NFL's Greatest Franchise Rankings: Fans

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 6, 2016

NFL's Greatest Franchise Rankings: Fans

0 of 32

    Associated Press

    The core of the NFL, of all teams, is the fanbase.  

    Crazy fans, sane fans, dedicated fans, casual ones—they all count.

    This is part of a special series where we will be counting down the NFL's greatest franchises by a set of criteria (success, fans, star power and future).

    In the first part, we named the Green Bay Packers as the most successful NFL franchise of all time. In this version, I rank each team's NFL fanbase.

    The score is on a scale from 0 to 100 and will be added to the scores of the other parts of the series for the final team rankings.

    One important note: The scores may seem arbitrary, but they aren't. I've covered games at every NFL stadium, going back 25 years. I've been to every NFL training camp and team complex, as well as every Super Bowl (minus one or two) going back to the early 1990s.

    I've interacted with fans in stadium parking lots, social media, letters, malls, restaurants, upper decks, lower decks...everywhere. So nothing in these rankings is arbitrary. They come from decades of interacting with fans and the teams they support.

    Enjoy the ranking, and if your team is lower than you expected, well, there's always next year.

    All attendance figures are from 2015 and courtesy of ESPN.com.

32. Los Angeles Rams

1 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance (2015): No team (the Rams were in St. Louis)

    Twitter followers: 427,000-plus

    The low ranking here is in part because we don’t quite know how fans will react to the team being back in Los Angeles. In the short term, there will be excitement. People will pack the stadium.

    But we’ve seen in the past how Los Angeles fans often abandon the team in the long term. Questionable fan loyalty was one of several reasons why franchises have moved in and out of Los Angeles and why it took so long for the NFL to move back there. 

    "Rams fans have always been loyal, even though they haven't always had the best product on the field." —Eric Dickerson to me in 2013

    Total Points: 20/100

31. Atlanta Falcons

2 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 70,355

    Twitter followers: 900,000-plus

    Falcons fans always get angry at the image of them as lousy supporters, but in reality, they kind of are. There’s a reason why the team was punished for pumping in fake crowd noise.

    This is all subjective and sure to make them angry again, but when I cover Falcons games, fans often arrive late. (They blame the traffic.) Sorry, Falcons fans.

    "You raise the roof first (palms facing the sky), cock your wings (thumbs in armpits) and then start flapping them. We're the dirty birds, man. We're trying to get something going in Atlanta, get some excitement going." —Former Atlanta tight end O.J. Santiago, describing the Dirty Bird dance, per the Los Angeles Times (via the Register-Guard)

    Total Points: 25/100

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

3 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 61,463

    Twitter followers: 374,000-plus

    I lived in Jacksonville, Florida, for several years, and Jaguars fans are knowledgeable and passionate and defend their team like few fanbases do. Trust me: Not many fanbases defend their team with the, um, vigor of Jaguars fans.

    The pure numbers may not show it, but the franchise has become a part of the fabric of the city—maybe not in ways other teams have in other cities but still at a good rate.

    The Jaguars are ranked lower because despite a strong start in the franchise's history, it's been rough for the team recently, to say the least.

    "I remember the tremendous buildup for the first game, the excitement of the fans. I remember the flyover. I remember they had the entire stadium carded. It was magnificent the way it went around. It was all keyed at the right time. It was beautiful. It was a great thing to watch. You could feel the excitement. The fans were incredibly into it, and that's what I remember.'' —Tom Coughlin on his first game as Jaguars coach, per Tom Rock of Newsday

    Total Points: 28/100 

29. Miami Dolphins

4 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 67,193

    Twitter followers: 670,000-plus

    The Dolphins suffer from the fact that Miami is the most overrated sports town in the known universe. Dolphins fans might care. Or might not. It depends on the day and what the weather is like.

    It wasn’t always like that. When the Dolphins were one of the dominant teams of the 1970s, they had massive support from the city and community.

    Now they have a losing franchise and a quarterback in Ryan Tannehill who likely will never be better than average, at best. It wasn't always this way, but now, it's tough being a Dolphins fan.

