When the season ends for the Baltimore Ravens, I typically have attempted to comb through the teams remaining in the NFL playoffs and offer the most reasoned suggestion for which remaining team Baltimore sports fans should embrace/root for the rest of the way.

Entering the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, there are eight teams left standing. The easiest way to go about solving an equation like this is typically to do the math. You know how starting with “fuzzy” would probably be a bad idea when doing your Wordle and something like “steal” makes more sense because it includes more common letters?

(Unless of course the word is, say, “proxy” and you have to sweat it out to the sixth row to figure out if you know for SURE that it isn’t “proof” and also, why are you having a nervous breakdown this is just a stupid internet game, you idiot! You know, hypothetically.)

The point is, we’ll similarly try to start in a more obvious place.

We begin with the 49ers, Bengals, Bills, Buccaneers, Chiefs, Packers, Rams and Titans on the table.

STEP 1: Which teams can we eliminate simply because “hell no, everyone knows we’re absolutely not rooting for them?”

If I had been able to tackle this column last week, this is where you would have found the Steelers and Patriots. Sadly, we won’t get the joy of watching Ben Roethlisberger and Bill Belichick get obliterated again in the coming weeks. (I always say that I’m a little bit disappointed whenever Duke is eliminated from the NCAA Tournament because it means that I can’t get to watch them get eliminated again.)

But two teams can still be crossed off the list very quickly. The first, of course, is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While Avocado Tequila Tom Brady may well be more palatable than Year-Round Uggs Tom Brady, this is still Tom Brady we’re talking about. You remember, the “spikes up at Ed Reed” guy? He might whine to the refs about his elimination, but he’s out.

The other has to be the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s a bit of a preemptive strike. Perhaps there’s something sporting about acknowledging a long-downtrodden division rival and a suffering fan base and thinking, “Maybe I could feel good for them if they win.” We’re football fans after all, not monsters. But yeah, about that. No. No no no no no no.

Do you remember how you felt when the Rams were playing the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI? The Rams had just won the title two years earlier and the Pats were plucky underdogs with a still largely unknown quarterback. You pulled for the Patriots a little bit. Didn’t you?

You thought it was kind of a magical story and they’d go back to being irrelevant and “Tom Brady” would have all of the historical relevance of Jeff Hostetler and hey, at least it we’d still be able to hold “1918” over Red Sox fans for the rest of eternity, right? You rooted for them, didn’t you Steve? And how many times have you recreated THAT scene from “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” because of the shame that you’ve felt in the years since?

You can’t feel good for the Bengals. And not just because the entire city doesn’t know the difference between spaghetti and chili. You can’t root for them because they’re going to be a problem for awhile. Joe Burrow probably won’t be Tom Brady, but let’s be real. He’s already better now than Tom Brady was when the Patriots won their first Super Bowl. You’re going to work up some hate for them in the next 5-10 years. Don’t do this to yourself.

So we’re down to the 49ers, Bills, Chiefs, Packers, Rams and Titans.

STEP 2: Which teams can we eliminate because of JUST the right amount of petty?

There are two different types of “irrational” within fan bases. One type of irrational is the type where we just say any single asinine thing just for the sake of saying it. It’s the type where when our favorite team loses one game, we immediately want someone fired. Or when half of the roster gets hurt and a team limps to the finish line because of it, you think massive changes are needed.

The other type of “irrational” is more like “rational in a wig.” It’s petty, but it’s reasonable levels of petty. It is rational for Ravens fans to root against Tom Brady in a generic football game. It would be irrational to root against, say, Justin Herbert. But what is rooting against Patrick Mahomes? That’s “rational in a wig.” Sure, he’s generically fun to watch play the game. And he’s not a division rival and the Ravens have never suffered playoff heartbreak at his hands.

But come on. We ain’t rooting for Patrick Mahomes. We’ve had to watch too much of it. We’ve been subject to Jackson Mahomes’ crimes against human decency. Roger Clinton thinks Mahomes has an embarrassing little brother. Some Ravens fans have awkward feelings about Orlando Brown Jr., but I absolutely cannot join them on that hill. However, the Chiefs still employ noted actually awful human Tyreek Hill, so this is easy for me. I don’t care how many love songs Andy Reid writes about chocolate cake. I ain’t rooting for them.

