NFL Playoff Likability Rankings: Luck’s Colts are so stinkin’ awesome

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) waves to fans as he leaves the field following an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Indianapolis, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (Darron Cummings/AP Photo)

When it comes to this weekend’s Divisional Round, we’ve broken down the Super Bowl chances, key matchups and X’s and O’s for each team involved. But there’s another, much less scientific, way of assessing a team: how likable are they?

It’s a fine balance, really. You’ve got to be good — we’re talking playoffs, after all — but not so good that we’re sick of seeing you in January. And if you’re new here? Welcome! We like you already.

Unsurprisingly, quarterbacks factored in pretty heavily in these rankings — the quirkier the better — as did coaches, whose likability is directly related to how much we see you actually crack a smile on the sidelines. We tend to take pro sports a little too seriously sometimes but at the core it all, football is fun. Chances are, if you’re having fun playing football, we’re having fun watching you do it.

Any scandals in your recent past? Back of the line, buddy. And if we hear from your team’s owner more than your players, we may have a bit of an issue here.

We’re talking feel-good stories, franchise identities, fanbases and underdogs in our first-ever Likability Rankings. Here we go:

1. Indianapolis Colts
It’s tough to keep track of all the great underdog stories here, from Andrew Luck’s unlikely return from injury to Frank Reich being the second best man for the job after Josh McDaniels left the team hanging, to their rally from 1-5 that resulted in a playoff berth.

Luck’s “Aw, shucks”-filled media availabilities, unbridled excitement every time he tosses a ball and unkempt neck beard aren’t just a schtick – the man has got to be the happiest guy in the game, and that makes him pretty gosh darn easy to root for.

Ayden Jent on Twitter

I think the #Colts success has to do with everyone’s beard. They are full of magic!!! Keep the train rolling !!!

And if that doesn’t earn him the honours of MLP (Most Likeable Player), just remember: this is a guy who congratulates linebackers for tackling him, for goodness sake.

2. Kansas City Chiefs
Another quarterback who looks like he’s having a total blast right now? Patrick Mahomes, who has fans drooling over every side-arm throw and left-handed pass he makes. It’s almost impossible not to root for this team, based on the entertainment factor alone. But the man who separates this club from other likable contenders isn’t on the field, but rather the sideline. Andy Reid has helped so many coaches grow and find success around the league, it’s hard not to root for him to finally win the big one for himself.

NOTE: Looks like we’ve got a really nice matchup here. Hearts will break.

3. Philadelphia Eagles
Their fans will heckle you ’til you cry if you dare make a mistake, but the Nick Foles-Doug Pederson connection softens the Eagles’ image and really makes Philly special. They’re the only team that can own the title of defending champs and somehow still be considered the underdog. Now, who wants some ice cream?

4. Los Angeles Chargers
Philip Rivers’ deep supporting cast gives him his best shot at a Super Bowl, which is really great news for all 34 of the team’s fans. It’s a good thing the Chargers perform so well on the road — even their home games resemble road games when you look at the crowd in attendance. Head coach Anthony Lynn has done a phenomenal job all season and Rivers is playing some his best football, yet this club is still struggling when it comes to rooting interest as L.A.’s second-favourite NFL team.

At some point, the Rams’ bandwagon is going to start over-flowing, right? That’ll be the Chargers’ time to shine. They’ll surely gain a few (temporary) fans this weekend as they take on the Patriots. Let’s boost those numbers, people!

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5. Los Angeles Rams
They’ve got a fun brand of football, did plenty of favours for fantasy GMs this year and haven’t won enough to make us turn on them just yet. But you wanna talk about likability? Just look at Sean McVay. He’s the most popular guy in the game — if the NFL was a high school, McVay would be your class president, prom king, valedictorian, and he’d probably just start teaching classes, too. Heck, telling a team you met him once might even land you a coaching gig these days.

6. New Orleans Saints
They’ll always kind of be the Bounty Gate team — especially with Sean Payton at the helm — but fearless leader Drew Brees is what makes this team a Super Bowl favourite that’s also pretty easy to root for. Plus, I’ve been counting down the days until they can finally redeem themselves for their blunderous role in last year’s Minnesota Miracle.

7. Dallas Cowboys
“Finally, Jerry Jones gets a little time in the spotlight,” said no one, ever. As long as they’re known as America’s Team, they’ll also be America’s favourite team to hate.

8. New England Patriots
What’s a dynasty gotta do to get a little love around here? No longer enamoured with the idea of watching the greatest quarterback-coach combination to have ever lived, fickle football fans are ready to close the book on this dynastic duo. If you can’t beat ’em, hate ’em, right?

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