    "Dolphins fans were always loyal. No matter how bad things might get. The thing I always appreciated about Dolphins fans was how they always recognized the perfect season." —Former head coach Don Shula to me in 2012

    Total Points: 28/100

28. Arizona Cardinals

5 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 64,185

    Twitter followers: 544,000-plus

    The Cardinals have the best-tweeting PR man maybe in all of sports, and his tweets are far more than the usual PR fluff. They are usually substantive and, well, humorous. He’s connected with the fans in a big way. He also provides some of the best statistical data on Cardinals players.

    Admittedly, the Cardinals might deserve a higher ranking, particularly since fans have connected with coach Bruce Arians. 

    "We are truly grateful for the love and support you all showed us this season. We couldn't have made it this far without you." —Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, after last season

    Total Points: 30/100

27. Philadelphia Eagles

6 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 69,483

    Twitter followers: 1.29 million-plus

    So, first, let’s deal with the notorious story of Eagles fans booing Santa Claus. That’s not what really happened. The story is a little more complicated than that, but it’s become almost a symbol of the Eagles fan: nasty, can’t be satisfied, hostile.

    Well, yeah, some of the fans are mean sumbitches. They booed Donovan McNabb into a coma when he was drafted. Some of the nastiest social media keyboard special forces warriors are Eagles fans. That anger, however, does create a tad of home-field intimidation.

    I can’t believe this Wentz, he’s played so well.

    Yeah, but it gets your hopes up. That’s the downside.

    Is this what sports fans have become in Philadelphia? This pessimism?

    All it takes is him getting hurt, and it’s all over.

    I guess all we can really do is just enjoy this moment.

    —Eagles fans discussing quarterback Carson Wentz, as overheard by Sports Illustrated's Ben Baskin

    Total Points: 35/100

26. San Francisco 49ers

7 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 70,799

    Twitter followers: 1.39 million-plus

    The ranking here was hurt by a nice but somewhat pasteurized cookie-cutter stadium, where sometimes the fans act like they’re at home watching the evening news. Then again, the team has been so sorely mismanaged they’ve had little to cheer about.

    Two things I've always noticed about 49ers fans. They are among the most aggressive on social media in every way. They routinely challenge anyone who criticizes their team. This is part of being a fan, I get that, but it's always surprised me how much fans defend the recent moves despite being so bad. 

    Second, at Candlestick Park where the 49ers used to play, you'd walk through the stadium to get down to the field and then to the locker rooms. I was always amazed at the amount of passion I'd see: both good passion and bad passion. There was always intensity but also constant brawls and creative use of foul language. Eagles fans get a bad rap for their language and behavior, but 49ers fans are good with their curses too. 

    "There isn't a more passionate fanbase. It doesn't exist." —Former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana to me in 2015

    Total Points: 36/100

25. San Diego Chargers

8 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 66,772

    Twitter followers: 583,000-plus

    The Chargers have the best team song of all time. On any team. In all of sports. “Sannn Di-ehh-go…super Charrr-gers!”

    Chargers fans are an eclectic, passionate group that has been amazingly passionate despite massive bungling by the front office.

    One of the things that have also happened over the years, fans tell me constantly, is the feeling the franchise has taken them for granted. Some of this was seen in a series of tweets last January by Chargers players after it was announced the team was staying in San Diego.

    Linebacker Melvin Ingram tweeted: “Staying in San Diego 4 another year..Every home game better be sold out..Charger blue everywhere Fans got what they wanted Now come support."

    Wide receiver Keenan Allen tweeted: “So it’s looks like we are going to be in San Diego for another season. The stadium better be packed. The fans got what they wanted. Now let’s see sell outs every home game! And not the other teams colors!”

    Fans understandably didn't take too well to that. One thing about Chargers fans: They're not shy.

    "Chargers fans don't mess around." —Former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson to me in 2014 

    Total Points: 40/100 

24. Minnesota Vikings

9 of 32

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Average attendance: 52,430

    Twitter followers: 709,000-plus

    Another crazy-loud dome. Fans have stuck with Minnesota through four Super Bowl losses and Randy Moss running over meter maids. Then, just recently, came the loss of Teddy Bridgewater for the season.