Same for the Titans. I don’t ACTUALLY care about the sanctity of a midfield logo. Like American poet LunchMoney Lewis once said, “I got bills.” I have too many actual things to concern myself with to spend any time thinking about the Titans’ crimes against the 50-yard line. BUTTTT in the context of “can I root for them to win the Super Bowl?” Nah. Julio Jones probably deserves to win one and all, but their pregame Napoleon complex is enough to make me scratch them off the list. Plus if they win, Patriots fans would just try to claim it again because Mike Vrabel learned from Belichick.

So we’re down to the 49ers, Bills, Packers and Rams.

STEP 3: Are there any other specific players we just want to root against?

This will be the most controversial elimination, but this is where the Packers have to go. Look, I don’t actually care if Aaron Rodgers is vaccinated (I think he should be, but I’m not into “shaming” at all). And I don’t care that he thinks Joe Rogan is a greater authority than actual authorities. We’ve all been easily manipulated at some point in our lives. When I was 15, if Carmen Electra told me to drink a bottle of Elmer’s Glue, I would have consumed five.

But the man who attempted to compare his plight (lying about his status to try to evade protocols) to the plight of Dr. Martin Luther King? I’m not telling you he should be kicked out of the league. I’m not telling you that I can’t “root” for someone THAT misguided to win a Super Bowl. If he wins, I won’t be “mad.” Not at all. But he can’t be the quarterback for a team I’m adopting in the name of making it more fun to watch the playoffs.

Perhaps you want to throw Odell Beckham Jr. in this mix, but I can’t join you there. I find “wanting to get away from Baker Mayfield and the city of Cleveland” to be more relatable than contemptible.

So we’re down to the 49ers, Bills and Rams.

STEP 4: Which fan base doesn’t deserve it?

Yep, strike the Rams. I love Jake Funk and fellow Terp Antoine Brooks is there now, too, and Linganore alum Rob Havenstein is a deserving fella, but there’s nothing embraceable about the Los Angeles Rams. Remember how we said Lil Nas X was an “industry plant?” The Los Angeles Rams are the same for football. They’re made up. I’m out.

And we’re down to the 49ers and Bills.

STEP 5: This is obvious now, isn’t it?

Look, Jimmy Garoppolo is handsome and Deebo Samuel is fun to watch and somewhere, right now, Joe Flacco is wishing he could throw the ball to Kyle Juszczyk on first down again. But there’s nothing inherently embraceable about these 49ers outside of the lack of expectations. They’re a neat story. I hope they win the NFC.

But the answer is overwhelming. Stefon Diggs had to catch balls from a FRIGGIN’ BACKUP LINEBACKER when he chose to play at Maryland instead of the real football schools that wanted him. His path from “fifth-round pick” to “absolute superstar” is a wonderful NFL story and yet he’s still probably overlooked a bit among the game’s best. His pro career rivals Shawne Merriman and Vernon Davis for the best of a Terp since Randy White.

Their fan base is not only the literal definition of “long suffering,” they’re so wonderfully likable. Women want to be like them, men want to be like them. It’s like the first time you saw the first “Jackass” movie. You had to look away at times but you sure as hell didn’t want the show to end. Their former quarterback had to come back to town just to rip his shirt off in zero degree weather and experience the party again! (I choose to believe the Bills would do the right thing and give him a ring.)

Plus, these are the fans who donated a half a million bucks to Andy Dalton’s charity just because they were so happy to get to see their team score three freaking points against the Jacksonville Jaguars a week later. Hell, they even donated $7,000 to Alzheimer’s charities DESPITE the heckling of 105.7 The Fan’s Jerry Coleman a few years back.

I know the Bills eliminated the Ravens last year and could be a playoff opponent for years to come. I know that Cole Beasley is a bit of a lunatic and could end up being the turd in the punchbowl here. Should they get to Super Bowl week, he’s liable to make me regret offering my support.

But come on. It’s the Bills. They built a team around an exciting, unfairly criticized quarterback who is proving his doubters wrong and they aggressively worked to improve the team around him. They deserve this. I’m rooting for them.

And when they’re going for their third straight in 2024, I’ll write the column about how I hate them and we have to root like hell for the Jets or whatever.

Photo Credits: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Glenn Clark

See all posts by Glenn Clark. Follow Glenn Clark on Twitter at @glennclarkradio