Just because Syracuse Orange football AND college football are over, it doesn’t mean football season’s completely wrapped up (even if I refuse to acknowledge it once the Giants are eliminated).
This weekend’s NFL conference championship games will decide the respective AFC and NFC representatives in Super Bowl XLI.
For those that aren’t pro football fans, you’re probably wondering why you should care, or who you should root for. We try to streamline the process by pointing out Syracuse ties on each roster.
First, the AFC Championship Game:
New England Patriots (0)
The Pats traded Chandler Jones to the Cardinals, so he’s no longer your easy vote here. That makes it easier to root against the Patriots (as you naturally should and will), or it would if not for Matt Patricia being the team’s defensive coordinator. The 42-year old was an offensive grad assistant at SU from 2001-03, and has been with the Pats ever since. That’s a scary amount of time working with Bill Belichick. Probably too much to count his Orange ties as a positive anymore.
Pittsburgh Steelers (1)
And what a one it is. #SHAMARKO Thomas is your loan representative for the Steelers. So if “yinz” guys needed another reason to root against New England, here you go. The former Orange safety hasn’t played since December, but that’s fine. If Pittsburgh wins a Super Bowl and he doesn’t see the field, he still gets a ring.
AFC Verdict: Steelers
The NFC Championship Game:
Atlanta Falcons (1)
The ageless wonder Dwight Freeney has slowed a bit in his 15th season, but he’s still around and still contributing to the Atlanta defense. He has three sacks on the year so far, and while he didn’t log any stats against Seattle last week, he may need to in order to win the franchise’s second conference title on Sunday. It’s been seven years since the former SU All-American played in a Super Bowl (which he lost with the Colts). The Cardinals swung and missed last season, so perhaps this (probably final) try is the charm.
Green Bay Packers (0)
Not a soul. Granted, the Packers have a goddamn wizard like Aaron Rodgers on the roster, so who really knows if they need a Syracuse player. But they also have Ron Zook, which sounds like a bad omen. Did you know Ron Zook was a coach on this team? I had no idea until I looked up the staff for this article.
NFC Verdict: It’s Dirty Bird time!
So there's your unscientific guide to which teams to root for this Sunday. If Syracuse is the only team in your world (or if you enjoy things you haven’t seen before), you want a Steelers-Falcons Super Bowl. If you have NFL rooting interests like I do, perhaps you're making a very different decision.