    I remember hearing from Vikings fans after that horrible NFC title-game loss, the one to the Giants in 2001 when they were heavily favored and lost, 41-0. They swore to never watch another Vikings game again. Of course, they did.

    "Speaking of those fans, I was struck by a big difference between fans today and when I played. Pretty much every single person who came to the game was wearing a jersey. (Thankfully, most of them were Vikings jerseys!) There were even a few wearing jerseys with my name on them! I saw every generation represented, from the beginning of the franchise to today." —Fran Tarkenton for the Pioneer Press, after attending a recent game

    Total Points: 42/100

23. Chicago Bears

10 of 32

    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Average attendance: 62,035

    Twitter followers: 1.18 million-plus

    Chicago has a large social media footprint and uses it well to reach fans. Sometimes, however, I see Packers fans have too big a presence at Bears games. That’s your rival; you can’t allow that.

    You don’t see a large number of Bears fans at Packers games, do you? That’s what I thought.

    Yet there's no mistaking the dedication of these fans to the team. One of the best moments in recent Bears fan history was an obituary written by a Chicago fan in the Chicago Tribune that is a subtle masterpiece:

    Elizabeth Porter Bowman, 78, of Northbrook, Illinois died peacefully January 9, 2016, surrounded by her children. Betsy was an elementary school teacher and later a tutor, but her passion and focus was being a dedicated and involved mother and grandmother.

    She was a woman of loyalty, integrity, opinion, curiosity and intelligence. A lifelong fan of the Cubs, Blackhawks and Bears (except Jay Cutler).

    Total Points: 44/100

22. Indianapolis Colts

11 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 66,047

    Twitter followers: 668,000-plus

    This fanbase was as downtrodden as any in the NFL. But what you’ve seen recently are Colts fans responding to Andrew Luck. That is understandable. He’s, um, good. So Colts fans are energized by Luck and are as optimistic as they’ve been in a long time.

    This stadium is one of the loudest in the sport. It has the advantage of being indoors, sure, but Colts fans are underrated in their passion.

    "When I was drafted by the Colts, Indianapolis was a basketball and car racing town, but it didn't take long for the Colts to convert the city and the state of Indiana into football evangelists." —Peyton Manning at his retirement press conference (via RTV 6)

    Total Points: 50/100

21. Tennessee Titans

12 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 62,304

    Twitter followers: 455,000-plus

    Here is another somewhat underrated fanbase despite the team's lack of success in recent years. One thing is easy to see with Titans fans: They have a connection with quarterback Marcus Mariota. It’s similar to the one I see with Colts fans and Andrew Luck.

    Another thing that fans get to enjoy: one of the prettiest stadiums in all of sports.

    "I really believe that they are the best fans in football. They always treated me with such respect. I loved them." —Former Titans running back Eddie George to me in 2015

    Total Points: 52/100

20. Detroit Lions

13 of 32

    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Average attendance: 61,347

    Twitter followers: 890,000-plus

    This is one of the first groups of fans to perfect the ol’ bag-over-the-head protest. This is actually a positive to me. Lions fans didn’t take their team's suckiness sitting down. This was their protest. Good for them.

    My experience with Lions fans has been an interesting one. When I would go to Lions games, essentially to cover the greatness of Barry Sanders, the fans always seemed to compartmentalize. They knew losing was coming, but Sanders kept them from jumping ship.

    There was some of that more recently with Calvin Johnson. But the losing continued, and many fans still stuck with the team. 

    "It was a wonderful experience to play in the NFL, and I have no regrets. I truly will miss playing for the Lions. I consider the Lions' players, coaches, staff, management and fans my family. I leave on good terms with everyone in the organization." —Barry Sanders in his retirement announcement (via Don Pierson of the Chicago Tribune)

    Total Points: 57/100

19. Cincinnati Bengals

14 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 61,389

    Twitter followers: 597,000-plus

    Bengal fans are another group that has stuck with the team through some of the more horrible years. They’ve also stuck with the team as the Bengals recently floundered in the playoffs. Bengals fans aren’t often viewed as hardcore fans, but the fanbase is as dedicated as any.

