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Who Is Our New NFL Team?

With surprising Patriots loss, the slot is open

Marc Tracy
January 18, 2011
Tom Brady on Sunday.(Elsa/Getty Images)
Tom Brady on Sunday.(Elsa/Getty Images)

Tablet Magazine’s Washington Redskins washed out at 6-10 (although it should be noted they went 2-0 against the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, the two teams that will play Sunday in the NFC Championship Game). Tablet Magazine’s New York Giants, at 10-6, were the first team to miss the playoffs. And Tablet Magazine’s New England Patriots—the team with the best record (14-2), the best advanced stats, and (so everyone said) the best chance to win Super Bowl VL, is out, too, having, on Sunday, been upset at home, 28-21, by their division rival New York Jets.

I certainly don’t have an original take on all the off-field drama—which included obvious, gregarious sniping from the Jets and buttoned-up non-sniping (and occasional subtle sniping) from the Pats—except to comment that breaching unofficial rules of decorum is how underdogs succeed every day in pursuits far more consequential than sports. As for the game itself, much needed to go right for the Jets, and it basically all did: Solid, safe throws from quarterback Mark Sanchez; a couple big plays from their star wide receivers; exemplary special teams play that saw the Jets enjoy an outrageous field-position advantage; and, above all, a defense that forced Pats QB Tom Brady into only his fifth interception of the year, but, more importantly, was on the Pats’ normally elusive pass-catchers like yellow on yellow rice, frustrating New England’s vaunted aerial attack, leaving the relatively immobile Brady patting the ball in the pocket with nowhere to go with it. The Jets’ linemen accomplished five sacks, but these were uniformly coverage sacks, with credit going primarily to the Jets’ defensive backs, their cornerbacks and safetys, who comprised a truly stunning 11 of 45 active roster members Sunday. Which is to say, credit most of all Coach Rex Ryan, the normally blitz-happy big ball of personality who let the personality show (at one point costing his team 15 yards due to an excessive celebration penalty) but wisely kept the blitzes in check. The regular season was confirmation that Pats Coach Bill Belichick belongs in the pantheon with the greats. This playoff game was confirmation that, on any given Sunday, with the right tools, a great coach can be outcoached by a very good one.

So now there are four. Which should be our official team?

Here are your options:

The New York Jets. Of the four remaining teams, the Jets are the only one that was, at some point in the franchise’s history, majority-owned by Jews. Despite coming from outside Boston, looking the part, and being named Mike Tannenbaum, the Jets’ general manager is not Jewish, and I think a case could be made that the Giants actually enjoy a larger Jewish fanbase. However, any Tristate Area team is going to have plenty of Semitic allegiance, and the Jets are no different: In 2009, when they were scheduled for a late-afternoon game on the day that Yom Kippur started, owner Woody Johnson successfully got the game moved to the 1 pm slot; “There has long been an understanding,” he complained, “that neither the Jets nor the Giants fans should have to bear completely the brunt of this issue since we are in the largest Jewish market in the country.” Also, underdogs!

The Pittsburgh Steelers. After the Dallas Cowboys, they are the most “national” team—the team you root for if you don’t have a team to root for (much as Barack Obama adopted them while growing up in Hawaii), so they presumably have plenty of Jewish fans throughout the land. Also, Squirrel Hill, represent!

Green Bay Packers. Technically, the Packers likely have some Jewish ownership: They are the property of the town of Green Bay, Wisconsin, which has at least one synagogue. Socialism! Also, Aaron Rodgers is dreamy!

Chicago Bears. My pick for the existing team with the largest Jewish fanbase (including Jewcy editor Jason Diamond): They edge out the Jets because Chitown is more of a football place, and there isn’t some second team to share with. No, offensive coordinator Mike Martz is not a Member of the Tribe (we wish!). Also, Rahm Emanuel!

I’m leaning Bears, although I also have a feeling they won’t be around come Sunday night—the Packers are the hottest team in the League, and I’m guessing Aaron Rodgers is about to become really famous. But before I commit, what are your thoughts? Why do I get the sense the readers would like J-E-T-S?

Final record: 30-19.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.