What it means to love a team

Most of you know that I’m a huge Packers fan. You might also know that the Packers lost in the wildcard round yesterday, putting an end to their all-too-brief playoff run. So as part of fulfilling the five stages of playoff loss grief, I’m posting something I wrote last season after the Packers lost to the 49ers in the playoffs. (Yes, again.) Apparently it was foreshadowing – it more ways than one (broken collarbone?!).

If you love a team, you might be able to relate to these sentiments. If you are on the fence about whether or not to become a football fan, hopefully this can sway you to go all-in. If you think loving a team is straight up crazy but someone you know is in the depths of postseason loss despair, maybe this will persuade you to be a little nicer to them today.

Because we really are crazy. There’s nothing quite like being a fan and loving your team.

(If you are looking for the lowdown on all of the weekends games, check out MMQB this morning. They always have great coverage of all things NFL. At The Water Cooler will return next week!)


Loving a team, when you really love a team, isn’t like having a favorite clothing store or a worn out take out menu. Loving a team is like being in love. When times are good, there is no joy that is paralleled. When times are bad, the lows will completely wreck you. You loathe those who betray you – the refs who make bad calls, the celebrating players on the other sideline, in your end zone. You couldn’t love those who help you more if they were members of your own family.

And really, the players and the staff do become like family. Because, like family, in the same second you can’t believe how much you love them and also can’t believe how they could make such mind-numbingly painful errors in judgment. You can point out their mistakes and inadequacies, but woe to the person who dares to speak ill of your team.

Loving football, in particular, is it’s own variety of passion. It sees your loyalty chips and raises you a lifetime of servitude. I’d say that it steals your time and sanity but it doesn’t – you willingly hand them over.

Football will take your hopes and crush them. Your #1 seed headed into the Divisional Round? Lost by 14. Season over. Your 10-point 4th quarter lead? Pick six. Then, touchdown. Lead lost. Your promising roster of feared veterans and dangerous rookie talent? Torn ACL’s. Broken collarbones. Inability to work cohesively as a unit. Not so promising after all.

But it will also take your hopes and elevate them. You are the underdog who beat the #1 Seed in the Divisional Round! You are the team that wouldn’t take no for an answer in the 4th quarter! You are watching the evolution of a unit that was all it was projected to be and so much more!

Every year, 31 teams go home disappointed. It’s a gnawing, desperate, unfulfilling feeling to know that it’s over. It makes you wear your pajamas for 48 hours and ignore the light of day. It makes you wallow in a gallon of ice cream and ask repeatedly, “What happened, you guys?” It’s all part of the mourning process, because you just lost something special. You won’t see your team take another snap for at least another 6 months. You may never see that same team take the field again. Players leave. Players come in. It’ll never be the same as it was this season.

But every year, one team goes home victorious. And it’s the sweetest, most elated, vindicating feeling. Your team defied the odds. Your team gets to bring the Lombardi trophy home. Your team gets to be feared and respected by all the rest for the next 6 months.

I’d say that it makes all of the hardship worthwhile, but it’s already worth it. What football gives you can’t be measured in wins and losses – even Super Bowl wins and losses. What it really gives you is a reason to hope for a few hours every weekend. To believe that this game could be your game. This year could be your year.

There’s nothing quite like it. And there are few things better.

Halfway Point : NFC

football, nfc, teams

Today we’re moving on to the NFC, and unfortunately we have to start this party with the worst division in the history of ever: the NFC East.

NFC East

1. Dallas Cowboys (4-4)

There really are no words for this. One would assume that the Cowboys can’t stay in first place to win this division based on their wildly inconsistent play and propensity to lose games in the weirdest ways, but one has not surveyed the rest of the teams in this division yet. Just you wait.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5)

The NFC East is a place in which you can lose ten consecutive home games and score zero offensive points in your last matchup…and still be poised to win the division.

3. Washington Redskins (2-5)

RG3 looks a little more like himself with each passing week, which should be encouraging for Redskins fans in an otherwise discouraging season.

