Super Bowl Sunday is synonymous with tortilla chips, eight-layer bean dips, appointment-viewing commercials and plenty of beer... oh, and football. Plus, of course, Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl, which kicks off on February 5 at 3 p.m. ET. While millions of Americans will tune in to watch the Patriots and Falcons square off in Super Bowl LI that night, many will prepare by watching Team Ruff and Team Fluff—dozens of squirming, wiggly, fluffy puppies who will battle it out for the Lombarky Trophy. Who, other than perhaps cats, can resist that?
It’s been a long season for these adoptable pups, as they struggled to get attention from potential owners wandering through their shelters. But this is their big moment. Eyes across the U.S will be on them, so while not every pup can win the title, they can each end up with a forever home.
Who will come out on top in Puppy Bowl XIII? Let’s run down the tape for the starting lineups.
Alexander Hamilpup vs. Daphne
The look in 19-week-old Alexander’s eyes just screams (barks?) ‘Don’t mess with me.’ This pomsky may be small, but he has the speed to dart downfield and shake his defenders, like Team Ruff’s Daphne (below). It’ll be up to the 19-week-old pit bull to slow Alexander, and with her size and long legs, she can keep up with even the most energetic puppies.
Beebop vs. Nyquist
Just look at those paws—you know Beebop’s going to be making some Odell Beckham Jr.-esque catches out there for Team Ruff, and this pup doesn’t even have thumbs! But Team Fluff is going to send out one of their best to hound this terrier mix all day. Nyquist, the husky-shepherd mix from his New Jersey, is the ultimate grinder, and the other pups won’t want to get into a tug-of-war with him (below).
Tucker vs. Stormy
Tucker (below) looks sweet and innocent, but she has the energy of, well, a 16-week-old puppy and the heart of a champion. She wants nothing more than to score points for Team Fluff, and that’s why she’ll likely be seeing a lot of Team Ruff’s Stormy all day. Stormy, mastiff / pit bull / sharpei mix was built to defend against pups like Tucker, and isn’t afraid to engage in some bump-and-run or even throw in a few nips.
Puddles | Cocker Spaniel / Shih-Tzu mix | 13 weeks
Puddles is the ultimate sleeper pick for Team Ruff. While she seems unassuming, this tiny little pup has plenty of tricks up her sleeves.
Lucky | Terrier mix | 16 weeks
Lucky (below) may only have three legs, but she makes up for it with her tenacity and scrappiness. If opponents overlook her when she comes running up the sidelines with her toy, she’ll make defending pups regret they ever doubted her.
Blitz | Breed: Golden Retriever | Age: 15 weeks
Blitz is a stellar offensive player, and he knows it. Everything from his ball-handling skills and his speed to his paw size and vertical leap is off-the-charts, and there’s no doubt that he’ll dominate the playing field. This 15-week-old pup will leap over any pup-defender to get the toy and take it in for the score, leaving pups with their tails between their legs.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Archimedes | Breed: Otterhound/Lab mix | Age: 15 weeks
Thanks to his hound mix, Archimedes no doubt has the ability to sniff out the Team Ruff’s routes and stop the receiver-pups in their tracks.
Buddy Love | Dachsund / Pit Bull mix | 14 weeks
The heart and mind of a big dog in a small dog’s body, this dog is a coach’s dream, and his confidence infects his teammates.
Dawson | Jack Russell/Terrier mix | 14 weeks
Those ears! Dawson (below right) has better hearing than every other dog on the field, all the better to discover the play calls and shut them down.
Nikita | Cocker Spaniel/Bichon Frise mix | 18 weeks
This ball of adorable fluff is a firecracker, who will take on even the toughest of dogs if they try to cross her.
Winston | Australian Shepherd | 14 weeks
Winston’s thick, white coat should make him the mascot for team fluff. This Australian shepherd is the ultimate work dog, and he won’t stop until the final seconds tick off the clock.
Bo | Breed: Parson Russell Terrier mix | Age: 15 weeks
Don’t underestimate Bo. This pup may be small, but he’s quick and scrappy, and he’ll do whatever it takes—rough sides, paws interference, maybe even some nipping—to win.
Foster | Bernese Mountain Dog mix | 19 weeks
Foster’s a game-changer, and he knows it. This dog will climb mountains for his teammates, and when he plays alongside Beebop, the duo cannot be stopped.
Sully | Spaniel mix | 12 weeks
Sully (below) is a bit undersized compared to his competitors, but he makes up for his lack of size with his powerful legs and unmatched spatial awareness.
Wesley | Shepherd mix | 21 weeks
At 21 weeks old, Wesley is practically the James Harrison of Team Ruff (puppies must be under 24 weeks old to participate in the Puppy Bowl). This shepherd mix will be the brains of Team Ruff, keeping the younger pups in line.