relates that he was born Kal-El on the planet Krypton, before being rocketed to Earth as an infant by his scientist father Jor-El, moments before Krypton’s destruction. Discovered and adopted by a Kansas farmer and his wife, the child is raised as Adrian Peterson and imbued with a strong moral compass. Very early he started to display superhuman abilities, which upon reaching maturity he resolved to use for the benefit of humanity.”
Thanks to Wikipedia for that bio of Adrian Peterson. Very on point, guys. After having the best season of any running back in NFL history less than a year after tearing his ACL, Adrian Petereson will need to continue to be Superman if he has any shot at dragging the Minnesota Vikings anywhere in the playoffs.
5. Adrenaline Junkies — The Green Bay Packers
Emblematic player: Aaron Rodgers
God, I love watching the Packers’ offense. Aaron Rodgers plays football like Death plays chess. Because of his abilities, Green Bay can play at a pace and depth that very few teams can manage, and the fact that the team doesn’t have even an average running back on its roster makes it even better — they have no choice BUT to pass. If you want to just see fireworks and the quarterbacking equivalent of Really Loud Noises, the Packers are your team.
Contrarians — The Atlanta Falcons
Emblematic players: Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and Julio Jones
Every playoffs has one: the team that everyone thinks will underachieve, that everyone’s skeptical of, that everyone thinks they’re being smart by betting against. This year it is the Atlanta Falcons, so that’s who you — you contrarian, you — should support if you want to seem different. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and co. have been a tremendously unpersuasive conference leader — if you look at Football Outsiders’ go-to team ratings system, the Falcons are just 10th best in the NFL. And they’re 13th if you weigh recent performance more heavily. Calling for the Falcons to make the Super Bowl over, say, the much more fashionable Seahawks and 49ers, makes you quite the own-drumbeat-walker.
Cool Kids — The Washington Redskins
Emblematic player: Robert Griffin III
Let’s face it: the 2012 NFL season was dominated culturally by Robert Griffin III. Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson are the MVP candidates, and the Patriots, Seahawks, Broncos, and 49ers are the best teams, but as far as a defining figure, a revelation produced by the league, RGIII is it, and the Redskins have gotten just good enough to be the proper vehicle to support him. If you follow sports for the narratives, or for how it creates icons faster than just about any other arm of American culture, the Redskins are your horse.
Masters Of The Universe — The Seattle Seahawks
Emblematic player: Russell Wilson
The Seahawks are America. They have the wholesome boy-next-door quarterback, Russ Wilson; the California gadabout coach of questionable morality, Pete Carroll; the Stanford-by-way-of-Compton cornerback, Richard Sherman; the juggernaut warrior running back, Marshawn Lynch; the NOTRE DAME receiver, Golden Tate; and the home crowd that’s regarded as the loudest and best in the league. They’ve also, across the board, been dominant in the second-half of the season, and Football Outsiders’ DVOA has them as the best team in the league. All told, that means they’re the perfect team for scions of business and industry invested in total power, glory, and success. And they have cool uniforms.
Perfectionists And Obsessives — The San Francisco 49ers
Emblematic figure: Jim Harbaugh
Watching a 49ers game, you get less the sense of 11 players working in loose organization than one remarkably consistent unit operating cohesively. The 49ers function like a machine, and that all stems from the top guy, Jim Harbaugh, who accomplished one of the hardest turnarounds in sports: take a once-great franchise that had floundered and flip it back to greatness. When he was hired before the 2011 season, the 49ers hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2002; that year, they went 13-3 and reached the conference championship game, and this year, they went 11-4-1 and are arguably the favorite in the NFC. Jim Harbaugh might not yet be the greatest coach in the NFL — it’s hard to leapfrog him past guys like Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin, who are multiple Super Bowl winners — but I know that, if I could pick any guy to lead the team I pulled for, it would be Harbaugh.