FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: New England Patriots cheerleaders perform during the second quarter of a game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
With two of Dallas' biggest rivals still in the playoffs, we take a look at who to root for the rest of the way.
No, the Dallas Cowboys aren't in the playoffs.
But yet, you're still watching the NFL playoffs anyway. Let's face it: the NFL is entertaining, and the playoffs almost always deliver. Cowboys fans might not know who to root for from here on out, but don't worry -- I'm here to help.
In the NFC, the New York Giants head to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. This one really couldn't get much worse for Cowboys fans, though some fans may dislike the Eagles or Redskins more than the Giants. Still, two of Dallas' rivals squaring off for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl? Yuck.
While the 49ers are tied with the Cowboys for second-most with five Super Bowl titles, it seems rather unlikely that they would be able to knock off either the Ravens or the Patriots in the Super Bowl should they get there. San Francisco's rivalry with Dallas has been essentially dormant for years, so it's logical that older fans may hate the Niners more than younger fans.
Eli Manning's Giants, meanwhile, knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs in Week 17. It's true that the Cowboys shot themselves in the foot (repeatedly) throughout this season, but it's still difficult not to harbor animosity toward the Giants for knocking Dallas out -- and for the fact that they're the Giants.
Either team winning the Super Bowl would be nauseating for Cowboys fans, but life defending the Cowboys, and particularly Tony Romo, would become particularly unbearable should Eli Manning have his second Super Bowl ring. Cowboys fans should certainly be rooting for the 49ers this weekend.
Dallas fans will likely wind up rooting for whoever the AFC team is in the Super Bowl -- either the Baltimore Ravens or the New England Patriots. Neither team represents something nasty to Dallas, so rooting for either, especially over San Fran or New York, should be easy.
With that said, which team should Dallas fans root for this weekend?
Let's start by answering that question with another question. Does anybody outside the Harbaugh family want to see a Harbaugh Super Bowl? Didn't think so. The Ravens are an interesting team, but they're simply not that fun to watch. Joe Flacco isn't exactly endearing himself to football fans by complaining about the lack of respect given to him -- and let's face it, Flacco simply isn't that good. He's certainly not better than Romo, and Flacco leading his team to the Super Bowl would be just another feather in Romo's critics' hat.
So that leaves us with the Patriots. Sure, the Pats have their haters. After all, people hate teams that win, right? Cowboys fans sure know that feeling well, and New England fans and the Patriots experienced a similar sentiment in recent years after the Pats won three Super Bowls in four years.
Bill Belichick might rub fans the wrong way -- but that's perfectly OK. You're not supposed to like the head coach, and you're certainly not supposed to like the head coach of another team. Say what you will about Belichick, but he certainly has everybody in the organization on the same page, and has built a team that has sustained success for a decade now.
If anything, Belichick and Pats owner Robert Kraft have given the framework on how a winning team should be built. Remember when Parcells was in New England, and left because Kraft was too meddling? Well, it looks like Kraft certainly learned his lesson -- something Jerry Jones should take note on.
And then of course, there's Tom Brady. Sure, you might hate the guy for really no reason whatsoever, since Cowboys fans have no legitimate reason to hate him. Still, nobody can deny his greatness. If Brady wins his fourth Super Bowl, then all it does is cement his legacy -- it wouldn't be like Alex Smith or Flacco winning a Super Bowl, or Manning winning his second. No, the other options give Romo haters more ammo. Brady winning simply helps solidify an argument that he is the best quarterback of all-time.
So, there you have it. Cowboys fans should root for the Patriots and Niners this weekend, and then hope that the Niners get taken out to the woodshed by Brady and company. It's just that simple.