This weekend marks the beginning of the NFL playoffs. For the first time since the 2008 season, and only the fourth time this century, that doesn’t mean a thing to Packers fans. Green Bay’s week 17 loss was the end of the perennial contender’s season—a season marred by injury, an utter lack of defense, and the realization that the team is absolutely lost without Aaron Rodgers under center.
Now, just 10 teams are left to compete for the highest honor in a rapidly-worsening league. As you’re wondering whether you should even bother watching the playoffs this year, Packer fans should consider temporarily shifting their NFL allegiance to the Buffalo Bills. You might be wondering why an AFC team from New York deserves the rooting interest of Packer Backers this postseason. Well, maybe these reasons can enlighten you as you prepare for a rare Packers-free playoff round.
1. Buffalo is basically in the Midwest
Yes, Buffalo is located in New York, but beyond being in the same state, it couldn’t be more different than New York City. Like many Midwestern hubs, Buffalo is a city with a prosperous industrial past and one that’s on the shores of a Great Lake. In terms of appearance, it’s closer to Milwaukee than it is to Manhattan. Culturally, it’s basically Canada, which is a stone’s throw away. Geographically, it’s closer to Cleveland (about 185 miles away) and Detroit (260 miles) than it is to even the westernmost borough of NYC (375 miles). Both Milwaukee and Buffalo are “rust belt” cities and the western New York region has faced many of the same issues we’ve dealt with as both areas fight to change their identities and lead people back to town.
2. Similarities to Green Bay
Like it or not, Green Bay has more in common with Buffalo than it does with any other NFL city. They have the two smallest populations in the league. Outside of its franchise’s recent winning ways and rich history, the city of Green Bay isn’t able to offer many of the amenities other NFL cities can. After Bart Starr and before the arrival of Reggie White, Brett Favre, and Rodgers, Green Bay was considered “NFL’s Siberia.”
That distinction now seems to fall on Buffalo, who needs to overpay free agents to come to town, a team Jim Kelly initially refused to play for, a franchise Marshawn Lynch blasted after he was traded, and a team that made Cardale Jones cry tears of joy when they traded him. In a 2014 player poll, both Buffalo and Green Bay were ranked among the five least desirable places to play professional football. Think of the Packers of the 1970s and ’80s. That’s been the Bills for the entirety of the 2000s. It should feel good to see a group of inexperienced players and castoffs from other teams band together to make the postseason.
3. Similarities to Green Bay’s fans
Also akin to Green Bay, Buffalo’s fans are on the short list of the NFL’s most devoted. “Bills Mafia” has remained passionate and rowdy through many, many lean years, despite going through coaches and quarterbacks at a near-Browns-like rate since Kelly retired and Marv Levy departed. Like Packer Backers, Buffalo fans are known for their rowdiness and the drunken debauchery of the tailgate parties outside their ancient stadium. For better or worse, it’s like looking in a blurry, red- and blue-tinted mirror.
4. There are lots of Bills fans in Milwaukee
The Bills love affair continues to thrive after people leave Buffalo. Here in Milwaukee, the Buffalo Bills Backers Of Milwaukee group is more than 150 members strong. Since 2012, dozens of New York ex-pats and a variety of other Bills fans have gathered in Milwaukee to watch games together. Justin Kern (Fudgy and Crappy Dracula) is the chapter’s co-president. Vanguard co-owner/Gallery Night singer Jim McCann, beloved Bay View barkeep Paul “P.K.” Kennedy, and Milwaukee writer Todd Lazarski are also counted as members of the group. After the guild’s longtime site (G Daddy’s BBC) closed last year, they moved viewing parties to Steny’s. They’ll be there this weekend and they stress that all are welcome, “especially if you loathe Bryan Cox and Tom Brady.”
5. Other local ties
The Packers and Bills have their fair share of player overlap through the years. Iconic Bills like James Lofton and Don Beebe suited up for both teams, as did less-astounding players like Bryce Paup, Nick Barnett, Craig Nall, and various others. Former Packers safety and punt returner Micah Hyde turned in the best season of his career in Buffalo this season, posting career highs in starts, interceptions, and tackles. Currently, former Badger player and Middleton, Wisconsin’s own Ryan Groy is a backup guard on the Bills. Groy joins a group of former Badgers-turned-Bills, which is highlighted by the likes of Lee Evans and Jim Leonhard.
6. They’re the best story in this year’s playoffs
Going into Buffalo’s regular season finale, the Bills had roughly a 15 percent chance of making the playoffs. Even after they won their game, they needed the Ravens to lose. Buffalo’s playoff chances were under 1 percent before Cincinnati beat Baltimore on a 49-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with under a minute left. That upset earned Buffalo a place in the postseason by the thinnest of margins, requiring four tie-breakers to determine who’d get the AFC’s sixth seed. Ultimately, Buffalo’s “strength of victory” (the winning percentage of teams beaten) was higher than Baltimore’s.
This is Buffalo’s first playoff appearance since 1999. That was the longest playoff drought in the NFL and the longest such drought in the four major American pro sports. It’s an incredible story that any sports fan with a heart should get behind. Don’t agree? Watch this and get back to us.
Watching this on repeat all day. #GoBills pic.twitter.com/vq7sFAumHq
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) January 1, 2018
7. Fuck every other team left
Do you seriously want any of the other teams in this year’s NFL playoffs to win the Super Bowl? No Packer fan should pull for the Vikings in any instance. Another Patriots title would be boring as hell, as would another Steelers Super Bowl. Los Angeles “fans” don’t deserve to have the Rams be successful two years in. Eagles fans are among the most annoying fans in football. The Jaguars are barely even a franchise. The Chiefs are cool, minus their racially insensitive team name and logo. The Titans aren’t going to do shit in the playoffs. The Saints, Panthers, and Falcons are fine, but all of them have made at least one Super Bowl since the last time the Bills made the playoffs.
If you’re a Packers fan looking for any reason to give a shit about the NFL right now, there’s just one clear choice in this year’s playoffs. Go Bills.