There is nothing more difficult—and controversial—than ranking the fan bases of every NFL team. Somebody has to be first. And somebody has to be last, much to the dismay of their fans (if they have any).
When I compiled my rankings, I factored in a bunch of different things. If the team always sells out their games and dominates in merchandise sales, that’s huge. If they can make noise like a jet taking off, that’s a big positive.
By the way, ranking team’s fan bases is not an exact science. It’s not even close. It’s virtually impossible to compare the noise created by one team to the attendance of another team. One thing was for certain, though. Any fan base which still supports its teams through years of losing seasons is guaranteed to be ranked favorably in my book. That’s probably the most important test of being a fan. Anybody can root for a winner. It takes a true fan to support a 4-12 team.
Fans? What fans? Nobody goes to their games. Nobody even cares about the team. They’ve had an underrated history, qualifying for the postseason six times in 16 seasons, but nobody has realized.
They have become synonymous with the term “blackout” and regularly have four, five, or six of their home games not available to fans in the Jacksonville area. Then again, nobody would watch anyway.
They really should move to Los Angeles, the second largest market in the nation, and start all over. Florida doesn’t need three NFL teams anyway, and Miami and Tampa Bay were there first.
Before the 2008 season, an ESPN article ranked Arizona Cardinals fans as the worst in the NFL. Ironically, the team went to the Super Bowl that season.
The problem with Cardinals fans is that everybody in the Phoenix area already had a team when the franchise was instituted in Arizona in 1988. Most of them were Dallas Cowboys fans.
The franchise enjoyed a nice two-year run with Kurt Warner at the helm, but years and years of losing seasons have permanently quieted the Cardinals fan base.
Chargers fans don’t deserve their recent success because they flat out just don’t go to the games, which are frequently blacked out on TV anyway.
A lot of the fans have a reputation for being laid back, which is fine, but that’s not going to score points on a fan ranking system.
In 2007, the Chargers were 32nd in the NFL in attendance. They went to the AFC championship game that season. The year before, they won 14 games and ranked 31st in attendance. That’s pathetic.
A well-researched article from Bleacher Report ranked Carolina Panthers fans as the quietest in the NFL.
They have some die hards, and they do okay in the attendance rankings, but they really aren’t an established enough franchise to rank out of the bottom five.
They have no season ticket waiting list at all. And in a study conducted by the Brand Keys Sports Loyalty Index, Carolina Panthers fans ranked last in loyalty (the ranking compares the intensity with which fans support the home teams versus the corresponding values for the fans of the other teams in the market).
It's rough being a fan of an NFL team that plays in Florida. When the Buccaneers are good, the fans are out wearing their pirate costumes, but when the team isn't winning, there are so many better things to do.
The team ranked last in the NFL in attendance in 2010, despite an exciting season and a surprising 10-6 finish.
Being a Detroit Lions fan is something that takes a lot of patience. Even a lifelong Lions fan hasn't seen results, as the team has won just one postseason game in the last 53 years.
The fans are usually in the bottom 10 in attendance, and their stadium is notorious for being one of the quietest in the NFL.
ESPN had the following to say about Ford Field: "Visit Ford Field in midseason and you feel like you should keep your voice down. That's how quiet it is."
Another Florida team, another poor fan base.
ESPN says that Dolphins fans are mostly "bikinis and midriffs showing off tanned bodies. Problem is, the fans are supposed to enjoy watching what's on the field, not each other."
Dolphins fans have a reputation for being fair-weather fans. The team wins, and their stadium is packed. But the minute the team loses, everybody is off to the beach.
It doesn't help that the Miami Heat take away fans.
Atlanta is a baseball city, not a football city. Even the University of Georgia often draws more fans than the Atlanta Falcons.
The fans are often pretty loud when the team is winning, but the loss of Michael Vick after the 2006 season weakened the fan base.
Matt Ryan is helping to revive the fan base, but the team still ranked 20th in attendance in 2010, despite finishing with the NFC's top record.
Cincinnati always has been a baseball town, and it probably always will be a baseball town. Bengals fans landed at No. 31 in a ranking of the loudest NFL fan bases.
They don’t fare well in attendance either. In 2009, they won the division title for the first time since 2005, yet they ranked 20th in the league in attendance.
Their fans have gained a reputation for being among the biggest band-wagoners, a reputation that is supported by their 29th-place finish in the Brand Keys Sports Loyalty index.
Rams fans really haven't shown themselves since the departure of The Greatest Show on Turf about a decade ago.
New quarterback Sam Bradford has a chance to bring back the fans, but it wasn't in 2010. The team ranked 31st in attendance last year, one step down from the previous season.
Then again, the franchise hasn't been in St. Louis for more than a decade and a half. Give these fans some time.
Texans fans may not be as bad as you think. It's difficult when you have to compete with the Dallas Cowboys, and it's even more difficult when your franchise has been around for less than a decade.
Young players like Arian Foster and Andre Johnson have helped the Texans turn in decent rankings in attendance.
