Patriots are gone, but plenty of football fun remains

The New England Patriots may be gone but heroes and villains remain in the NFL playoffs.

Seriously, the most glorious football weekend of the year, and the awkwardness of the Pats’ exit aside, it’s time to enjoy.

But who can you root for? And more importantly, who should you root against?


San Francisco – Believe it or not, it is not just the Jimmy Garoppolo factor. The Niners are a team you have to root for. They play defense. They play physical. They’ve overcome adversity. There’s the “Next Gronk” (George Kittle) factor. But, yeah, mainly it’s the lovefest with Jimmy G. I love this team.

Seattle – Admit it, you feel sorry for Pete Carroll. I do too. Come on, he’s the world’s coolest grandpa. We’d all love to play 18 with Pete and then have a beer or two afterward. He’s always first to grab the check. Hey, the guy gave you a Super Bowl ring. There’s a lot to be said for that.

Tennessee – They are the consummate underdogs, going from as Mike Vrabel termed it, the “Viper’s Den” to the Ravens’ nest. There’s a ton to like about this Titans team, despite the fact that it sent you packing. They talked like the 2001 Patriots, always respectful but a little brash, sprinkled with character. Vrabel’s just a guy you have to root for. He meant so much here as a player.

Baltimore – Yep, I’m a Lamar guy. I would do anything to see the establishment NFL crowd proven wrong. You know the ones that say that “Running quarterbacks can’t make it. They get hurt.”

It’s so annoying. The winner of the Baltimore-Tennessee game is my favorite in the AFC title game.


1. Kansas City – Easy one here. There’s a lot to dislike: Andy Reid’s bonehead coaching, the fact that Tyreek Hill allegedly beats children and threatens women … Well, we can stop right there. I love Patrick Mahomes. I just can’t deal with the fact that Tyreek Hill isn’t in jail and is allowed to play this game. Gross.

2. Houston – Seriously, Bill O’Brien? He’s had two many swings at the pinata. He misses over and over again, yet they just keep giving him the bat. Anyone rooting for the Texans deserves heartbreak. And Bill O’Brien is the guy to deliver that sadness.

3. Minnesota – Kirk Cousins never bothered me. Until Sunday, when he finally wins a playoff game and acts like a young Mike Tyson, glaring over his beaten foe. Brother, act like you’ve been there before, even if you haven’t. Ever.

4. Green Bay – Again, they’ve never bothered me, even at Bret Favre’s most smug stages. But this Aaron Rodgers thing? He’s one of the all-time greats? Not on your life. This is a vote for the quarterbacking greats … Brady, Montana, Manning, et al. A second Super Bowl win would allow Rodgers into the cartel. He just hasn’t done enough yet to earn his way.

Contact Hector Longo at 594-1253 or hlongo@nashuatelegraph.com.