Football to Football: All 32 NFL Teams and Their World Football Counterparts
As a true football fan, I have come to embrace both the football predominately played at home in the United States and the variety played throughout the rest of the world.
Reigning as the most popular sport in nearly every nation (including Australia where Aussie Rules Football is king), football is more than just a name. Rather, it is a title reserved for only the most wildly compelling sport played in a given nation.
With that said, I thought it would be interesting to match all 32 National Football League (NFL) teams with an ideal World Football counterpart. While some of these matches won't be perfect comparisons, I think you'll still find this presentation quite entertaining.
As always, please share your thoughts!
Arizona Cardinals: Blackburn Rovers
An otherwise obscure franchise, Blackburn rose to international prominence upon unexpectedly winning the 1995 English Premier League (EPL) Title. To date, they are the only team other than Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea to hoist the coveted trophy.
A similarly obscure team, the Arizona Cardinals drew national attention for the first (and probably only) time in team history when veteran quarterback Kurt Warner led the mediocre Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII.
While they would lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the waning moments of the game, the 2008 Cardinals remain one of the most remarkable one-year wonder teams in World Football history.
Atlanta Falcons: Tottenham Hotspur
Both teams have a slew of exceptionally talented offensive players.
Both teams have exceptionally talented coaches.
Both teams compete at the highest possible level in their sport.
However, both teams have disappointingly failed to break into the elite ranks of their respective leagues.
Despite losing as many games in their first seven games this season (three) as they lost all of last season, coach Mike Smith will still probably maneuver his team into position to steal a wild-card playoff spot.
Similarly, Spurs' manager Harry Redknapp will probably guide his squad past Liverpool and Newcastle and into the final English Premier League (EPL) Champions League spot.
Yet, these accomplishments will ultimately feel hollow for fans as they will undoubtedly once again fall far short of winning a championship
Baltimore Ravens: Stoke City
Consider yourself lucky if you manage to walk away from a game against either of these hard-tackling teams with all of your limbs intact. Just ask Arsenal teenager Aaron Ramsey who happened to be on the wrong end of a crunching tackle from Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross or any of Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis' unfortunate victims (both on and off of the field).
Employing a similarly physical approach in attack, players on these teams don't want to simply score. Rather, they want to run over you and then score.
Buffalo Bills: Leeds United
If the NFL had a relegation system, the Buffalo Bills would surely be playing non-conference football. Still the only team to play in four consecutive Super Bowls, the Bills' horrendous demise over the past 20 years represents one of the saddest stories in sports history.
Fortunately, misery loves company, and current nPower Championship side Leeds United has a similarly embarrassing history. After advancing to the semifinals of the 2001 Champions League, a remarkable feat for an English team at the time, Leeds began a decade-long descent which would land them in League 1.
Nevertheless, both clubs have improved recently.
Despite being coached by the loathsome Chan Gailey (above) and quarterbacked by former Harvard signal-caller Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills are off to a very impressive 4-2 start this season and might actually make the playoffs.
In addition to defeating former archrival Manchester United in a 2009 FA Cup tie, Leeds has moved back into the Championship and has a decent shot of earning promotion back to the Premiership.
Carolina Panthers: Shakhtar Donetsk
Largely unheralded teams, both squads occasionally surprise unsuspecting opponents with utterly dominant performances.
Still not even included as a playable team in the EA Sports' FIFA Soccer series, Shakhtar emerged from obscurity to upset Arsenal before felling AS Roma twice in the Round of 16. Had they not met Barcelona's "masterclass" in the quarterfinals, the Brazilian-inspired Ukrainian side probably would have sneaked into the tournament's semifinals.
Perhaps, better known than their Ukrainian counterpart, the Panthers and nobody quarterback Jake Delhomme grabbed the national spotlight by unseating traditional NFC South traditional power Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003 and advancing to Super Bowl XXXVIII.
With 2010 Heisman winner and rookie quarterback Cam Newton proving to be one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, the Panthers may very well get another shot to take down the NFL's Barcelona.
Chicago Bears: Everton
As a Chicago native and closet Everton supporter, it pains me to write that both these teams are hopelessly doomed to endure an existence of perpetual mediocrity.
While the Bear's Lovie Smith and Everton's David Moyes regularly appear the most concerned coaches in their respective leagues, their failure stems from a simple misunderstanding of an age old strategic adage: the best defense is a good offense. In other words, if you are attacking constantly, you force your opponent to react to your moves and thus prevent him from creating his own moves.
