With the Patriots out, here’s one reason to root for each NFL playoff team
Several players have local ties and are representing Massachusetts on a grand stage.
The Patriots had their chances to make the playoffs.
Instead, they finished 8-9 and missed the postseason for the second time in three years.
For lost Patriots fans out there looking to hop on a bandwagon in the coming weeks, here’s one reason to consider each team.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Leominster’s own Noah Gray has a chance to follow in North Attleboro’s own Anthony Sherman’s footsteps by winning a Super Bowl with the Chiefs.
Gray caught seven passes and scored a touchdown as a rookie in 2021. This year, he’s played in all 17 games and has reeled in 28 catches for 299 yards and a score as Travis Kelce’s backup.
2. Buffalo Bills
This one’s clear-cut. The entire NFL and fans everywhere have rallied around safety Damar Hamlin after he suffered cardiac arrest Jan. 2.
Hamlin appears to be progressing well. It would be a storybook ending if the Bills captured their first Super Bowl ever with him in mind.
Boston College product Matt Milano is also a first-team All-Pro linebacker for Buffalo.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals came out of nowhere to make the Super Bowl last year and had an excellent chance to win it. This season, they started relatively slowly, at 4-4, but have since won eight straight to enter the playoffs as one of the league’s hottest teams.
It’s always gratifying as a fan to watch a team that fell just short finish the job the following year.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars fit the definition of a lovable underdog. Much like the Bengals last year, no one gave them much of a chance to make the playoffs this season.
They had the sixth-worst preseason odds to win the Super Bowl, and their win/loss over-under was 6.5. They started the season 4-8, then ripped off five straight to finish 9-8 and make the playoffs. They’re underdogs against the Chargers and have the fourth-worst odds to win it all.
5. Los Angeles Chargers
Former Boston College star Zion Johnson, the 17th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, has started all 17 games at guard in his rookie season.
He helped the Chargers rack up the ninth-most total yards in the league and was named to the Pro Football Focus NFL All-Rookie Team.
Scituate native and Xaverian graduate Joe Gaziano is also a member of the Chargers. He’s appeared in five games at defensive end this season.
6. Baltimore Ravens
There’s another BC tie here, as Anthony Brown has a chance to start at quarterback for the Ravens. With Lamar Jackson out, it’s between Brown and Tyler Huntley, who’s dealing with a right shoulder injury.
Brown, who spent three years at Boston College before transferring to Oregon, has completed 22 of 49 passes for 302 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions over two appearances in his rookie year.
Isaiah Likely, a rookie tight end from Everett, has also impressed in his rookie season, racking up 36 catches for 373 yards and three TDs.
Pro Bowl Fullback Patrick Ricard is from Spencer.
7. Miami Dolphins
The more chances to watch Tyreek Hill, the better. Hill is one of the most electrifying players in the sport.
He may not pop quite as much without Tua Tagovailoa by his side, but he still has a chance to spoil everything the Bills are building with one monster game.
Also, defensive lineman Christian Wilkins was born in Springfield and played at Framingham High.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Some people like upsets. Others prefer when the best team wins. If you’re boring, and don’t enjoy chaos, the Eagles are a safe pick (assuming quarterback Jalen Hurts plays).
Though they’ve lost two of three, they’re still one of the most complete teams in the league. They’re getting a lot less buzz at the moment than the average 1-seed, but they have everything they need to win the Super Bowl.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Mr. Irrelevant has arguably become the best storyline of the season outside of Hamlin.
The 49ers have won six straight with him as the starter after Jimmy Garoppolo went down. He’s thrown at least two touchdown passes in every game. No one’s saying he’s Tom Brady, but this portion of the story would follow a similar arc.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Just like the Bills, the Vikings have made the Super Bowl four times but have never won it. They’ve made the playoffs four of the last eight years but have yet to make a Super Bowl during that span.
The city of Minnesota is searching for its first professional championship since the Twins won the World Series in 1991.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This one’s pretty easy to guess, as well. Brady is looking to win his NFL-record eighth Super Bowl.
Some of you have been rooting for him in Tampa all along. Others do so only when the Patriots are eliminated. Many more are still disgusted by the whole ordeal, so feel free to gloss over this section.
5. Dallas Cowboys
Head coach Mike McCarthy showed his players baby pictures of the only 10 players on the roster who were alive the last time Dallas won a road playoff game in 1993.
The Cowboys aren’t necessarily plucky underdogs, but they are looking for their first Super Bowl in 26 years.
6. New York Giants
First-year head coach Brian Daboll is a five-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots and also won a championship at the University of Alabama.
He finally got his shot at a head coaching job and is one of the candidates for Coach of the Year.
7. Seattle Seahawks
As quarterback Geno Smith succinctly put it, “They wrote me off. I ain’t write back, though.”
No one’s giving the Seahawks a chance. Maybe they’ll shock the world.
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