4. New York Giants (2-6)

That the Giants lost their first six games, look like a hott mess, and still have a legitimate shot to get to first place in the division should paint an accurate picture of the NFC East. It boggles the mind. And then boggles it again.

NFC North

1. Green Bay Packers (5-2)

After starting the season 1-2 the Packers have bounced back and are on a 4-game win streak. They have a hospital ward’s worth of injuries to overcome, but with Aaron Rodgers under center the Packers always have a chance.

2. Detroit Lions (5-3)

Did you see the end of the game against the Cowboys? That’s how the Lions are doing right now. Which is to say: pretty darn good.

3. Chicago Bears (4-3)

Losing quarterback Jay Cutler to a groin injury was a tough break for the Bears, who were on a bit of a roll. He’s projected to be out for another few weeks…when they play two divisional foes in the next two weeks, the Packers on Monday Night Football and the Lions. It’s a tall order.

4. Minnesota Vikings (1-6)

Vikes = Yikes. It’s been a rough start for a team that made the playoffs that year.

NFC South

1. New Orleans Saints (6-1)

The Saints are marching into first place in this division and a consequent spot in the playoffs, barring a crazy turn of events in the NFC South.

2. Carolina Panthers (4-3)

This team is legit – two of those losses could have easily been wins. And their schedule for the rest of the season isn’t terrible. There’s definite playoff potential for the Panthers this year if they keep playing the way they’ve been playing.

3. Atlanta Falcons (2-5)

I’m not sure which perennial playoff meltdown is more surprising: the Giants or the Falcons. The wheels have really come off in Atlanta, which is really too bad to see in tight end Tony Gonzalez’s last season.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7)

It’s safe to say that between the MRSA outbreak and giving former starting quarterback Josh Freeman the heave-ho it’s been the worst of times in Tampa Bay. To make worse matters worse: The Bucs next game is against the Seahawks…in Seattle, where no visiting team has won this season…or last.

NFC West

1. Seattle Seahawks (7-1)

If the aforementioned Seahawks continue their home win streak and grab the top spot in the NFC for home field advantage in the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which they don’t go straight to the Super Bowl as a result.

2. The San Francisco 49ers (6-2)

These 49ers don’t look quite as dominant as the 49ers who went to the Super Bowl last year. The second half of their schedule is far from light, either – especially considering that every team in the NFC West is competitive.

3. Arizona Cardinals (4-4)

This Cardinals defense means business. And with a bye week then Houston then Jacksonville it’s completely possible that the Cardinals could be in contention for a wildcard spot come playoff time. Let’s pause for a moment and realize that three out of the four teams in this division are legitimate playoff contenders. The NFC West is no joke.

4. St. Louis Rams 

The bad news is that starting quarterback Sam Bradford is out for the rest of the season. The good news is that the St. Louis Cardinals are in the World Series.

Ok NFC people, you’re up! How’s the season gone for you so far? Thoughts on the second half?

Halfway Point : AFC

football, teams, afc

We have arrived at the halfway point of the season, which means it’s a good time to reflect on how the first half has gone thus far. It’s also a good time to keep in mind that I’ll be increasingly more despondent with each week that passes, lamenting the fact that the NFL season is going by much too fast.

I mean, HALFWAY. It’s just too soon for that!

At any rate, it’s been a great first half of the season so far. Unless you’re the Jaguars.


1. New England Patriots (6-2)

The Patriots are ruling the roost once again in the AFC East, despite the fact that almost no one from the original starting roster still plays for the team. Starters? Recognizable names? Hands in the shape of hands? Who needs ’em?!

2. New York Jets (4-4)

The Jets season has been considerably better than anticipated thus far – the all-out demolition the Bengals unleashed this past Sunday notwithstanding. And whenever a Jets season includes a win against the Patriots, it’s a good season. There’s a fair chance Rex Ryan may even earn himself Coach of the Year honors if they keep this up.