    If you've never been to a Bengals game, it's actually an interesting locale. Downtown fills up with fans starting early. This happens in other cities, of course, but you don't expect it from a franchise that has had so many brutal losses and losing seasons.

    One thing about Bengals fans: They've embraced coach Marvin Lewis. He hasn't been great in the playoffs, but fans appreciate that at least he's gotten there.

    What hurts them? In the playoff game against Pittsburgh last year, some Bengals fans threw objects at an injured Ben Roethlisberger as he left the field.

    Thanks "for creating a good environment." —Marvin Lewis on Bengals fans after that Pittsburgh game (via Steelers Wire)

    Total Points: 60/100

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

15 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 61,560

    Twitter followers: 493,000-plus

    They used to be the Yuccaneers. Tampa fans, with a few exceptions, have had little to celebrate recently. Yet one thing I’ve noticed with Bucs fans is something that is actually heartwarming. Fans who were created during the Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden years have stuck with the team.

    If you’re an organization, and a league, this is the kind of organic growth you want.

    "So many fans of the Buccaneers helped support me. I won't forget it." —Former Bucs quarterback Doug Williams to me in 2016 

    Total Points: 61/100

17. New England Patriots

16 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 66,829

    Twitter followers: 2.61 million-plus

    These are fans who, after all, drive to the middle of nowhere to watch the Patriots. They defend their team against constant accusations that they cheat. Patriots fans also can be the greatest of keyboard warriors in defending the franchise.

    It’s also been easy for them to be fans lately.

    But their level of dedication is strong. Patriots fans have also transformed. When I covered the team in the early 1990s, fans got to the game through a single-lane road, packed for hours before and after. They were the angriest fans in sports. They used to freeze batteries inside snowballs in their freezer overnight and throw them at Patriots players, writers and almost anyone who was standing on the sideline. I got hit with one of those snowballs once, and it was worse than a punch.

    It's far different now. It's a safer environment for fans (although the traffic is still crazy), and they still tailgate when those winters get nasty.

    "I'm pretty sure Bill Belichick is so great a coach that he could start a Stormtrooper at QB and get him to his receivers all night." —Patriots fan on Twitter (h/t Matt Dolloff of CBS Boston)

    Total Points: 63/100

16. Dallas Cowboys

17 of 32

    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Average attendance: 91,459

    Twitter followers: 1.96 million-plus

    The Cowboys could easily be No. 1 based on the sheer numbers. They have a massive following and a palace for a football field. There's just one problem: No fanbase has more front-runners. Cowboys fans are the biggest front-runners in the sport. It's not even close.

    They go to be seen, not to enjoy football.

    Don't believe me? Ask one of the greatest Cowboys of all time, Troy Aikman, who said in 2012, per SportsDay:

    I don’t think Dallas has ever really had a great home field advantage. What I’ve heard is that, 'Wow, they really lost home field advantage when they left Texas Stadium.' Texas Stadium really wasn’t that different. Having played playoff games in Texas Stadium, that stadium was rocking, it was great. ... But when we would play in Philadelphia, New York and walk out of the tunnel, I would have to be yelling at the top of my lungs for guys to hear me. And you get on the plane for the flight home and your head would be pounding, you wouldn’t have a voice, and that’s just the way that it was. There was no way you could go down there near the goal line and use hard count in an opposing stadium. And yet in Texas Stadium, teams did it all the time.

    When Dallas wins, the fans are great. But many teams' fans stay loyal—and loud—even when they lose.

    Total Points: 64/100

15. New York Jets

18 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 78,160

    Twitter followers: 1.01 million-plus

    Jets fans are another group that has respect for the team’s history. That’s the Joe Namath factor. They are also the loudest and most obnoxious fanbase ever. Sometimes, that’s good. Sometimes, not so much.

    One of the wilder stadium experiences I've ever encountered was at a Jets game. On a week off, I went to a game, and it was insane: argument in the stands, language fit for a trucker, and a youngish-looking kid giving the opposing team the finger.

