Go to any major sports website, and you’ll inevitably find some article where they rank the NFL teams at this point in time (ie, usually some type of “Power Rankings”). But what really caught our eye this time around was when USAToday.com had the idea to rank all the NFL’s fan bases.
Of course, we then read the article and realized that they were dead wrong. So in the spirit of intellectual dissension, here’s our attempt at (accurately) ranking the 32 NFL fan bases – in order from worst to best:
32. Los Angeles Chargers
True fans of the team known as the “Los Angeles Chargers” are about as real as unicorns, leprechauns, and the Loch Ness monster: some people swear that they might have seen one somewhere, at some point in their life, but nobody can actually confirm they really exist.
The experience of the Chargers in the greater Los Angeles area has been so terrible that there are new reports emerging that the team is again considering relocating. So much for a “big money” move to LA.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
Many people thought that the idea of putting an expansion franchise in Jacksonville, Florida was a curious decision from the get go. Jacksonville wasn’t even among the top 40 cities in the country in terms of television market size, and college football reigns supreme in the sports scene of Florida.
The few true Jaguars fans who have endured the Blaine Gabbert and Blake Bortles eras remain as loyal as any fans, but given the anonymity of the team and the city as a whole, the number of those fans is very, very low.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For any fans that feel the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ranked too low on this list, consider the fact that the Buccaneers are one of only a small handful of teams to have their games blacked out on local television way too often, because of poor fan attendance at the stadium itself.
Sure, you can question who in their right mind would want to go to a stadium to watch a perennial loser play football, but that hasn’t stopped other cities from having enough fans at the stadium so as to not black out their game locally. Face it: Tampa is further proof that Florida cares more about college sports.
29. Los Angeles Rams
Can you really fault the smaller number of Rams fans? The franchise returned back to Los Angeles in 2016 after previously moving away from the city 22 years ago. And prior to the Rams leaving the first time (in 1994), they had only been to one Super Bowl in franchise history.
Even though the Rams have been a contender under Sean McCoy, even making it as far as the Super Bowl, the truth is that professional football still takes a back seat in Tinseltown to the Lakers, Dodgers, and maybe even USC football.
28. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona sports (outside of college basketball anyway) suffer from the same problem as the teams in Florida and Southern California: the weather is too damn nice to really invest your time in watching sports. Why not go outside and enjoy all the great golfing the area has to offer?
That’s why the Arizona Cardinals have to resort to doing things like drafting Kyler Murray with the #1 overall pick: because he’s someone who could bring some attention and “buzz” around the team (and hopefully sell some tickets) as much as he can bring on-field success.
27. Carolina Panthers
As we all know, the “Carolina” states suffer from the same issue as most southern states: it’s all about college football there. In North Carolina, it’s all about college hoops. In South Carolina, it’s about the Gamecocks and Tigers.
The fact is that pockets of the Carolinas still remains loyal to the Washington Redskins, when it comes to the NFL, because the team’s influence spread that far south during the 1980’s and early 1990’s, during the franchise’s heyday.
26. Houston Texans
Former owner Bud Adams moving the Houston Oilers franchise away from Houston after the 1996 season seemed like something of a death sentence for professional football in the city.
So whether it’s fair or not, a lot of Houston fans get dinged for the fact that so many of them jumped on the bandwagon of the Dallas Cowboys when the Houston team either wasn’t playing well (especially in its first reincarnation in the NFL), or stuck with Dallas after the original Houston team left for Tennessee.
25. Miami Dolphins
There was once a time when the Miami Dolphins had a passionate and loyal fan following. Of course, that was back when Don Shula still coached the team, and Dan Marino was slinging it all over Joe Robbie stadium. In other words: that was about two decades ago.
These days, the fandom for the Dolphins is dwindling at a rapid pace. That fact is definitely augmented by the fact that the Dolphins haven’t won a single playoff game since the 2000 season, with 11 head coaches roaming the sideline for the Dolphins since Shula stepped down. You can’t expect to have fans if your team can’t win anything.