3. Miami Dolphins (3-4)

Those three wins came in the first three weeks of the season…a time of joy and optimism that feels so long ago for Dolphins fans.

4. Buffalo Bills (3-5)

I feel like I’ve said this a lot in the past few years…but the Bills aren’t as bad as their record indicates. There is a lot of talent on that roster, and they are consistently “in” games. And, once they get starting QB E.J. Manuel back, they have a chance to develop something special. Probably for next season.


1. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2)

That the Bengals two losses have come against the Bears and a legit Browns team and their wins have included outplaying powerhouses like the Patriots and Packers says something about their trajectory for the rest of the season. And having the ultimate clincher, Mike Nugent, at kicker doesn’t hurt either.

 2. Baltimore Ravens (3-4)

In my opinion, the best thing the Ravens have going for them this season is the Mighty Wings commercial, which cracks me up every time. (If you’ve never seen the original NFL Bad Lip Reading do yourself a favor and watch it right now.)

3. Cleveland Browns (3-5)

Remember when the Browns traded their best player and everyone felt like the sky was falling? It seems a sad twist of fate that Cleveland was finally making progress in the AFC North after that and had found a spark at quarterback…and then lost him for the season. Still, this is another group that isn’t (quite) as bad as their record indicates.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5)

The Steelers are every bit as bad as their record indicates. And if I were Shaun Suisham, I’d probably start running right now. In whichever direction Mike Tomlin is not. (Although, to his credit, he did kick a nice game-winner against the Ravens the week prior.)


1. Indianapolis Colts (5-2)

This Colts defense is scary good. As is Andrew Luck. I picked the Colts as my pre-season Super Bowl pick (against the Seahawks, with the Hawks winning it all) and right now I’m still feeling pretty good about that pick. They might not have the best record in the AFC but they sure do seem to have all of the components of a team poised to go all the way.

2. Tennessee Titans (3-4)

Look for the Titans to build on the good momentum they had going earlier this season before Jake Locker got hurt. Their next two are extremely winnable (at St. Louis and home against the woeful Jags) before they are tasked with facing Indy twice in three weeks to follow.

3. Houston Texans (2-5)

What happened, guys? You used to be so good! But defensive beast J.J. Watt is still so good – SO GOOD! – both on and off the field. He is the hope in Houston.

 4. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8)

There is no hope in Jacksonville. Only 190 days until the Draft, Jags fans. Hang in there.


1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-0)

The Chiefs are the only unbeaten team in the NFL right now, and the only team to have gone from dead last the previous year to uncontested first the next. The addition of Andy Reid as head coach and the always-reliable Alex Smith at quarterback seems to have given their crazy talented roster the boost it needed to make the most out of all that talent.

2. Denver Broncos (7-1)

It looks like it’s going to be a fight to the finish between the Chiefs and the Broncos this season. They go head to head on Sunday, November 17th, and, spoiler alert, I can already tell you that will be the Normal Girl Game of the Week. It promises to be a great one!

3. San Diego Chargers (4-3)

The Chargers are far from out of playoff contention, although they will almost certainly have to fight for a wildcard spot if they do get in since this division is all Chiefs and Broncos. The key for the Chargers will be to stop losing games in the second half. It’s uncanny how frequently this happens to them.

4. Oakland Raiders (3-4)

When your quarterback can run a touchdown in from 93 yards out, you’ve got a fighting chance to win games in unconventional ways. Which is the method in which the Raiders might have to win the rest of their games.

Any AFC fans out there? Who’s your team and how do you feel about the season thus far? Playoff predictions? Let’s hear it!

