Picking a New Favorite NFL Team, Part 1

This offseason, the St. Louis Rams packed up their bags and moved west to the bigger and better market of Los Angeles, California. While this move made sense for the NFL and Rams Owner Stan Kroenke, it left the city of St. Louis and its fans behind. One of our good friends is a St. Louis native and now feels like a free agent in the NFL fandom department. He has no affiliation with L.A. and a reasonable hatred for Kroenke, so he has given up on the Rams. Now he wants to pick a new team to follow and is open to basically any team. This inspired me to write about who he should pick, and maybe, who anyone’s other favorite team should be if their current team is bad, boring, or hopeless.

Here is my list of the best NFL teams to follow as a fan in 2016 based on a mix of objective factors such as odds to win the Super Bowl and team popularity, and on my subjective rankings of fun players, good uniforms, and current fan base quality/amiability. The rankings of each of the five categories were averaged together to decide on the overall rankings. Take that FiveThirtyEight.

  1. Tennessee Titans

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 30

Popularity Rank: 29

Uniform Rank: 28. The white helmets are a bad look. The blue collage of their jerseys does not work too well either. Truth be told I own a Vince Young Titans jersey, but I should have just stuck with his Longhorns jersey for multiple reasons.

Exciting Players Rank: 28. Marcus Mariota is an exciting young QB who can make the Titans watchable this year. He is essentially the only exciting player on the team though. DeMarco Murray? Dorial Green-Beckham? Any member of their defense? Rough sledding.

Fan Base Rank: 14. While not a very popular team, Nashville is a fun town and in my experience their fans are pretty nice and knowledgeable about the game. They too are pretty harmless compared to some other fan bases (hint Eagles).

My Take: I am surprised Tennessee was rated last after my rankings were put together, but numbers don’t lie I guess. If you want to be an NFL hipster and be ahead of the game, Nashville could be the town for you. If you want a fun, winning team to watch, you should pass on the Titans.

  1. Cleveland Browns

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 32

Popularity Rank: 27

Uniform Rank: 32. Not even debatable. These jerseys are absolutely horrendous.

Exciting Players Rank: 32. Even if they had Josh Gordon back, they still would probably rank dead last. RGIII has not been the same since his injuries. Their running backs are laughable and they drafted nearly half a dozen wide receivers in the draft. Their most popular player is their Left Tackle. That says it all.

Fan Base Rank: 2. You can’t hate on Browns fans. They have been loyal for year and years of heartbreak. They even lost their team once! If you have seen Believeland, you know how great their fans can be.

My Take: While this has definitely been the greatest year in Cleveland sports history, do not let the Browns sucker you in. They are the saddest franchise in all of professional sports and are so poorly managed that they show no hope of improving in the near future. They should probably be at the bottom of my list, but you have to respect their fan loyalty.

  1. San Diego Chargers

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 29

Popularity Rank: 30

Uniform Rank: 20. If these were the Powder Blue’s, they might crack the top dozen. Alas, their regular uniforms are pretty boring, and I am not a huge fan of the white helmets.

Exciting Players Rank: 25. There are a few bright spots on this team when fully healthy. Keenan Allen is a great possession wide receiver and Antonio Gates is a legend at Tight End. Philip Rivers is fine I guess, but there is not really anyone on their defense who is fun to watch.

Fan Base Rank: 18. Their team almost moved this offseason, so clearly their fan base is not too strong. Having said that, they are not overly annoying or in your face. They are just plain enough to avoid a bottom ranking.

My Take: While San Diego is one of the best places in the country, their football team has been lacking the past few years. This would be a dangerous pick as a new team, as they might move to LA next season. I would stay away from them for now, and just vacation in San Diego instead.

  1. Los Angeles Rams

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 21

Popularity Rank: 31

Uniform Rank: 27. The Rams blinding color rush jersey might have weighed this ranking too much, but overall the Rams jerseys do not really do it for me. Maybe they will make some changes in the future to incorporate Los Angeles somehow.

Exciting Players Rank: 16. Todd Gurley carried this team into the top half of my exciting players rankings. Gurley gives fans a reason to watch every time he touches the ball. Aaron Donald and the Rams suburb defensive line are another good excuse to watch this team.

Fan Base Rank: 19. This ranking is really for a lack of a fan base. I can not drop them to the bottom because there is nothing to hate about them (currently). I will wait and see how the L.A. football fans act before I judge them one way or another.

My Take: Obviously if you were a Rams fan, this cannot be your pick. If you are a free agent for other reasons, this pick has some appeal since they are basically a new team without an existing fan base. They have some nice young players to watch, but otherwise I would avoid the Rams until you see how they fit into the L.A. sports scene.

