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NFL Game of Thrones

With season four of Game of Thrones kicking off this past Sunday, its time to figure out who runs the NFL's 32 kingdoms.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With season four of Game of Thrones kicking off this past Sunday, it seems fitting to match key characters to their NFL counterparts and teams.

Disclaimer: This is intended to be a fun article for entertainment value – don’t get too bent out of shape with its exaggerated analogies. Also, I won’t be doing all 32 teams or anything, because yeah that could take a while. If you have suggestions for others, note them in the comments and we’ll revisit this thread perhaps with another round.

It’s no perfect science, but we’ll take what we know about each character and take one of their most notable traits, and find the closest NFL player and team match based on what they’ve done.

Without further ado:

1. Eddard "Ned" Stark – Peyton Manning / Denver Broncos

Ned Stark is one of the central good guys of season one. He tries to do the right thing by both his family and his king. He’s easily the most admirable character but unfortunately a little naïve. Manning, like his coach John Fox, is one of the NFL’s good guys. He’s basically a model citizen and player who has had some impressive success. Unfortunately, like Ned Stark, who earned himself some enemies for being too upstanding, Peyton has his share of detractors too.

Also like Ned, who gets decapitated at the end of season one, when Peyton Manning and the Broncos have faced off against bigger, badder, and more cunning competition, such as against the 2012 Ravens or 2013 Seahawks, they too get decapitated. The Broncos are trying to buy their way back to the Super Bowl for the third straight year, also a naïve strategy, and as a result are likely to find themselves headless again in 2014 when it matters.

2. Tyrion Lannister – Joe Flacco / Baltimore Ravens

Tyrion Lannister is a cunning but small and, thus, underestimated character. He’s the epitome of the "likable bad guy" on the show. He's detested by most because he’s part of the reviled Lannister family of villains or is looked down upon because of his size. But despite his family ties, he is not cruel and usually is doing something nefarious in the short-term for the greater good.

Like Tyrion, Joe Flacco is a good guy, always underestimated and often disrespected for his abilities, and plays for the NFL’s most villainous team in the minds of many. In fact, some people really hate the Ravens. Success will do that, but moreover, the Ravens play hard, brutal football and won’t back down from a fight and thus are usually given a grudging respect from many of the other "kingdoms".

Like Tyrion, Flacco and the Ravens often find themselves underestimated because they are never the league’s most dominant team, never having been a No. 1 seed, nor do they play a splashy brand of offensively styled football. As a result, they are often playing their biggest playoff games at a disadvantage on the road. Which, more often than not, they win.

3. Jaime Lannister – Eli Manning / New York Giants

Jaime Lannister is a highly skilled swordsman and one of the show’s principal villains. His nickname is "Kingslayer" because he killed the previous king during a rebellion which led to his sister (and secret lover) becoming Queen as wife of the new King.

Like the long-ruling previous king in the show’s backstory, Aerys II Targaryen, the Patriots were the NFL’s Royalty for a long time throughout the 2000s, reaching five Super Bowls and numerous No. 1 seeds, with the undefeated 2007 Patriots being the most dominant of them all.

Enter the Kingslayer, Eli Manning and the New York Giants. Not only did they slay the NFL’s Royalty in 2007, the 18-0 Patriots, they did it again in 2011, defeating the No. 1 seeded Patriots for the rights to the same crown. New York City and New Jersey are fairly well-hated, especially by Boston, both for their sports success and just the inherent arrogance that comes with being the biggest city in America.

Eli is hated because he’s viewed as the lesser QB in his own family but yet has two rings to show for it. Like Eli, Jaime Lannister is easy to hate, both for his success and heritage, but none can deny that he gets it done when it matters most.

4. King Robert Baratheon – Rex Ryan / New York Jets

King Robert Baratheon became king of the realm after a rebellion against his rival. He then grew fat, sloppy and a bit blind to the danger around him. Much like Baratheon, Rex Ryan is not really comfortable unless making a scene, challenging rivals in press conferences, and acting boisterous on the sidelines.

