That's why every sports fan needs a backup plan – an order of operations you can follow as your favorite team circles the drain. As fans we place large quantities of hope on very tiny ligaments, so it's only logical to have a Plan B (and C and D and E) just in case the worst happens. Injuries aside, the backup plan comes in extra handy during the playoffs, because you can easily deduce who you're going to cheer for in any playoff matchup.
With all that in mind, as a new season kicks off on September 6th, I wanted to share my backup plan for the National Football League – it's my Bandwagon Cheat Sheet. I rank all 32 teams in order of preference, and no matter what injuries, firings, or locker room implosions I'll have a team to root for. I hope my list can inspire your own list, and I'd love to read them in the comments. Two quick notes: (1) All rankings are subject to change depending on my mood, and (2) all rankings are deeply subjective.
NFL Bandwagon Cheat Sheet 2022
Group A: My "Ride or Die" Teams
It's always good to have a favorite team from each conference (AFC/NFC). And ideally two teams with disparate "playoff windows." With the exception of possible Super Bowls, you'll only play this team once every 4 years, which means you'll only feel torn with the same frequency that you feel glee about the Olympics, World Cup, or Presidential Elections so it'll get cancelled out. My top two teams are the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos. Da Bears because I was born and raised in the streets of Chicago and was raised to root for the Monsters of the Midway. I cheer for the Broncos, because I jumped on their bandwagon when I was 10 (the year Elway and co. won the franchise's first Super Bowl), and I've felt obligated to stay a fan ever since (even though I'm still salty about Tebow). The best part about liking these two teams – they have similar color schemes. Easy for decorating my man-cave one day!
Group B: The Backups
When the Bears/Broncos are bad, these are my backups.
As a Cubs fan I can relate to the heartbreak that this franchise has gone through. I also love their uniforms. But most of all I just think Buffalo is a great city that invented the greatest food known to man (buffalo wings (specifically from Duff's)). I'm always happy to root for these underdogs.
Their uniforms cover a multitude of sins.
Mariota runs fast!
4. Jaguars Jason Mendoza. Enough said right? I can elaborate. Team owner Shahid Khan is an alumni from the university I attended, the University of Illinois and he's been a great supporter of this campus. While he doesn't always have the best taste in uniforms, it does seem like he's righted the ship by hiring Tom Coughlin. He's also been a big contributor to my community, and I'm happy to support him and the Jags.
I love watching Cam Newton get rocked when he acts like a running back. Stay in the pocket!!!
7. DolphinsAny team that is confident enough to wear teal and bright orange has my support.
This one is tough, because I have a lot of beloved family in San Diego. Unfortunately they did my second city so dirty I had to drop them down to almost the lowest. A purely emotional decision. (Fun fact: I got to witness the last game played in Qualcomm with my father-in-law. Pretty cool.)
Group C: The "Meh" Teams
These are the teams I don't have the energy to dislike, and don't mind cheering for if they're not playing against 1-#.
Former Chicago franchise, and Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best to play the game.
Jameis runs slow! 14. Texans
Deshaun is such a fun young player, great defense led by Watt, and an amazing response from the whole organization after Hurricane Harvey.
Any chance I get to watch Matty-Ice and Julio score touchdowns I will take.
I love the Bay Area, and with the addition of Jimmy G, they are a franchise on the rise. Amazing history and storied franchise. Easy to root for.
Pittsburgh has some excellent bridges and interesting sandwiches.
21. Patriots ^
Even if I hate the diamond, I can still acknowledge it's brilliance. One of the best coached, managed, quaterbacked, and owned teams in NFL history. Especially for my era.
I'm very recently on the Sean McVay bandwagon. I'm also very happy to root for any team that help contribute to the irrelevance of the Chargers and encourage that franchise back to San Diego (The Chargers have no fans! They're going to become the next Clippers!)
This one will annoy many of you, but I don't care. They have a beautiful city, a great ownership group, an amazing stadium, and annoying coach. To top it all of, the starting QB has an amazing first name. AND HUSTLES!
Another division rival (sacrilegious I know) but they still haven't won a Super Bowl, and I'm always down for a team to win their first.
It's hard to root against good people like Drew Brees and Sean Payton. Plus Payton has a rich Illinois history – playing for Naperville Central and Eastern Illinois.
8. RaidersI know they're a division rival, but man this franchise has got the coolest uniforms with a wild history and a legacy of odd-ball owners. I'm very excited for them to move to Vegas and I can't wait to see what it does for their team and the city. (More recently, I'm very thankful for Kahlil Mack.)
Group D: Teams I DO NOT Like
Beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI. Never forget.
Division rival with no redeeming qualities. Also home of the Red Wings. And the Detroit Tigers (who beat the Cubs in the World Series in '45).
Just kind of a boring team to me. I have no connection to Baltimore. Not a fan of Ray Lewis. 24. Redskins Commanders
The NFC East. I just hate it. Do I need to say more?
Horrible uniforms, annoying fan-base, and the former home of Rex Ryan and Butt-Fumble.
Division rival. Thought I'm grateful for Andy Reid mentoring and raising up my guy Matt Nagy. Can't wait for him to lead the Bears to a Super Bowl!
Official diagnosis: "Hard Knocks recency bias."
Group E: The Packers
32. The Packers
My least favorite team in the whole NFL. Their uniforms hurt my eyeballs, their fanbase annoys the daylights out of me, and the games they play agains the Bears stress me out! Growing up so close to Wisconsin I had plenty of cheesehead friends, and man they get on my nerves. I'm very happy to say the Broncos beat them in Super Bowl XXXII, but sad to say that many times these days they end up beating up on the Bears. I hope the Bears days of dominance will return soon, but until then I'll always have the Seahawks to get my back!
One redeeming quality: Aaron Rodgers' commercials and dating life.
^ – Bill Belichek is the greatest coach of all time
* – I’d root for them in the Super Bowl, just because I love seeing droughts end, and that means the Bears were already out. Even against the Broncos, because the Broncos have won so many.