    That's the bad part. The good part is this is another fanbase that hasn't been well-served by the franchise and still sticks by the team. 

    "I would like to thank every coach, every teammate and every fan that has shown me support throughout my career. I sincerely thank you all from the bottom of my heart." —Former Jets tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson in his retirement letter (via the team's official website)

    Total Points: 67/100

14. Houston Texans

19 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 71,769

    Twitter followers: 1.08 million-plus

    One of the core pieces of being a great fan is following the team despite the losing. That’s what makes Texans fans good ones.

    Also, similar to those of the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, the Texans players bond with the fans. This is especially true of J.J. Watt.

    "You are the best fans in the world, and I promise to continue to do everything in my power to make you proud." —J.J. Watt on Twitter in 2016 (h/t Cameron DaSilva of Fox Sports)

    Total Points: 70/100

13. Carolina Panthers

20 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 74,056

    Twitter followers: 1.82 million-plus

    Carolina has, by far, the most engaging, funny and smartest social media presence in all of sports. The Panthers’ Twitter account is the best in the NFL—and maybe the entirety of sports. Fans love it, and it helps them feel a connection to the team.

    The Panthers’ fanbase is the most underrated in the NFL. Loud, opinionated and smart. One day, these fans could easily in the top three or four.

    What has always been noticeable about Panthers fans is how they've backed Cam Newton through thick and thin.

    "This season has been an incredible journey and I want to thank PANTHERNAT1ON and all of the fans that iNSP1RED us to great achievements. iAMnotPERFECT and I will make mistakes but I will continue to work on improving each day trying toPERFECTallMYimPERFECT1ON. Pursuing greatness is my commitment, and I will continue to be TRU to myself, to my FAM1LY and to making all of YOU who follow me PROUD! iW1LL W1N... MY WAY... and hope to iNSP1REuALLtoW1N.... urWAY! -1OVE#dontBEaPUPPET #stayTRUtoU #iWmW" —Cam Newton in Instagram post to Panthers fans after Super Bowl 50 loss (h/t Luke Kerr-Dineen of USA Today)

    Total Points: 72/100 

12. Buffalo Bills

21 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 69,880

    Twitter followers: 594,000-plus

    This fanbase has come across hard times recently as the team has struggled. But the attendance has still been fairly solid.

    I covered all of the Bills’ Super Bowl runs, and I have never seen a home-field advantage like the Bills had. I know there are longer home winning streaks. I’m not talking about that. I mean, they had an edge just in terms of loudness and energy. That alone helps with this ranking.

    "No one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills." —ESPN's Chris Berman

    Total Points: 75/100

11. New York Giants

22 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 79,001

    Twitter followers: 1.18 million-plus

    Here is another team that has massive numbers. It's a mostly dedicated fanbase. There are two reasons why the ranking is slightly low. First, the New York area has a massive number of people to draw from.

    Second, I’ve covered many late-season Giants games when they were out of contention, and fans stayed home in large numbers. I'm not saying that doesn’t happen anywhere else, but I saw it more in New York than with almost any other team I’ve been around.

    The organization, however, has long treated its fans well. The team is good to its fans but also doesn't tolerate the bad ones. I remember a game in the mid-1990s when a fan threw an ice-covered snowball from the upper deck that hit a trainer for the Chargers in the head and knocked him unconscious. The Giants tracked the thrower down and banned him from games.

    "We love our fans, but mostly, we really respect our fans." —Late Giants owner Wellington Mara to me in 1994

    Total Points: 80/100

10. Washington Football Team

23 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 76,209

    Twitter followers: 784,000-plus

    The fans of this team remain loyal despite ownership mostly serving them poorly for the past decade-plus. Fans still pay those exorbitant ticket prices and the overpriced parking in the middle of nowhere while the product has been terrible.

    They might also be some of the best users of technology to express their anger with dissenters (Washington and Seattle fans are the best at this). Few fanbases flame a message board like Washington fans. They can be the rudest and nastiest fans in all of sports.

    There's no question, though, that they have dedication and passion. This is why they are ranked so high despite their rudeness.