24. Atlanta Falcons
There’s just no denying it: Atlanta is a great sports city… in terms of college sports and baseball. Want to talk about the Braves? You’ll have plenty of people to chat with. Have something to say about the University of Georgia? You can’t go 10 feet without finding a diehard Bulldogs fan.
But the Atlanta Falcons? Save for a few niche fans, they’re much more of a passing fare in the city: when they’re doing well, everyone cares, but when they’re not, nobody really cares about the team.
23. Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati sports fans are another tight-knit bunch that continually support their sports teams within the anonymity of other, higher-profile cities and sports teams (and their respective fans).
There were some very ugly years for the Bengals in the post-Boomer Esiason and pre-Marvin Lewis era, but the holdovers from the former held on long enough to enjoy at least a modicum of success in the latter. Even with Cincinnati’s owner being one of the most notoriously stingy spenders in the league, you’ll find very few, if any, fans who are jumping ship.
22. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans are like that one band or cuisine or regional item that everyone in the immediate geographical area swears by and gets very defensive about if you say anything negative, but the rest of the country doesn’t either know or really care much about it.
Honestly, save for a brief blip during the Vince Young experience there, when has the Tennessee Titans franchise been relevant since Steve McNair used to be the quarterback there? The fans in the city love the team to death regardless of who’s on the roster, but does the rest of the country even acknowledge the team’s existence?
21. Baltimore Ravens
Very quietly, the Baltimore Ravens have accumulated one of the most passionate fan bases in the NFL. If there’s a knock against Baltimore fans, it’s the fact that many of them are converted fans of the Washington Redskins, who simply got tired of rooting for a team that was so poorly run by Dan Snyder.
As a result, you can probably find more fans of the Ravens, and more Ravens gear and paraphernalia being sold, than that of the Redskins all over the state of Maryland. That’s how much Snyder has continually ruined things in the greater Washington, D.C. area.
20. Seattle Seahawks
Everyone is going to point to the fact that CenturyLink Field may be the loudest stadium in the NFL, and one of the toughest venues for opposing teams to come in and play the Seattle Seahawks.
But the counter-point to that? For so many years, when the Seahawks were mired in mediocrity and played their games in the Kingdome, they were easily one of the city’s afterthoughts, ranking well behind the Mariners and Super Sonics in terms of their attention from the locals. Trying to find any Seahawks fan who could tell you about guys like Dave Krieg and Curt Warner would be a chore you don’t want to endure.
19. Indianapolis Colts
Whether it’s fair or not, the fans of the Indianapolis Colts get “dinged” since the team has only resided in the Hoosier State for less than 40 years (having originally moved from Baltimore).
That being said, even if the team is a somewhat recent transplant, they’ve been fully embraced by the residents of a state who is synonymous with sports. Of course, Indiana is known much more for basketball than football, but for the Colts, you clearly see those fans making an exception — bringing the same love to the football team.
18. New Orleans Saints
Make no mistake: the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is one of the loudest venues in the NFL for opposing teams to play in, and it gets that way because of the fervor created by fans of the New Orleans Saints. But if we’re being completely honest, Louisiana is still a state dominated by high school and college football, with those two levels of football drawing much more attention than the Saints do.
So yes, the city may go nuts when the Saints are playing, and especially when they’re doing well. But if one of the other local teams, at the lower levels of football, is also doing well? You might find a different standard of comparison.
17. Denver Broncos
Sure, the fan following of the Denver Broncos enjoyed something of a “rebirth” with the brief stint Peyton Manning had there, when he led them to two Super Bowl appearances.
But the Broncos really put their name on the football map, and attracted legions of fans outside of Colorado, back when the young phenom named John Elway arrived there and became a sensation right from the get go. Since then, they’ve had decent sized but rather loyal group of supporters.
