With the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals facing a bye week, local pigskin freaks may not know what to do with themselves today. Yardwork? Bah. Church? Football is your gosh-darn church.
Here’s a suggestion: Go on safari and watch the NFL in one of the many East Valley sports bars that enemy-aligned (read: non-Cardinal) football fans have seized as their own. After all, if you’re going to watch teams you really don’t care about, you might as well be surrounded by a bunch of frothing, cheese-hat-wearing zealots.
Minnesota at Chicago (10 a.m.): In this matchup of mortal NFC Central rivals, you’re not exactly short on options. Payton’s Place in Gilbert (4902 S. Val Vista Drive) is a well-known Bears bar, and a tightknit group of Chicago devotees are known to haunt Old Chicago (1656 S. Alma School Road, Mesa). For extra kicks, wear Viking horns and order your food with a thick Marge Gunderson accent.
San Diego at Buffalo (10 a.m.): Predictably, neither Chargers nor Bills fans have much of a presence here in the Valley. After all, nobody ever moves out of San Diego, and most Buffalo fans committed ritualistic suicide in the 1990s after the team’s unprecedented string of four straight fruitless Super Bowl appearances. Heck, watch the thing at a Rubio’s.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (10 a.m.): If you’re willing to make the drive waaaay up to Harold’s Cave Creek Corral (6895 E. Cave Creek Road), you will find an obscenely devoted fringe of Steelers fans whom you may choose to taunt and annoy.
During close-ups of lumbering Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, yell “My hairline moves faster than that guy!”
Tennessee at Kansas City (10 a.m.): Nobody is all that proud to be a Chiefs fan this year, and facing the league’s most suffocating defense in the Titans is unlikely to generate many faux Native American victory dances. Wear a black arm band to honor the K.C. faithful at Sluggo’s Sports Grill in Mesa (161 N. Centennial Way).
Dallas at St. Louis (10 a.m.): Sometimes, it seems like Cowboys Nation has infested every American town from Bumbleberg, Wash., to Jerkwater, Fla. You’ll find a bunch of these play-it-safe NFL carpetbaggers at Sugar Daddy’s in Scottsdale (3102 N. Scottsdale Road). High marks if you bring a portable Pac-Man game.
Baltimore at Miami (10 a.m.): No offense, but … well, that’s the point, right? Collectively, these teams score about as often as McLovin in “Superbad.” And neither do they command vast legions of Valley football fans. But owing to Miami’s large Cuban-American population, it might be kind of cool to see that game at Asia de Cuba at the Mondrian in Scottsdale (7353 E. Indian School Road).
San Francisco at New York Giants (10 a.m.): New York sports fans are well-represented in the Valley, but unlike, say, Philadelphia transplants, they don’t exhibit pronounced herd behavior. Be a dork and go to the Native New Yorker in Gilbert (110 S. Val Vista Drive) — the one sports bar, paradoxically, where you will probably not find a native New Yorker.
New Orleans at Carolina (10 a.m.): Alas, most Saints fans are still living in FEMA trailers, and most Panther fans will be inhaling carbon monoxide fumes at the North Carolina Speedway this weekend. I’m punting.
Detroit at Houston (1:05 p.m.): As the NFL’s youngest franchise, the Texans haven’t started exporting fans yet. And do you know anyone with the stones to root for the Lions in public? I sure don’t.
New York Jets at Oakland (1:15 p.m.): Do they have a sports bar in Tent City? Either way, it may be best to stay home for this one.
Indianapolis at Green Bay (1:15 p.m.): Go for the Cheese Heads, stay to watch a resurgent Peyton Manning pick apart the Green Bay secondary. Packers fans love Mabel Murphy’s in Scottsdale (7018 E. Main St.).
Seattle at Tampa Bay (5:15 p.m.): Finding a Buccaneers fan in Arizona is like finding a Dio groupie with all her teeth, but Seahawk fans come out in force at Temple Bar in Scottsdale (17050 N. Thompson Peak Parkway). Just make sure to remind those soggy saps who their NFC West daddy is.
Cleveland at Washington (1:15 p.m.): Decisions, decisions. Redskins fans are known to huddle at Arena Sports Grill in Scottsdale (6245 E. Bell Road), while Browns faithful mass at Hail Mary’s in Tempe (1402 S. Priest Drive).