Preseason Lowdown : Complete Roundup

We’ve spent the past four weeks breaking down every team in the NFL. Just in case you missed anything or want to reference a specific post in the future when the preseason predictions come apart at the seams, here’s one last look at every Preseason Lowdown:


Preseason Lowdown : Buffalo Bills

Preseason Lowdown : Miami Dolphins

Preseason Lowdown : New England Patriots

Preseason Lowdown : New York Jets


Preseason Lowdown : Baltimore Ravens

Preseason Lowdown : Cincinnati Bengals

Preseason Lowdown : Cleveland Browns

Preseason Lowdown : Pittsburgh Steelers


Preseason Lowdown : Houston Texans

Preseason Lowdown : Indianapolis Colts

Preseason Lowdown : Jacksonville Jaguars

Preseason Lowdown : Tennessee Titans


Preseason Lowdown : Denver Broncos

Preseason Lowdown : Kansas City Chiefs

Preseason Lowdown : Oakland Raiders

Preseason Lowdown : San Diego Chargers


Preseason Lowdown : Dallas Cowboys

Preseason Lowdown : New York Giants

Preseason Lowdown : Philadelphia Eagles

Preseason Lowdown : Washington Redskins


Preseason Lowdown : Chicago Bears

Preseason Lowdown : Detroit Lions

Preseason Lowdown : Green Bay Packers

Preseason Lowdown : Minnesota Vikings


Preseason Lowdown : Atlanta Falcons

Preseason Lowdown : Carolina Panthers

Preseason Lowdown : New Orleans Saints

Preseason Lowdown : Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Preseason Lowdown : Arizona Cardinals

Preseason Lowdown : St. Louis Rams

Preseason Lowdown : San Francisco 49ers

Preseason Lowdown : Seattle Seahawks

Preseason Lowdown Roundup : NFC South and West

football, preseason, teams, nfc

Miss anything from the the NFC South or West? Here’s this week’s roundup!

Preseason Lowdown : Atlanta Falcons

Preseason Lowdown : Carolina Panthers

Preseason Lowdown : New Orleans Saints

Preseason Lowdown : Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Preseason Lowdown : Arizona Cardinals

Preseason Lowdown : St. Louis Rams

Preseason Lowdown : San Francisco 49ers

Preseason Lowdown : Seattle Seahawks

See you all next week for the start of the regular season (!!!) and a very special surprise coming midweek! I can’t wait!!!

Preseason Lowdown : Seattle Seahawks

football, preseason, teams, seahawks

What’s the story? 

Some of us might still be a little bitter about what transpired between the Seahawks and the Packers on September 24th, 2012. Some of us will try to let that go for 30 minutes to write this post. But no guarantees.

That being said…the story with the Seahawks? It looks pretty dang good. The land of the 12th man has prospered under the direction of head coach Pete Carroll. They’ve found an unlikely franchise QB who took the NFL by storm last year and have some of the best players in the league on their roster – 6 of whom were elected to the Pro Bowl last year. They also have the greatest home field advantage in the league; it’s incredibly tough to win on the road in Seattle.

Leader and commander:

The aforementioned Pete Carroll, who would probably be best friends with rival NFC West head coach and former rival college coach Jim Harbaugh if they weren’t arch enemies due to their similarly over-the-top competitive natures. But it’s probably good that they aren’t best buds. All of that intensity in one space may cause the world to spontaneously implode.

New kid on the block:

Percy Harvin, who was traded by the Vikings to Seattle early in the offseason. The good news: the Seahawks need a talented wide receiver, and Harvin could potentially meet that need. The bad news: Harvin needed hip surgery late in the offseason, and there is no timetable for his return to the field. He may or may not see significant playing time this season; it all depends on how his recovery goes.

Last year was…

…a stunning success. The Seahawks improved on their 7-9 2011 record by going 11-5 (cough…10-6…) in 2012. They won their wildcard playoff game on the road against the Redskins and nearly won the divisional game against the Falcons the following week. Not too shabby for a team that hadn’t won a playoff game on the road in nearly 30 years.

Survey says:

How high is the ceiling for this unexpectedly successful bunch? How does #1 sound? That’s where ESPN has the Seahawks ranked in their preseason power rankings, and it’s hard to disagree with their assessment. Good offense + good defense + good coaching + unbeatable home field advantage, literally good enough for all 8 (cough…7…) home wins last season = huge opportunity to win it all.