16. Detroit Lions
Fans of the Detroit Lions are almost always true “salt of the Earth” people. They know they root for a team that always seems to have something bad happen to it. They know they’re one of the few remaining NFL franchises that have yet to even appear in a Super Bowl. And yet, their support for the Lions never wavers.
They’re one of those fan bases whom the rest of the NFL almost roots for (unless you’re a backer of an NFC North rival), because you just hope that something good finally happens to them after all that suffering.
15. Minnesota Vikings
In many ways, fans of the Minnesota Vikings are like fans of the Boston Red Sox, prior to the latter winning the World Series in 2004 and breaking their “curse.” As soon as they get a very brief taste of success, something horrible happens to leave a very, very bitter taste in their mouths.
And yet, these fans keep coming back for more and more helpings each year. You can argue that there are few more cursed fan bases in the NFL — if any such fan bases exist when you look at the collective history of the franchise and its fans.
14. New York Jets
If you ever questioned the passion of fans of the New York Jets, recall the broadcasts of the NFL Draft back when it took place at Radio City Music Hall. You always saw fans decked out in green, shouting out the “J-E-T-S” cheer over and over again, and usually booing whoever the Jets picked in the draft (even if it ended up being a good pick).
The Jets still have plenty of fans — and some very prominent ones, quite often — even though the team hasn’t won the Super Bowl in 50 years. That’s called true loyalty.
13. New York Giants
Members of “Gang Green” won’t like hearing this, but the Big Apple has two professional sports teams, and among the two, the New York Giants are easily the more marquee team.
Even if the Jets had some of the more “flashier” players in team history, and even if the Jets were the team to win the first Super Bowl among the two New York teams, the Giants have always been the big brother of professional football in the tai-state area. And, the diaspora of the fan base reflects this.
12. San Francisco 49ers
Let’s face it: a lot of the fans of the San Francisco 49ers are either holdovers from their glory days in the 1980’s through the mid-1990’s, because the team hasn’t been nearly as good for the past decade or so. Or, many of them are second-generation fans, following in the footsteps of their parents, who rooted for Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott, among others.
You don’t have to go far to find a 49ers fan, both inside and outside of Northern California. But how prevalent they are seems muted now, given that the team has been less than stellar in recent years.
11. Washington Redskins
The city’s hockey team might’ve won a Stanley Cup recently, the city’s baseball team might’ve been home to one of the game’s biggest stars, and the city as a whole might be a basketball hotbed. But the fact is, Washington, D.C. lives and breathes with the success of the Washington Redskins.
Unfortunately, team owner Dan Snyder might be the reigning “worst owner in professional sports,” alienating a previously diehard fan base so badly that they simply refuse to show up to games anymore.
10. Chicago Bears
How many other fan bases had their own recurring segment on Saturday Night Live? And while Bill Swerski’s Superfans might’ve made far-fetched proclamations about Mike Ditka and the Chicago Bears defeating entire nations and/or global catastrophes, don’t forget: the truth is the greatest source of humor.
Said superfans reflected the idea of how much Chicagoans really love their sports teams and the heroes on those teams. And even if Chicago didn’t win a ton of games in the most Michael Jordan era, they still love their teams and players that much.
9. Dallas Cowboys
Let’s ruffle some feathers, shall we? To borrow a line from Chris Tucker’s character in the iconic film “Friday,” Dallas Cowboys fans have mind control on us: when they’re winning, they’ll never stop chirping. When they’re not winning, you can’t find them anywhere, let alone hear anything from them.
Whether you like hearing it or not, the truth remains that a healthy swath of Dallas fans suffer from “NBD syndrome” — “Never Been to Dallas.” The Cowboys encompass the biggest “bandwagon,” front-running fan base in the NFL. So all their loyal fans from the state of Texas get tarnished because of all the poseurs from outside the state.