Conversely, Smith and Moyes seem to operate under the assumption that the best offense is a good defense.
While both clubs have phenomenal defenders who have a surreal ability to convert a defensive stand into a scoring opportunity, both teams lack the consistent firepower to dictate the pace of play.
Under constant stress, the defense inevitably collapses.
Nevertheless, the fact that these clubs have continued to win more often than not is a testament that negative football, at least in some circumstances, still works.
Cincinnatti Bengals: Schalke 04
If you looked up "dysfunctional" in the dictionary, you'd probably find a collage of mugshots of Cincinnatti Bengals' players arrested over the past 10 years. A haven for loudmouths and bad guys under head coach Marvin Lewis, the Bengals became so ridiculous that star quarterback Carson Palmer indicated he would rather retire than play one more year in Cincy.
While no teams could match the Bengals, Schalke 04 at least provides respectable competition.
Despite impressively guiding the Bundesliga side to the quarterfinals of the 2010-2011 Champions League Final, former manager Felix Magath received the boot midseason. Apparently likened to Sadaam Hussein by his players, Magath was so hated that winger Jefferson Farfan remarked, "I would rather have shifted earth and stones back there [his home country of Peru] than play under Magath."
How he managed to attract so much hate from his players despite leading them to unprecedented success is surely one of the greatest dysfunctional accomplishments in recent history.
Cleveland Browns: United States Men's National Team (USMNT)
I can imagine that supporting the Cleveland Browns must be quite similar to rooting for the USMNT.
Both teams have decently skilled and highly-industrious players who dutifully fulfill their assigned roles. Unfortunately, their efforts are ultimately in vain as they lack the skill to consistently overcome top opposition.
While they may occasionally have a good game or season/tournament, we all know that neither of these teams will win a championship anytime soon.
Dallas Cowboys: Bayern Munich
Contrary to what the title "America's Team" might suggest, most Americans hate the Cowboys and celebrate "star" quarterback Tony Romo's ever increasing number of mistakes.
Similarly, most Germans hate Bayern Munich, the flagship team of the Bundesliga, as they perceive the singular mindset of Bayern's top players as utterly un-German.
Unfortunately, neither team is short on cash, and both will continue investing until building a championship-caliber squad.
Denver Broncos: Liverpool
Denver Broncos and Liverpool fans surely realize that the reminiscing about past championships is surely better than thinking about the harsh realities of the present.
The Broncos have never looked threatening since John Elway retired after winning the 1998 Super Bowl, and while Liverpool has captured 18 League Championships, the Merseysiders have amazingly never won an EPL title.
While both clubs have improved under new leadership, Denver will struggle mightily to qualify for the playoffs while Liverpool will need to improve greatly in order to steal the fourth Champions League spot from Newcastle and Tottenham.
The clubs' fortunes could eventually change, but I suspect neither team will return to their dominant ways for a very long time.
Detroit Lions: Birmingham City
Generally far worse than most of their competitors, the Detroit Lions hit a new in low in 2008 when they became the finish NFL franchise to finish the season with a "perfect" 0-16 record.
Birmingham had a similarly tumultuous 2010-2011 season where the Blues finished in the relegation zone, manager Alex McLeish quit to join city rivals Aston Villa, and club president Carson Yeung was arrested for money laundering.
Nevertheless, the future looks unusually bright for both teams.
Finally finding some decent players in cannon-armed quarterback Matthew Stafford, ball-hawking receiver Calvin Johnson and cold-hearted sack artist Ndamukong Suh, Detroit is off to a 5-2 start.
Somehow, having managed to win the Carling Cup in the same season as last year's relegation, the Blues qualified for the Europa League where they are currently top of their group after three games.
In my evaluation, the only game more promising than a Lions vs. Bills Super Bowl would be a Europa League Final featuring Birmingham City and Stoke City.
Green Bay Packers: Seattle Sounders
America's only true football (soccer) town, Seattle has wholeheartedly embraced the Sounders since they became an MLS franchise in 2007. Often capable of filling CenturyLink Field with over 40,000 fans, the Sounders are laying the groundwork to become the MLS' first nationally recognized and most popular soccer franchise.
Perhaps following Vince Lombardi's path to establishing the small time Green Bay Packers as the most prestigious NFL franchise, Sigi Schmid might eventually have the MLS championship trophy named after him.