A postseason appearance—something they've never experienced before—could help deepen the fan base.
When the 49ers won five Super Bowls in a 14-season span, everybody came to the games and wore their Joe Montana and Jerry Rice jerseys.
They sold out 259 straight games, which is an incredible amount. But in recent years, there really aren’t a lot of 49ers fans around.
The stadium is one of the worst in the league—and they don’t exactly dominate in attendance.
They've dominated in attendance over the past decade or so, and they were ranked by the Brand Keys Sports Loyalty index as the third most loyal fans in the National Football League.
Their stadium is also notorious for being one of the loudest in the NFL.
But you have to wonder if their fan base would return to its mid-1990s form if Peyton Manning wasn't leading them to 12 wins every season.
They used to have probably the worst fans in the NFL, even coining the term "Aints" during the franchise's porous run in the 1970s.
There were even rumors that the franchise might be moving out of New Orleans.
But then Hurricane Katrina hit, and the fans united like no fan base ever has before. The team led the entire NFL in merchandise sales in 2009, despite never having finished in the top 10.
The Superdome is now one of the loudest, most electrifying stadiums in the NFL.
The Vikings have pretty much an average fan base.
They've been through a lot in their history: four brutal Super Bowl losses, a couple of devastating NFC championship game losses, and—of course—no Super Bowl titles.
The fans are usually around during the team's good seasons, but they can evaporate pretty quickly in an off year. This is a fan base which could explode if the team won the Super Bowl.
The Titans have drawn the third most false starts of opposing defenses since 2005.
They have climbed into the top 10 in attendance in recent years, mostly due to the NFL's most explosive running back, Chris Johnson.
However, their fans were probably spoiled by the Titans' Super Bowl season in 1999, their first season after switching from the Oilers. The franchise hasn't even been in Tennessee for two decades.
This fan base is definitely on the rise.
Before Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, Patriots fans really weren't too outspoken. But now, they're everywhere.
They're annually in the top 10 in the league in attendance and they've sold out Gillette Stadium every year since the stadium opened.
The Brand Keys Sports Loyalty index rated them as the most loyal fan base in the NFL. I just wish I could have seen the ranking in 1995.
Jets fans don't receive a lot of hype.
However, they scored well—placing fifth—on the Brand Keys Sports Loyalty index, and they've sold out every game for the last 30 years.
Maybe it would help their fan base if they had a string of winning seasons or another Super Bowl title.
It's always tough playing in New York, especially when you have to share your stadium with another team.
But ESPN's NFC East blogger Matt Mosley says Giants fans are more passionate than Jets fans.
The team has sold out every home game for over 30 years, and they have a season ticket waiting list of well over 100,000.
The Chiefs have the loudest stadium in the NFL, according to ESPN's NFC East blogger Matt Mosley.
The only problem is bringing fans to watch the team play. They ranked 26th in attendance in 2010, despite winning their first AFC West title in seven years.
Then again, they have the sixth smallest market in the NFL. When the fans do come, they turn the entire stadium red.
ESPN describes the Ravens' fan base as a mixture. "There are some traditional, longtime football fans who rooted for the old Baltimore Colts and really understand the history of the game, and there are the new-age fans who just adopted football full time when the Ravens came to town."
Overall, this franchise hasn't been around long enough to crack the top 10, but it has done very well in attendance recently, despite playing near some of the more popular cities like Philadelphia and New York.
Then again, the team keeps winning, and that always helps.
Raiders fans are an unusual bunch. “Raider Nation” is one of the rowdiest fan bases in the history of the NFL, particularly the Black Hole section of the Oakland Coliseum. Sitting in the Black Hole is not a safe place for an opposing fan.
One lifetime Raider fan, asked to describe “Raider Nation," responded with, “The massive Raider Nation is beyond doubt the sleaziest, rudest and most sinister mob of thugs and wackos ever assembled.” Raiders fans dress up in ridiculous costumes for all of their home games.
ESPN described them as “maybe the most fun group of fans in the entire league.”
But lately, they have ranked near the very bottom in attendance, which is largely due to the string of losing seasons (broken by an 8-8 mark in 2010). They were also ranked 28th by the Brand Keys Sports Loyalty index.
The Denver Broncos fan base has a deep, strong tradition.
They have sold out over 300 consecutive home games, and they usually rank high in attendance.
They also have one of the wackiest forms of celebration—every time the opposing quarterback throws an incomplete pass, they stand up and scream, "IN-COM-PLETE!" at the top of their lungs.
Give these fans credit. They still support their team, even though they have suffered through four consecutive Super Bowl losses, the Music City Miracle and zero Super Bowl wins in their history.
Give the fans more credit for showing up, considering the Bills' home-field situation—they are the only NFL team to have two home sites, one in New York, and the other in Canada.
Bills' fans are famous for their tailgating, with parties frequently lasting the entire weekend leading up to a game, even in weather as cold as -10 degrees.