  1. Detroit Lions

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 27

Popularity Rank: 20

Uniform Rank: 21. The Lion’s jerseys are okay. I like when they do the alternate black, but the blue ones are decent. Nothing too special here. A small downgrade for their ugly numbers and font.

Exciting Players Rank: 29. The retirement of Calvin Johnson killed their ranking here. Megatron was one of the most exciting players in the league and would have easily kept them in the top 20. Matt Stafford is still good at QB, and Ziggy Ansah is a tremendous defender, but neither are enough to move the needle for Detroit.

Fan Base Rank: 12. Detroit has great fans. They are loyal and proud of their Lions, despite years of ineptitude. If you can survive an 0-16 season, you are good fans in my book.

My Take: A few years ago during Detroit’s renaissance, the Lions would have been a trendy pick. Without Megatron and Ndamukong Suh, the Lions are back to their losing way and you would be smart to avoid them until they prove worthy of your fandom.

  1. San Francisco 49ers

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 31

Popularity Rank: 9

Uniform Rank: 16. While these are definitely classic uniforms, the color scheme is pretty boring and dull. They are pretty middle of the road in my book.

Exciting Players Rank: 31. A few years ago, the 49ers might have been in the top 10 or better in terms of personnel. After the mass exodus of players like Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, Justin Smith, and Chris Borland, the roster is pretty barren outside of personal favorite NaVorro Bowman.

Fan Base Rank: 21. When I picture San Francisco fans, I imagine a bunch of tech bros out in Silicon Valley who were not even around when Montana, Young, and Rice were winning Super Bowls back in the day.

My Take: Oh my how the mighty have fallen. Just a few years ago, I bet the Niners would easily have cracked the top 10 as they appeared headed toward a dynasty. Since the unceremonious firing of Jim Harbaugh and the aforementioned player exodus, San Francisco has sunk faster than Colin Kaepernick’s playing career. Now is not the time to join the Niners wagon.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 28

Popularity Rank: 28

Uniform Rank: 19. Their old uniforms from their early 2000s heyday were some of my favorites. Their new ones got a little too cute if you ask me and the bright orange should just be avoided at all costs.

Exciting Players Rank: 20. The Bucs are definitely on the rise in this category. Jameis Winston is obviously a great young Quarterback to build around on the field, and Mike Evans is one of the most exciting pass catchers in the league.  

Fan Base Rank: 13. While they might not have the best attendance, they do turnout when the team is good. Also, they have a pirate ship in the endzone, which has to give them a bonus.

My Take: Although they are ranked #26, if you want to hitch your fandom to a team on the rise, the Bucs could potentially be for you. They might not win very much, but at least they are trending up.

  1. Miami Dolphins

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 23

Popularity Rank: 17

Uniform Rank: 29. The Fins should have stuck with their old uniforms as well. While the teal is unique, it does not exactly strike fear in opponents. Not a fan of their current threads.

Exciting Players Rank: 27. Not a whole lot to love here. Ryan Tannehill is pretty overrated. Lamar Miller just left for Houston. Their defense is solid with Suh and Cameron Wake, but not enough to give them a huge boost.

Fan Base Rank: 11. Another team that can struggle with attendance, but their fans are mostly harmless otherwise. Ace Ventura and Dan Marino give Dolphin fans some extra points.

My Take: Like San Diego, there are better things to do in Miami than watch the Dolphins. I would pass on them and head to South Beach instead.

  1. New York Jets

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 18

Popularity Rank: 22

Uniform Rank: 18. I know they are a classic, but I never understood the appeal of the Jets jerseys. I feel like they could do a lot better.

Exciting Players Rank: 21. Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, and Eric Decker are pretty good offensive weapons to watch. Their defense is stout up front as well. The big question is who will throw to them. If it ends up being Christian Hackenberg, they might shoot up to #1 in my book.  

Fan Base Rank: 25. I have some friends who are Jets fans. They are nice and genuine people. Having said that, most of the fans are pretty obnoxious. And then you have this guy.

My Take: The little brother to the Giants. If you want to pick a New York/Jersey team, take the G-Men. The Jets will just disappoint you.

  1. Buffalo Bills

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 22

Popularity Rank: 19

Uniform Rank: 30. Why did they change their uniforms? They had good look in the 90s, but now there is just too much blue and again, the while helmets don’t work for me.

Exciting Players Rank: 30. If Sammy Watkins can stay healthy, they might be higher, but until then, not a whole lot to see here. I might be a little harsh here, but generally I avoid watching the Bills.  

Fan Base Rank: 1. The GOAT.