Houston Texans: FC Porto
Unfortunate enough to play in the AFC South during Peyton Manning's reign of dominance with the Indianapolis Colts, the Houston Texans have struggled to establish themselves as a respected NFL franchise.
Despite winning the 2004 Champions League, Porto has similarly struggled to establish themselves as respected international power. Playing in the second-rate Portuguese Primeira Liga, the Dragons would surely earn greater recognition if they played in La Liga.
Nevertheless, these clubs continue to perform well and should eventually earn proper recognition.
Indianapolis Colts: Arsenal
So good for so long, the Indianapolis Colts and Arsenal are suddenly struggling after losing their most influential players.
Finally (and inevitably) losing skipper and chief playmaker Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona, Arsenal has struggled to both maintain possession and score goals. With club chief executive Ivan Gazidis already explaining that the club can survive without Champions League football, it seems that the Gunners are preparing to miss the Champions League for the first time in recent memory.
While Indy has not lost star quarterback Peyton Manning permanently, the 35-year-old has been sidelined indefinitely while recovering from a neck injury. As a result, the Colts have lost the opening six games of the season and seem certain to relinquish the AFC South Division title and miss the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.
Things can only get better for both teams, but will either side ever return to their former level of greatness?
Jacksonville Jaguars: Galatarsaray
About obscure as an NFL franchise can be, the Jags are essentially a menagerie of misfits who migrated south to northern Florida. Though they rarely make the playoffs, they collect a decent number of wins every season and occasionally surprise a top NFL team.
Much like their American counterpart, Galatarsaray generally goes unnoticed. Yet, every once in a while, the Turkish side sneaks into Champions League or Europa League and actually wins some important matches.
Not much to talk about, but I had to include them.
Kansas City Chiefs: Wigan Athletic
Both rather boring franchises located in rather boring towns, the Kansas City Chiefs and Wigan Athletic are perfect for each other.
To be honest, I don't really have much to say other than it would be incredibly entertaining to watch the Chiefs fight to avoid relegation every season...
Miami Dolphins: Santos
Watching the Miami Dolphins compete against other NFL teams makes me imagine what it must be like for a South American team to compete against a major European team. Generally overmatched, the Dolphins continuously toil away hoping that they can move maneuver their talented skill position players into an area where they can impact the game.
In recent years, they have usually failed.
I guess we'll see how Santos handles the challenge when they presumably face off against Barcelona in the Club World Cup later this year.
Minnesota Vikings: England National Football Team
Vikings fans must be disappointed to never have won a Super Bowl. With the 1997-1998 Vikings proving to be one of the best teams in NFL history and the 2008-2009 squad boasting legendary quarterback Brett Favre and bulldozing running back Adrian Peterson among other stars, the Vikings should have at least appeared in two recent Super Bowls.
However, Vikings fans can't possibly be nearly as disillusioned as England supporters. Continuously expecting the supremely talented individual players to coalesce into a cohesive unit, they are perpetually disappointed. Unable to even qualify for the 2008 European Championship, the 2010 England World Cup squad promised to redeem themselves with a decent showing.
Predictably, they failed.
Fortunately, next time is never too far away.
New England Patriots: Barcelona
The most feared NFL team, the New England Patriots' offense ruthlessly and systematically eviscerates all opposing defenses. With quarterback Tom Brady playing the role of Xavi and Wes Welker an equally diminutive yet incisive Lionel Messi, the Pats are generally unstoppable.
As is the case with their Catalan counterpart, losses are few and far between.
New Orleans Saints: Ajax Amsterdam
Covering every inch of the pitch with his precision passing, Drew "Breesus" Brees has essentially installed an American version of total football into the New Orleans offense. Perhaps more personable than Johann Cryuff, Brees' leadership brought the Vince Lombardi trophy to a franchise once known as the New Orleans 'Ain'ts.
New York Giants: Atlético Madrid
Consistently above average but never quite dominant, both franchises are stuck competing against a neighboring rival to capture fans' attention. Despite their inability to consistently break into the ranks of their league's elite, occasional glimpses of brilliance have made these teams worth following.
Specifically, Atlético's stunning 2009 Europa League victory is as fresh in my memory as the Giants' 2007 Super Bowl upset victory over the heavily favored and previously undefeated New England Patriots.
New York Jets: Real Madrid
The city rivals alluded to in the previous slide, the New York Jets and Real Madrid share an outspoken coach, a relentless commitment to defense and bottomless coffers of cash among other things.