    I was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Maryland, and some of my best friends are fans of the team. Family, too. Trust me: I know them.

    One thing with this franchise is its former players stay in touch with fans. A number of them, such as Brian Mitchell, aren't just partisan auto-backers. Mitchell is a truth-teller who will praise the team or criticize it. He'll also take on the team's fans.

    "Most [Washington] fans are the nastiest I've met and the most ridiculous in the way they act. They couldn't get any ruder." —Former player Albert Haynesworth told TMZ in 2016 (h/t Ryan Wilson of CBSSports.com)

    Total Points: 81/100

9. Baltimore Ravens

24 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 71,002

    Twitter followers: 892,000-plus

    Baltimore fans get to enjoy maybe the most gorgeous stadium in the league and usually fill it up even when the team isn’t winning. The Ravens also have one of the best fan outreaches of any team in the NFL.

    Many Baltimorons and Marylanders (I’m an honorary member of the first group and actual one of the second) feel a strong connection to the Ravens, even if they lose. I’ve always felt there is a bit of psychology involved with Ravens fans (if psychology is the right word). Marylanders have always felt a sense of guilt over stealing the Ravens from Cleveland, so they're going to enjoy this team as much as possible and never take it for granted.

    OK, pop psychology lesson over.

    Lastly, if I had to pick the nicest fanbase, it would be this one. At least, most of the time.

    "Thanks Ray...the pride of Baltimore." —A fan's sign at Ray Lewis' final game (h/t USA Today)

    Total Points: 83/100

8. Kansas City Chiefs

25 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 74,086

    Twitter followers: 679,000-plus

    Here is yet another franchise that could be ranked higher. The fans are dedicated and loud and tend to show up even when the team is terrible. And like a few other cities, they fill the stadium despite not having the largest of city populations to draw from.

    There are also only a few teams that have a better tailgating experience than Kansas City's. I've tailgated with fans there. The barbecue ribs...oh, the barbecue ribs.

    There's no quote on this slide because this video of Chiefs fans giving Dick Vermeil a standing ovation for his last game as Chiefs coach says it all.

    Total Points: 84/100

7. Denver Broncos

26 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 76,922

    Twitter followers: 1.89 million-plus

    You go to Broncos games, and when fans get going there, parts of the stadium shake. The press box slightly sways back and forth. The Broncos have a vocal, powerful group of fans, who, like Raiders fans, care a great deal about the past.

    I've covered many Broncos games, and the fans always struck me as one of maybe two or three fanbases that get the sport the most. They get the X's and O's. They get the players. They get the coaches. They even understand the media's role. They get it all.

    One last thing: John Elway embraces fans like few team executives in the sport do. This also helps keep that connection between the franchise and fans strong. One last thing on Elway—which is part of the fan connectionhe knows how to use social media. 

    ...As players, our ultimate goal is to win games but it shouldn’t be forgotten that we’re in the entertainment business. When we know that a community gets enjoyment from watching what we do, it means all the sacrifices we’ve made and all we’ve put into this job has paid off. So to every Denver fan who has taken time out of their day to go to Mile High, to a bar or even streamed one of our games in a place they probably shouldn’t be watching a football game, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

    Former Broncos tight end Julius Thomas for The Players' Tribune

    Total Points: 85/100

6. Oakland Raiders

27 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 54,613

    Twitter followers: 754,000-plus

    These are low attendance numbers, true, and the team night move to Las Vegas, yet in terms of raw passion, Raiders fans are second to almost no one. What is most impressive is how Raiders fans feel a strong tie to the past. They embrace the Raiders of the 1970s the same way they do the Raiders of now.

    In one of my trips covering a game there, I went into the stands and spoke to a small group of fans. We spent 20 minutes talking about the great Raiders teams from the 1970s and 1980s. It was one of the best conversations I ever had about football.

    Raiders fans love NFL history and appreciate the past, and that is something only a few fanbases can claim.

