In the euphoria of the new year and the race toward another Lombardi Trophy, we often forget that for 20 unlucky teams and a whopping 63 percent of fans the season is, um, over -- a flaw the NFL really needs to look into.
We keep watching, though, because these are typically some of the best games of the season. (Well, that, and we are fatally addicted to the violent entertainment of football.) But for the rest of us in places such as Detroit, Cleveland and Oakland, the question remains: Without a rooting interest or fantasy stats to worry about, who do we paint our faces for now?
That confusing question leads to some odd, abstruse leaps of logic -- not to mention bizarre bedfellows -- as NFL fans across the league decide in the next few days where to temporarily switch their loyalties. Lombardi by proxy, is what folks in Cleveland call it, I think.
There are many theories as to how this should go. Some are based on loyalty to divisional opponents. Some are based on teams still playing that your team beat during the regular season. Some are based on team colors or favorite players or mascots or just rooting against the favorite team of the biggest doofus in your office.
The choice is not always that easy. So, to help you pick your surrogate NFL playoff team, the Flem File has come up with a team-by-team Losers Rooting Guide to the NFL Playoffs.
Baltimore: It seems silly, considering how you guys kinda stole your team from Cleveland, but most of you still cheer for two teams: the Ravens and whoever is playing the Colts – in this case, the KANSAS CITY Chiefs.
Buffalo: One of the few teams actually worse than your Bills at defending the run are the NEW ENGLAND Patriots. So, in a way, the farther the Pats go in the playoffs, the more you'll know your own 20-year rebuilding plan is working to perfection.
Cleveland: These are desperate times that, like I said, call for strange bedfellows. Based on the time frame established with Rob Chudzinski, even though he hasn't even interviewed yet, the clock is already ticking on the Josh McDaniels era. If he's your man, you need him to get to work as soon as humanly possible. So, as much as this hurts, you gotta pull for rival CINCINNATI to win this weekend and then take out the Patriots in the divisional round in order to free up your latest (the eighth since 2000, by my count) franchise savior. If cheering for the Bengals feels shameful, well, the Browns have given you plenty of practice dealing with that emotion during the past decade.
Houston: After a miserable year, more than anything you want to believe that a new coach and a new QB can turn a 2-14 team into a Super Bowl contender. So, start rooting for KANSAS CITY.
Jacksonville: You came into the league at the same time before the 1995 season. You both chose odd blue and black team colors. You're both cat people. You both have stadiums named after banks. You've both been non-factors for most of your 18 years of existence. It's kind of your duty now to cheer for your sister team in CAROLINA.