Yesterday, I tweeted this:
For those of you who are new here, falling for the Los Angeles Chargers is a yearly tradition. It always feels as if Philip Rivers is playing at a high enough level that they will make the playoffs -- and especially since Anthony Lynn arrived in LA, the team's roster has steadily improved and their offense and defense alike have evolved with the times.
Yes, they don't have home field advantage, and all of their best offensive weapons are injury-prone like none other. But they've got gold facemasks now!
Either way, this tweet got the wheels churning. As an Eagles fan, I know who I'm rooting for in the NFC -- but if it couldn't be the Eagles (which it will be, Go Birds), then who would I root for from the AFC? Would it really be the Chargers?
I decided to "Would You Rather" the entire field of the conference, determining who I will ultimately root for in the opposite conference (up until the Super Bowl, of course). Factors like jersey aesthetics, playoff droughts, likable head coaches, overarching hope for 2019 success, and attached fan base were all considered.
Pittsburgh Steelers or Cincinnati Bengals
I paired the Steel City and the...does Cinci even have a thing? That's minus one...Bengals because I wanted the sophomore QBs to face off on the other side of the division. As it stands, Big Ben has ran some very entertaining players out of town, and while I like JuJu, I sure would love to see at least one good thing happen to A.J. Green in his career. Also, my pops and sister are Steeler fans, and I like trash talking. Cincinnati.
Baltimore Ravens or Cleveland Browns
I want to pick the Ravens here (love Lamar, jerseys are fresh, still anti-Odell from his time with the Giants), but the Browns have three very important things for me: Todd Monken, Baker Mayfield, and a sick alternate logo. Browns have the potential to go far here gang. Cleveland.
The Bengals took Round 1 out of pity, and that's all I'm giving them. #FeelinDangerous.
Rooting For: Cleveland Browns
Miami Dolphins or Buffalo Bills
Or as I like to call it, the Draft Dudes Thunderdome. Again, two second-year QBs facing off here (though that was inevitable, with Sam Darnold in New York). The Miami all-whites are quite icy and I much preferred Rosen to Allen coming out of the draft, but I have such a love for Bills Mafia's madness, and it'd be fun to see Twitter go topsy-turvy if Josh Allen was successful in Year 2. Give me Buffalo.
New England Patriots or New York Jets
Lol. New York.
Both of these team have very narrow playoff hopes, but the Jets have the advantage of 1) ex-Eagle Joe Douglas in their front office, and 2) my mom's ardent fandom, so I'll take the Jets.
Rooting For: New York Jets
Indianapolis Colts or Houston Texans
The two strongest bets for divisional champion in a really thick AFC South here. The Colts have ex-Eagle OC Frank Reich going their way, and I think Andrew Luck is a pretty charming fella in his own, peculiar way. I want nothing but goodness for Deshaun Watson, but maybe the only way he'll get that is if this coaching staff gets restructured like the front office currently is -- someone needs to be willing to block for this guy! So losses could be good for him. Indianapolis.
Jacksonville Jaguars or Tennessee Titans
The Jaguars: very bad uniforms, very entertaining Jalen Ramsey, and of course, the legend himself, Nicholas B. D. Foles. (Noticing a theme yet on the ex-Eagle rooting interests?) Speaking of ex-Eagles, Marcus Mariota is also a very likable quarterback, and I love Matt Vrabel's gusto on the scouting trails. This comes down to the Jaguars' archaic roster building and football philosophy, by which I cannot abide. Tennessee.
I'd honestly benefit from the Colts taking a step back, as I'm currently pumping the brakes on the Chris Ballard hype train, but there's too much to like there for me to really pick the Titans over the Colts.
Rooting For: Indianapolis Colts
Kansas City Chiefs or Oakland Raiders
After how close the Chiefs came last season, the sensation that is Patrick Mahomes, and of course, my hope that ex-Eagle Andy Reid gets a championship, they are a very strong contender. As good as the Twitter content would be if Jon Gruden and the Raiders actually turned out to be good -- could you imagine! -- there's just too little hope for them this season. Kansas City.
Denver Broncos or Los Angeles Chargers
And here we are, back to the team that started it all. I am going to pick the Chargers over the Broncos, because Joe Flacco is quite bleh, John Elway doesn't believe in the shotgun offense, and I struggle to pronounce Rich Scangarello's last name. Hope DaeSean Hamilton is good though. Los Angeles.
Probably our tightest one yet -- has a Super Bowl championship been any longer coming for two people than Rivers and Reid? The reality is this: Rivers probably has less time, and given some of the off-field issues surrounding Chiefs players in recent months, I'd feel better rooting for the Chargers.
Rooting For: Los Angeles Chargers
The remaining AFC teams worthy of my secondary fandom are: the New York Jets, the Indianapolis Colts, the Los Angeles Chargers, and the Cleveland Browns.
I'll be honest -- we can throw out the Jets. They mostly made it because I'm rooting for Joe Douglas and Quinnen Williams, but they have little hope of competing this year. The three real competitors I'm pounding the table for: Chargers, Colts, and Browns.
Next up, I think we can eliminate the Colts. While they are the only team with a significant ex-Eagle remaining on the team, Reich was only a one-year coordinator -- and as I said above, I'm sorta already rooting against them because of my Ballard take. Would be more than pleased to see Luck, Reich, and Hilton make a deep run however.
So it all comes down to this. The old dog in Rivers and the new pup in Mayfield. If we break it down by things that really matter:
GM: Los Angeles
Uniforms: Los Angeles
Winning Window: Los Angeles
How Wild Would Football Twitter Be: Cleveland
My Gut Feeling: Cleveland
It was very tight (and totally made up), but I've decided my lifelong AFC fandom belongs to the Cleveland Browns. This was actually foretold after a Baker Mayfield post-win presser, and has been in the works for years -- Eagles fans were always upset that I was apologetic to the Cleveland side of the Carson Wentz trade.
Anyway...#BrownieUp? No, wait, #DawgPound! I, as a lifelong Cleveland fan, know this hashtag well. Excited for Myles Garrett to lead the league in sacks and Nick Chubb to put up 1,500 all-purpose yards. Let's turn this thing around for good!