They have sold out 343 consecutive games, dating back to the 1960s. This is the longest streak in the entire NFL.
They also have a season-ticket waiting list of 200,000, which is the largest waiting list in the NFL. Their fans were voted the 10th most loyal fans in the National Football League.
Their stadium is located 45 minutes away from anything resembling civilization, but fans still flock to the stadium.
Their patience is well known and admired throughout the NFL, which has come in handy with the recent string of head coaches.
The reference “America's Team” may be debatable, but the Cowboys are the definition of a love 'em or hate 'em team.
The Cowboys have fans in every city across the United States, and no conversation with a Cowboys fan is complete without the phrases “five rings,” and “America's Team.”
The Dallas Cowboys' star has become a thing of legends and has helped the Cowboys dominate in merchandise sales and attendance over the last 30 years.
The only knocks against Cowboys' fans are as follows:
Many are bandwagon jumpers from the dynasty in the early 90s who have now transformed into "die hards."
Texas Stadium was a joke. Matt Mosley of ESPN called Texas Stadium “one of the safest places in the league to wear an opposing jersey.”
The Bears have sold out every home game for almost 30 seasons, despite some interesting weather conditions (rain, sleet, snow, hail).
They have one of the oldest and most established fan bases in the league, despite winning just one Super Bowl in their history.
They usually rank in the top 10, even top five, in attendance.
Browns fans are pretty awesome for two reasons: 1) they support their team despite years and years of losing seasons, and 2) they support their team despite losing their franchise from 1995 to 1999.
ESPN ranked them third on its list of the best fan bases, citing the Dawg Pound as the biggest reason.
However, Browns fans were ranked 31st in the Brand Keys Sports Loyalty index. They haven't exactly done well in attendance recently. Then again, who wants to pay to see this team play?
The wild-card playoff win against the New Orleans Saints—particularly the 67-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch to clinch the victory—was perhaps the highlight of the franchise's history. It was the moment that the rest of the football world realized how truly passionate these fans are.
They have never experienced a Super Bowl win, but they are probably the loudest and most intense group of fans in the National Football League. They have redefined the term "12th Man."
For some reason, however, they never top any list of the best fans in the league. ESPN ranked them 20th in its ranking before the 2008 season—and then, in the introduction of the article, apologized for ranking them so low.
Eagles fans are probably the most criticized fans in the league, and there's no denying that they sometimes cross the line. The jail in Veterans Stadium was ridiculous, and the snowball throwing has gotten out of hand. And they bully other fans, too.
ESPN's NFC East blogger Matt Mosley called Philadelphia "the last place to wear an opposing jersey."
But in reality, their bullying and toughness is pure passion. "You could drop a Martian into Philly the day after a game, and within three minutes, he'd know if the Eagles had won or lost," said Glen Macnow, a sports radio talk show host. "When they win, you'll meet the friendliest cab drivers, CPAs and newspaper sellers. Whey they lose, it's like a five-day hangover."
The Eagles are the only NFL team to rank in the top five in attendance each of the past five years. They're always near the top of the list in merchandise sales, and they travel as well as any group of fans in the league.
ESPN rates Steelers fans as the best fan base in the National Football League. I have them just behind the team that beat them in this year's Super Bowl.
They've sold out every game for about 40 years, and the season ticket waiting list is over six years long. The Terrible Towel was rated as the best known fan symbol for any major professional sports team. Their fans travel as well as any team in the NFL and, in 2007, they were rated as the most popular sports franchise (of the big four sports).
They ranked second in the Brand Keys Sports Loyalty index. In Pittsburgh, the Steelers are everything. They don't have a basketball team, the Pirates are ignored, and the Penguins are a distant second.
The only issue I have with Steeler Nation is that they don't do quite as well in attendance as you might expect, and they've never truly been challenged as a fan base. Let's see their fans after they suffer through 10 straight losing seasons.
Green Bay Packers fans are incredible. Absolutely incredible. The Packers play in easily the smallest market in the NFL, yet the fans have sold out every home game since 1960. In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Brewers are nothing. There is no other team. It’s all about the Green Bay Packers. Think about the cheeseheads. The Lambeau Leap. The Lombardi Trophy. Titletown.
They are the second oldest NFL franchise and are the last of the small-town teams left from the 1920s. When you think of Green Bay and its fans, you think of the heart and soul of the game of football.
Its fans even own the team, making the Green Bay Packers the only non-profit, community-owned major league professional sports team in the country. The traditions in Green Bay are incredible; most of them involve players interacting with the fans, such as the bicycle riding tradition done every training camp.
Before the 2008 season, Green Bay Packers fans finished second in ESPN’s ranking of the 32 NFL fan bases. They finished fourth in the Brand Keys Sports Loyalty index ranking. They’re usually at the top of the charts in attendance and merchandise sales. And they’ve been incredibly loyal, despite a 26-year period between Bart Starr and Brett Favre in which the team qualified for the postseason just twice.