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Which team should Chicago fans cheer for in the NFL playoffs?

Chicago fans have arrived at a familiar point in the NFL season: The Bears are packing their bags for vacation while 12 other teams are vying for a championship.

Could you tune out pro football completely until August and instead count the days until spring training and the Stanley Cup playoffs? Sure. But if you love football too much not to throw your support behind SOMEONE, we've ranked the playoff teams from least to most palatable. 

12. Green Bay (NFC No. 4 seed)

Admitting to enjoying Wisconsin cheese, sausage and beer is one thing. All that is delicious. But Bears fans throwing their support behind their archrival? Not gonna happen. Too much dislike, too much jealousy (when are the Bears going to get a Hall of Fame QB?), too much heartbreak.

11. Detroit (NFC No. 6 seed)

Again, it's practically unfathomable to see Bears fans rooting for a division rival to win the Super Bowl, so we're not about to go there. Especially when the Lions have beaten the Bears in seven of their past eight meetings. Yes, we did a double-take when we confirmed that fact. 

10. New England (AFC No. 1 seed)

Patriots coach Bill Belichick wins more than anyone, but his curmudgeonly personality is awfully hard to like. One of the only reasons a non-New Englander would root for the Patriots is because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell might be even less likable, and seeing him hand the Lombardi Trophy to the Pats after suspending quarterback Tom Brady for Deflategate would be satisfyingly awkward. That, and who wouldn't want to see Martellus "Orange Dinosaur"/"Black Unicorn" Bennett get a ring?

9. Oakland (AFC No. 5 seed)

After all that work the Raiders did in the regular season, coming virtually out of nowhere to go 12-4, now one just has to feel sorry for them. Injuries have forced them to start third-string quarterback Connor Cook, a rookie, in their wild-card game this weekend. That said, this is a team that's bolting for Las Vegas soon, so that curbs the sympathy card somewhat. 

8. Houston (AFC No. 4 seed)

If you love novelties like a team playing a Super Bowl in its home city, Houston's bandwagon awaits. Should the Texans reach this year's big game, they would be the first franchise to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium. The closest any team has come was in Super Bowl XIV in 1980 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. The Los Angeles Rams, who played their home games at the nearby Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, lost to Pittsburgh that year. 

7. N.Y. Giants (NFC No. 5 seed)

The situation in which the Giants find themselves—potentially having to win three road games to reach the Super Bowl, as they did in 2008 in capturing the title—seems to be one in which they thrive. They are masters of drama, starting with outspoken receiver Odell Beckham Jr. There's no one better at making one-handed catches or sparring with kicking nets, either. 

6. Dallas (NFC No. 1 seed)

You might not like the Cowboys in general, or you might have had it up to here with bombastic owner Jerry Jones. Still, Dallas represents hope to Bears fans because the Cowboys starting quarterback, Dak Prescott, was drafted in the fourth round last year and led the Cowboys to a 13-3 record. If the Bears cut ties with Jay Cutler, which is what many expect, the Chicago faithful can take comfort in knowing a return to glory might not be far away after all.

5. Miami (AFC No. 6 seed)

On the one hand, it'd be honorable to wish the Dolphins well because they're coached by Adam Gase, who was the Bears' offensive coordinator last year. On the other, their defense is led by lineman Ndamukong Suh, who leveled several bone-crushing hits on Jay Cutler when he was with Detroit—including one illegal shot to the head. We're taking the high road by putting them this high on the list, however.

4. Atlanta (NFC No. 2 seed)

Offense, and lots of it, is the name of the Falcons' game. They scored the most points in the NFL this season (540) and were the only team to finish in the top five in passing yards (third, 295.3 per game) and rushing yards (fifth, 120.5 per game). The Bears, meanwhile, scored only 279 points in 2016. Now's the time to sit back and appreciate how it should be done.

3. Pittsburgh (AFC No. 3 seed)

The Steelers have almost reached "they win too much" territory. In fact, if not for the Patriots' success in the AFC, they'd probably be there already. As it is, although they don't have a ferocious defense synonymous with the Steelers of the recent past, they do have an explosive offense full of stars. One game, running back Le'Veon Bell can rush for 200 yards, and the next, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can throw for 400 with receiver Antonio Brown hauling in 200 of those. Magnificent.

2. Seattle (NFC No. 3 seed)

The longer Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has a playoff platform from which to speak, and play excellent football, the more entertained fans will be. But the better reason to pull for Seattle is the team just signed former Bears kick returner Devin Hester (pictured in a Ravens uniform earlier this season). We know what he's capable of in a Super Bowl if he gets a key block or two. Cross your fingers that he gets that chance once more.

1. Kansas City (AFC No. 2 seed)

The Chiefs have a bit of Cubs Underdog Appeal in them, for sure. Founded in 1960, the franchise has won only one Super Bowl, and that was in 1970. Plus, Kansas City leans on solid defense and special teams (including dynamic kick returner Tyreek Hill), an offense that relies on the running game and a decent-but-not-game-breaking quarterback. That formula is right up Bears fans' alley.

 

WILD-CARD WEEKEND

Saturday

Oakland at Houston, 3:35 p.m. ESPN

Detroit at Seattle, 7:15 p.m. NBC

Sunday

Miami at Pittsburgh, 12:05 p.m. CBS

N.Y. Giants at Green Bay, 3:40 p.m. Fox

 

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