Included in the "other things" category is a slew of disgruntled players with an apparent reluctance to winning major championships.
Unfortunately, these equally hated teams seem destined to return to winning championships sooner rather than later.
Oakland Raiders: West Ham United
With former Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell rivaled only by former West Ham attacker Dean Ashton as the biggest waste of money in sports history, it is only fitting that these two historically misguided teams are paired together.
If NFL-relegated teams, Oakland would surely be playing non-conference football alongside the Buffalo Bills.
Nonetheless, fans continue to draw on their clubs' rich histories as justification for a better future.
I wouldn't count on it.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Manchester United
Eternal football powers born into industrial cities, Manchester United and Pittsburgh are the most successful teams in their respective leagues. Regardless of how many great players eventually leave these immortal clubs, they always have an eager replacement both willing and capable of filling the void.
As a result, the Pittsburgh Steelers' six Super Bowl victories are good for the most in NFL history and Manchester United's now 19 league championships put them one ahead of arch rival Liverpool.
While the occasional rough patch in the path to greatness is inevitable, look for these teams to continue contending vigorously for championships for as long as the sport exists.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Dutch National Team
Despite always fielding squads loaded with offensive talent (albeit usually injured talent), the Eagles and the Dutch National team somehow manage to never win important Championships.
For instance, the Eagles have qualified for the playoffs nine times since 2000 but somehow managed to advance to only a single Super Bowl. After strengthening the current squad with the best players money could buy, Philly was supposed to break through this season. After a 2-4 start, they will struggle just to make the playoffs.
Similarly, Clockwork Orange has now featured in three World Cup Finals and failed to win each attempt. Following their loss to Spain in the 2010 Final, Holland has become the only major football power to never win a World Cup.
San Diego Chargers: Valencia
Both talented teams which consistently perform near the top of their respective leagues, neither club has the quality to surge into the ranks of the elite.
However, as long as San Diego continues making the playoffs, Valencia continues qualifying for the Champions League, who knows what could happen?
San Francisco 49ers: Juventus
The Niners and the Old Lady are two historic clubs which have suffered from a poor run of form in recent seasons. San Fran hasn't won a Super Bowl since 1994 and Juve last won the Champions League in 1996.
However, with both clubs streamlining their rosters and making some positive organizational changes,they have improved dramatically. The 49ers are off to a cool 5-1 start while the Turin side sit second in the Serie A table.
I don't suspect it will be long before both teams return to prominence.
Seattle Seahawks: Olympique Lyonnais
A regional power of sorts in the anemic NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks are usually well-regarded by their division rivals. However, they rarely show well outside of their division. Similarly, Lyonnais are very highly regarded within Ligue 1 but simply cannot compete against the mightier opponents they face in Champions League.
St. Louis Rams: Blackpool
Historically happy to attack and reluctant to defend, the St. Louis Rams remind me of former attack-heavy EPL minnows Blackpool. While both teams have surprised opponents with their remarkably direct approach, their inability to defend has prevented them from sustaining any success.
Anyway, they're still quite entertaining to watch.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Borussia Dortmund
Reinvigorating themselves with a slew of young, talented players, both clubs far exceeded expectations last season. The Bucs finished with a very impressive 10-6 record while Dortmund went on to stunningly capture their first Bundesliga title in nearly a decade.
However, with significantly greater expectations this season, both teams have struggled to adjust. Dortmund currently sits second in the Bundesliga table but is last in their Champion's League group after three games. While the Bucs have collected nice victories over division rivals New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons, an embarrassing 48-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers suggests the team is not yet an elite power.
Tennessee Titans: Villareal
Predictably unpredictable, Villareal and the Tennessee Titans can be surprisingly good or painfully mediocre. Neither team will win a championship anytime soon, but they win just frequently enough to keep fans thinking such a feat is possible.
Cruel, I know.
Washington Redskins: Manchester City
NFL teams traditionally build their teams by selecting players in the annual draft.
Professional soccer teams traditionally fill their ranks by promoting top talent from their youth teams.
Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and Manchester City owner Sheik Mansour are repulsed by such methods. Instead, they would prefer to feed their endless supply of cash into risky investments such as Albert Haynesworth and Carlos Tévez.
While Manchester City seems poised to challenge Barcelona for global football dominance, the Redskins are currently focused on challenging Philadelphia for third place in the division. Nevertheless, Washington has improved over the past couple of seasons and they just might make the play-offs in five years time.