8. New England Patriots
It’s hard to question the loyalty, if not outright zeal, of sports fans in the states that make up New England. What is easy to question, however, is how tolerable they are in a public setting.
For one, they never fail to be obnoxious, no matter what sporting arena they invade. And with the smugness they hold because of all of Boston’s winning, they’re downright insufferable. Point being: there are a ton of these fans, much to the chagrin of everyone else.
7. Kansas City Chiefs
Regardless of what the analytics in the USA Today article computed, there’s absolutely no way to justify ranking fans of the Kansas City Chiefs ranking second to last in the NFL. It’s just an egregiously bad ranking for one of the most loyal and passionate fan bases in the NFL.
There’s a reason why Arrowhead Stadium remains one of the toughest places to play for opponents, and why it’s one of the few remaining stadiums that can get deafeningly loud in the most integral moments. The Chiefs are very much a part of the fabric of that area, as much as the regional barbecue you’ll enjoy at a home game.
6. Buffalo Bills
If you want any proof of how deeply the residents of the greater Buffalo area love their team and its players, look at the way they came to the defense of Scott Norwood after he famously missed what would’ve been the game-winning field goal in Super Bowl XXV, or watch how quickly you’ll draw their ire if you dare say anything negative about current quarterback Josh Allen.
Or perhaps best of all: go to tailgate before a Buffalo game, hosted by the notorious “Bills Mafia,” and watch them guzzle down beers in ice cold temperatures, followed by performing WWE moves through the furniture at said tailgate. They’re beyond crazy — in a good way.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
You’d be hard pressed to find a group of people who truly embody the idea of a “fanatic” more than the sports fans in and around Philadelphia. They love their sports teams so deeply, almost to a fault.
There’s a reason why it’s never a walk in the park for opposing teams to play in Philadelphia (no pun intended), and that there used to be an actual magistrate and holding cell (read: a mini-prison) back when the Eagles used to play in the hallowed (but hated) Veteran’s Stadium. Point being, question the zeal of Eagles’ fans at your own peril.
4. Cleveland Browns
If you ever find a true fan of the Cleveland Browns (and trust me: you won’t find anyone who’ll have a reason to be a “fake” Browns fan), then give that person a hug. No fan base in the NFL has had to endure a stretch of brutally incompetent losing over the past decade or so like the Cleveland Browns.
And yet, these fans remain as loyal as ever, fully knowing that they’re so many times going to end up like Charlie Brown, every time he tries to kick the football set in place by Lucy. They’re the one fan base that has remained steadfastly loyal, even amidst so much sports pain and suffering.
3. Green Bay Packers
Lambeau Field remains the Mecca of professional football, which effectively makes Green Bay a “holy land” for football. And thus, the residents of Green Bay, Wisconsin can basically be considered apostles of the great game of football.
Green Bay may very well be the one city in America that resembles a college town with a major football program: everything shuts down with the Packers are on TV, and all the days and weeks in between games are basically spent by fans preparing for the next game.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
There’s no city in the United States that lives and dies with its professional football team like the Steel City with its beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. The Penguins might come in second, but it’s a distant second (while the Pirates wouldn’t even come close).
Residents of the city of Pittsburgh may not know the Vice President’s name, couldn’t answer most questions from a 5th grade trivia book, and probably couldn’t name more than 20 states in the United States. But they’ll tell you everything you would possibly ever need to know about the Black and Gold.
1. Oakland Raiders
How can the USA Today rankings possibly put the fans of the Silver and Black in the bottom half of the league? That’s nothing short of inexplicable. No matter how terrible the Raiders franchise is playing (and they’ve had plenty of terrible years as of late), those crazy fans fill up the stadium each week, making it one of the most eerie experiences for visitors.
Have you ever tried debating with a Raiders fan about whether the team made a bad move? Believe me, it won’t go well. It’s one of the great football tragedies, spurred by money and greed, to watch the Raiders eventually leave the state of California and abandon this fan base.