My Take: Based on the weather in Buffalo, the on field product, and their sad history, avoid the Bills at all costs. Having said that, if you enjoy a good time, head north my friend.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 26

Popularity Rank: 14

Uniform Rank: 8. Not bad! I love the black jerseys, and their green and white ones are decent too. If they added some kelly green back into the mix again, Philly could soar even higher.

Exciting Players Rank: 24. Chip Kelly did quite a number on this roster. While they still have some decent parts on offense and their QB situation will be interesting, the days of Vick/Shady/Desean are long gone.

Fan Base Rank: 29. Philadelphia sports fans are notoriously awful. The only thing keeping them from the very bottom of my list is the fact that they have not won anything. They simply do not brag as much as the very bottom few teams on this list. (Note: Our other writer and Eagles fan Randy went on a rant about this ranking. Thankfully I didn’t let him sway me.)

My Take: If I have one piece of advice for you, do not become an Eagles fan. I understand if you are from Philadelphia and grew up a fan. I respect that loyalty. On the other hand, if you are a free agent, do not join these foolish fans. You will never win a ring and you will hate yourself.

  1. Houston Texans

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 16

Popularity Rank: 24

Uniform Rank: 31. I really dislike the Texans’ uniforms. Especially the all red version. Honestly, they probably should not be #31, but something about them really grinds my gears.

Exciting Players Rank: 10. A lot of talent here. DeAndre Hopkins! Lamar Miller! JJ Watt! Plenty to see on both sides of the ball. If Brock can be competent on QB, watch out.  

Fan Base Rank: 20. Texans fans feel like wannabe Cowboys fans. Not a good look.

My Take: The youngest franchise in the league with a growing fan base. There are worse teams for a new fan to join. However, there will definitely be better choices down the line if you live outside of Texas.

  1. Washington Redskins

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 19

Popularity Rank: 13

Uniform Rank: 17. I absolutely hated their old jerseys with the maroon pants, but I actually like their new version they seem to be sticking with lately.

Exciting Players Rank: 18. YOU LIKE THAT!?! Kirk Cousins was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2015. Desean Jackson, Jordan Reed, and company are great offensive weapons. Another squad on the rise.  

Fan Base Rank: 28. I live in DC. A large portion of ‘Skins fans are insufferable. They love winning the offseason and then cry all year when their team underachieves. They are still living in the glory years of Joe Gibbs and cannot come to grips with reality most of the time.

My Take: Like the Eagles, just stay away from the ‘Skins if you did not grow up a fan. It just isn’t worth it.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 17

Popularity Rank: 32

Uniform Rank: 22. I like the all blacks. The Jags would be higher if not for their multi toned helmets. What a joke.

Exciting Players Rank: 17. I love Allen Robinson. Blake Bortles is fine. Their defense is on the rise and they won the offseason!

Fan Base Rank: 6. They have the single best fan in the world. And hot tubs in the endzone.

My Take: A fun, young team! I have no issues with someone choosing the Jags. They are the least popular team in the league, so they need new fans. A bold choice!

  1. Atlanta Falcons

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 24

Popularity Rank: 12

Uniform Rank: 14. Atlanta’s uniforms are solid. The black trim is a nice touch and the red falcon on the black helmet is a great look.

Exciting Players Rank: 15. Julio Jones is worth the price of admission. Devonta Freeman was a great running back last season and Matt Ryan is always solid. The roster is pretty barren otherwise though.

Fan Base Rank: 23. Who and what are Falcons fans? The days of the dirty bird are long gone. This just feels like a fan base without a strong identity.

My Take: A few years ago when the Falcons were making perennial playoff runs, this would have been a good choice. Now they are paying for their top heavy roster and it might be a while before they find success again. I would avoid the ATL for now.

  1. Minnesota Vikings

Super Bowl Odds Rank: 9

Popularity Rank: 23

Uniform Rank: 23. Their old Randy Moss era uniforms were pretty nice, but the new ones are trying to be too modern. And there is a team that does purple way better on this list.

Exciting Players Rank: 14. Adrian Peterson is a future Hall of Famer. Stefon Diggs lit it up last year. Their defense is one of the best in the NFL. Minnesota has quietly constructed a great roster.

Fan Base Rank: 15. Their loyalty is unquestioned. Having never won a Super Bowl, this is one of the most heartbroken fan bases in all of sports. They are also constantly envious of the Packers. So take that for what you will.

My Take: I have mixed feelings on the Vikings. They have a good team that should make the playoffs and a new stadium opening this year. However, they have never won and I do not think Teddy Bridgewater will ever take them to the promised land. I would wait and see with this group.

Click here to read the second half of my rankings…

-Nick Bair

Photo Credit: ESPN.com

 

 

 

 

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