    "I just know that I'll never leave you. Go, Raiders!" —Charles Woodson to the fans (via NFL.com)

    Total Points: 87/100

5. New Orleans Saints

28 of 32

    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

    Average attendance: 73,038

    Twitter followers: 952,000-plus

    Here is another pioneer of the bag-over-the-head movement. Nicely done. However, in all seriousness, the Superdome can get so loud that you can’t hear yourself think. When the Saints get rocking, that place is one of the more intimidating stadiums in football.

    This why Saints fans are ranked so high—Hurricane Katrina. The city was almost destroyed, and the Saints became a rallying cry and helped New Orleans recover. I spent a lot of time in New Orleans in the days after the storm and was amazed at how Saints players such as Drew Brees became an essential part of the recovery story.

    That game when the Superdome reopened, one year after the storm, was dazzling and emotional. It was one of the few sporting events that made me shed tears. 

    "Proudest moment of my entire career was to stand with that team, on that night, in front of that community." —Former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita on Twitter (h/t NOLA.com)

    Total Points: 88/100

4. Seattle Seahawks

29 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 69,020

    Twitter followers: 1.46 million-plus

    Seahawks players are the absolute best at connecting with their fans, who respond in kind. The loudness of the stadium is indeed formidable and insane. But that connection between player and fan is the most impressive aspect.

    One thing to remember: The stadium got so loud in 2013 that it twice set crowd-noise records, and the vibrations from that noise registered as magnitude 1 and 2 earthquakes.

    "Our fans are the best in the world." —Richard Sherman to me in 2015

    Total Points: 89/100

3. Cleveland Browns

30 of 32

    David Richard/Associated Press

    Average attendance: 66,186

    Twitter followers: 713,000-plus

    We have never really seen anything like a Browns fan.

    The team is awful, and the fans are still dedicated. The team can’t find a franchise quarterback, and the fans are still dedicated. The organization, over the past decade-plus, has been one of the biggest losers in sports, and fans still follow.

    It’s amazing to see and a testament to the fanbase.

    "I think Cleveland really would be considered the No. 1 root of fans that have the knowledge of the game and who have the loyalty of sticking with their team through the ups and downs because the history of this city is based upon the people and this is very special. I come back as an old guy and they still remember me and we’re always going to share that championship and I’m always going to speak well of Cleveland." —Jim Brown for the team's website

    Total Points: 90/100

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

31 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average attendance: 64,356

    Twitter followers: 1.42 million-plus

    The Steelers' fans are as dedicated as any fanbase, and again, size matters here. Pittsburgh isn’t the giant metropolis that New York or Los Angeles is, yet the fans still show in large numbers, especially on the road. Every road Steelers game that I’ve ever covered always has huge numbers of Pittsburgh fans. They travel well.

    One of the best scenes in all of sports is the team's training camp. Fans line up along the path that the players walk down to reach the field, and I've yet to see a Steelers player not address fans on the way to practice or after it. Steelers players will sign autographs long after practice. The fans love the players, and the players truly love the fans.

    "First I would like to thank Steeler Nation. How about the support that we had in the building tonight? We get that type of support just about all of the time when we’re on the road, but it doesn’t get old. We really appreciate it. I’d be remiss if I didn’t tip the cap to Steelers Nation first and foremost." —Head coach Mike Tomlin after a 2015 road game in San Diego (via Steelers.com)

    Total Points: 95/100

1. Green Bay Packers

32 of 32

    Associated Press

    Average Attendance: 78,413

    Twitter followers: 1.39 million-plus

    There has never been anything like the relationship between an organization and its fans like the Packers and theirs. The fact the smallest NFL market—Green Bay has approximately 100,000 peopleproduces such nuclear loyalty is one of the best things the NFL has going for it.

    It's hard to name a fanbase higher than Green Bay's when the most famous player-and-fan celebration was born in Green Bay: the Lambeau Leap.

    One thing that is well-known but must be again discussed: the kids riding the players’ bicycles in training camp. That's a sincere gesture that brings the team and fans even closer.

    “There is a connection with the fans here that you can’t get elsewhere, and I played elsewhere."—Brett Favre (via Mike Spofford of Packers.com)

    Total Points: 100/100