Since its debut in 2005, Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl has offered America a cuter, fluffier alternative to watching overgrown men slam into each other, repeatedly, in the name of increased advertising revenue for the NFL. (I think they also get a trophy?) In these divided times, there are remarkably few things we all agree on—but puppies being cute is one of those things.
The formula is so simple, I can’t believe we didn’t think of it sooner: Take a bunch of adorable orphaned puppies, put them in a room with football field markings, film the results, and air it in a continuous loop on Super Bowl Sunday—to the delight of Dorito-eaters nationwide.
In my mind, the Puppy Bowl is superior to the Human Bowl in just about every way. To share my enthusiasm and help prepare you for Puppy Bowl XIII, I’ve taken the time to scrutinize this year’s 40-pup starting lineup and provide you with my personal dream team. The Top 15 pups are below, ranked according to a complex, proprietary system which I’ll simply refer to as “Dog Lady Whims.”
Pug/Shih Tzu, New Jersey
Wilma’s stats tell us she is from New Jersey, but strangely, no exit number is provided. Nonetheless, Wilma ranks high on intangibles like scrap and spirit! Admittedly, she comes in a bit low on other areas, like, um, face. Wilma kind of looks kind of like every time Wile E. Coyote’s stick of dynamite blew up in his own face instead of the Roadrunner’s. (Sidenote: Why did he never learn?!) Anyway, she’s adorable and just makes the cut for our Top 15.
Shepherd Mix, Missouri
Wesley’s paws tell us gonna be a big boy, but his regal posture shows excellent command of his rapidly growing frame. Expect big things from Wesley, Missouri’s EveryMutt with a heart of gold.
Sato, Puerto Rico
Panda comes all the way from Puerto Rico and stands out with her big ears and inquisitive face. Honestly, if I’m being picky, her coloring is more of a match with Socks the Cat than a panda, but hand this gal a bamboo squeaky toy and I’m sure she’ll happily live out the panda charade for the rest of her days.
Brussels Griffon Mix, Nevada
Judging from how I looked after just four nights in Vegas, it’s not surprising that Peanut looks like this after spending 14 weeks there.
Husky/Shepherd Mix, New Jersey
Nyquist is probably named after the 2016 Kentucky Derby winner, but it could also possibly be after a”Swedish born American electronic engineer who made important contributions to communication theory.” Or maybe the horse is named after the guy, so the dog is named after both? Or maybe it’s something totally different. Anyway, this air of mystery sled-dogged Nyquist right to the cusp of the Top 10 list.
Mastiff/Pit Bull/Shar Pei, Tennessee
Stormy! Stormy has the biggest, saddest puppy dog eyes I’ve ever seen. They are also the best pair of different-colored eyes I’ve seen since Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. This, plus the fact that she is from a shelter called Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, made Stormy a shoo-in for the top 10.
Sable looks like the kind of dog that would play fetch with you for hours, till your hands were blistered, then take a two second water break and come right back for more. Even in this photo, her eyes are locked on an invisible Frisbee as she patiently waits to be called into action. Here’s hoping Sable gets adopted by someone with a yard and no day job.
Buttons is the realest. It does not take a Master’s from Body Language University to understand that Buttons does not want to be here. She is 2 lbs., 7 oz. of Over It and will be back resting in one of Grandpa’s slippers at the earliest possible opportunity. This dog leaps into the coveted eight spot on sheer attitude alone.
English Pointer, Virginia
In order to crack my Top 10, you have to be the total package. With an awesome name and adorable, speckled ears, Doobert is a true double threat.. Broad-chested but spry, I have no doubt he will be a fearless Puppy Bowl contender.
Shar Pei, Florida
I have nine vials of anti-aging serum that will spontaneously combust in my medicine cabinet when I say this, but those wrinkles are adorable! Smooshie has more folds than a pickup truck of paper cranes, making him an easy target on the Puppy Bowl turf. But with his bulky frame and, let’s be honest, GIANT HEAD, expect him to bulldoze smaller opponents easily, resulting in great TV.
Rounding out the Top 5 is Alexander Hamilpup. This dog’s name is clearly a shameless ploy to capitalize on Hamilton’s success and put the little guy on the fast track to adoption. I approve! Somewhere there is a family of musical-loving nerds who will welcome him with open jazz hands.
Australian Shepherd, Idaho
Churchill may have been the British Bulldog, but this little Aussie shares many qualities with his namesake, like white hair and a face that looks like it is subject to a litttttle more gravity than everyone else’s. Looking forward to seeing this tired guy lumber around the football field till he falls asleep in an armchair.
Pit Bull, Tennessee
Daphne looks like a total sweetie and was an easy pick for the top three. Doesn’t she just seem like an A+ student? Like the kind of dog who would pose in your sunglasses for a Snapchat, but then join you for a five mile run: Daphne’s up for all of it.
Archimedes is a handsome little guy. He cruised right into #2 based solely on looks, and I doubt the preferential treatment will stop anytime soon. This guy will earn promotions he doesn’t deserve. He’ll be seated at the best restaurant tables. His banker will slip him extra 20s. He’ll wonder why everyone says the world is so bad, when everyone seems so darn nice! Archimedes, it’s called the Handsome Bubble. Enjoy it.
Dachshund/Pit Bull, New York
Only one dog could top Archimedes’ devastating handsomeness to claim the PawPrints Lombardi Trophy: Buddy Love! This guy is cool, calm, and collected. He is sitting in the dog equivalent of A.C. Slater pose. He oozes confidence. I could look at his little face all day. And he comes from a shelter called Mr. Bones & Co., which is just too freaking cute. All of these things made Buddy Love an easy #1 in my book.
And that’s the countdown. As you make your seven layer dip this Sunday, be sure to flip to Animal Planet so you can watch these floppy mutts amble around on Astro Turf and remember what really unites us all as Americans: the understanding that dogs are way better than cats.