Ryan was a fierce defensive coordinator and head coach known for his attacking, suffocating defenses that defeated both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the playoffs in the 2010 NFL Rebellion. And then his team turned into a disastrous butt-fumbling mess. Robert Baratheon made this same mistake, letting his considerable skills as a fierce warrior decline, growing complacent and old of late before eventually dying off in season one.

5. Regent Queen Cersei Lannister – Bill Belichick / New England Patriots

Beautiful but sinister and extremely treacherous, Cersei Lannister was the queen and wife of King Robert Baratheon and later Regent mother to the hated King Joffrey, her son. Cersei spins numerous webs that are stunning in their wickedness.

Belichick is the NFL’s best coach according to most and has presided over one of the most successful but hated teams recently. He concocts brilliant game plans and makes prescient in-game decisions that more often than not, allow the Patriots to pull out wins against spiteful teams who are desperate for a signature win against one of the NFL’s hated but feared royalty.

Like Belichick, who will gladly run up the score to embarrass a team further, Cersei is not afraid to make enemies by scheming and backstabbing everyone to further the wealth and power of her own family.

6. King Joffrey "Baratheon" Lannister – the Referees

Joffrey is without question the most hated character on the show. No one can watch the show and find anything remotely likable about him. Nothing he could possibly do going forward would undo his reputation as a cowardly and infinitely cruel character. He ordered the death of the principal hero of season one and has ordered countless others to be tortured.

The NFL’s referees know all about torturing NFL fans, earning the scorn of home teams and fans watching on TV, as well as the ire of head coaches. No amount of favorable calls will ever convince a single fan to like them. And even if someone decides the refs aren't that bad, they are just one bad call away from eternal contempt.

7. Sandor "The Hound" Clegane – Ben Roethlisberger / Pittsburgh Steelers

"The Hound", as he is known on the show, is a huge, fearsome, and fairly ugly man who works for the show’s most vile characters in the House Lannister. He has a brutal streak but slowly becomes a generally likable character for his protection of one of the show’s heroines, Arya Stark.

He looks after her, even while trying to ransom her off. Like the Hound, Big Ben is a large, fairly ugly man who plays for one of the NFL’s most vile teams. Although he gets sullied some by the reputations of those he works for, by their willingness to cheat for instance, Big Ben also has his own contemptible past.

But he seems to have turned his life around some, becoming a decent enough guy, like the Hound, who occasionally one might even like but for his repeated associations with the loathsome bad guys.

8. Samwell Tarly – Andy Dalton / Cincinnati Bengals

Samwell Tarly is the bumbling and incompetent Night’s Watchman who befriends one of the show’s main protagonists Jon Snow. Tarly was disowned by his father for cowardice and has inferior abilities in battle. However, he’s a reasonably smart guy.

Like Tarly, Andy Dalton is a pretty smart guy, in theory, who is utterly helpless in battle while leading his team to first round playoff losses when he has to face better teams. When you watch Game of Thrones, you kind of like Samwell Tarly, and maybe feel a bit sorry for him, because he’s a good guy and had a tough upbringing. But then you kind of hate him too because he’s pretty ugly and incompetent.

That’s pretty much Andy Dalton in a nutshell. He has brutal decision-making, doesn’t lead his confidently, but you can’t hate him too much, because he has a very pedestrian pedigree and mediocre talents, which as a result makes him perfect for the penny-pinching Mike Brown, the Bengals Owner (who would probably be the Night Watch drill instructor).

That's all for now. Perhaps in the future we'll find a way to determine the other power brokers in the Seven Kingdoms.

Future candidates:

9. Tywin Lannister – Roger Goodell, National Football League

10. Daenarys "Khaleesi" Targaryen – Tom Brady, New England Patriots (or Gisele Bunchen)

11. Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish – Jimmy Haslam, Cleveland Browns

12. Drogo Dothraki – Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

13. Brienne of Tarth – J.J. Watt, Houston Texans