The NFL is North America’s most popular sports league. By the same token, it has a huge percentage of some of the most passionate sports fans in America. Some teams have a ton of success, others have close to none, but however these actual teams may perform on the field, these fans have stuck behind their team. It’s a shame that the amount of passion from the fan base doesn’t equate to the team’s success. This is why it’s time to show some suffering, yet die-hard loyal fans some love. Teams fluctuate in terms of attendance year after year, so this list is a matter of opinion and numbers won’t play the biggest factor. Loyalty will.
10. New Orleans Saints
Saints fans were finally rewarded for their years of suffering and having to cheer on the ‘Aints back in the 1970s when they hoisted the Lombardi trophy at Super Bowl XLIV.
They invented the act of placing paper bags over their heads, due to their team’s pathetic performances on the field. Back in 2006, the city didn’t have much going its way, besides the rise of their Saints.
Following Hurricane Katrina, the Saints gave the city a lift, going on a great run to a 11-5 season and a NFC Championship appearance. The career revival of Drew Brees and the tactful genius Sean Payton brought the franchise to unprecedented heights.
The Saints regressed for a few seasons, but came back better than ever in 2009, starting 13-0, and went on an incredible playoff run to the Super Bowl. They beat the Vikings in one of the best NFC Championship games in history and defeated the great Peyton Manning and the Colts in the Super Bowl.
The Superdome has emerged as one of the most intimidating places to play, maybe just second behind Seattle. One thing in common between the team’s pitiful years and its more successful ones, is the fans have always shown up, and they’re more passionate than ever.
9. Chicago Bears
Chicago is such a great sports town, you simply can’t leave the Bears off this list. The city supports all its teams very well, be it the Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, White Sox or its Bears. While the franchise had Dick Butkus in the 70s, they began enjoying their best success in the 80s.
Having the likes of Walter Peyton, William Perry, Mike Singletary and coach Mike Ditka, the Bears began to be known as the Monsters of the Midway. They built their reputation of having a dominant defense and it was capped with a Super Bowl season in 1985, winning Super Bowl XX after losing just one game all year.
To this day, Soldier Field is packed every game day with the fans’ passion for the team never wavering. Nobody’s harder on the Bears than Chicagoans, but it doesn’t come without love and unwavering loyalty.
8. Seattle Seahawks
The passion of Seahawks fans was on full display this season, with the fans breaking sound records at home games twice in a season. The city of Seattle was long overdue for a championship. What probably helps make Seattle’s fan base all the more passionate is the fact the city was robbed of their Super Sonics, is without an NHL team and the Mariners have been terrible throughout most of their history.
CenturyLink Field has become the most intimidating stadium for opposing teams to visit. You can’t deny the fans make a difference in the game. The Seahawks have lost just one home game in the last two years. The structure of the stadium was built for sound, but you still need the rabid fans to make that noise, and Hawks fans never disappoint.
After years of mediocrity, they went on a great run before losing a controversial Super Bowl XL. After yet more years of struggle the duo of John Schneider and Pete Carroll did a spectacular job in building the championship team we saw this year. The fan base is now stronger than ever.
7. Cleveland Browns
Bless their hearts. A lot of what factors into this list is the amount a fan base has had to suffer through lean years and still stand behind their team. Well, perhaps no fan base has suffered more than the Cleveland Browns, as illustrated in the chaos of management.
These fans came painfully close to a Super Bowl appearance, twice losing to the Broncos in the AFC Championship. Art Modell took the team and moved it to Baltimore in 1995. Browns fans’ loyalty paid off and they got to keep the history and records of the franchise in the city of Cleveland. They got a new Browns franchise in 1999 but have continued suffering since then.
Poor draft choices, a lack of patience from management and lack of direction have kept the franchise down, but the fans have never stopped showing their love. Hopefully they are rewarded soon.
6. Green Bay Packers
The cheeseeheads had to pop up sometime. The fact that the market for this team is one of the smaller ones hurts it on this scale, but Packer fans are littered everywhere around America. The fact that this team is actually owned by the city of Green Bay is also an amazing feat.
The city has just one professional sports team, though the state of Wisconsin does have the Brewers and oh, the Bucks. When the Packers play, the city stops and cheers them on.
Lambeau Field is the mecca of football and no matter what the Packers’ record may be, their fans always have their back. The team also has given back, having the most NFL championships thanks to Vince Lombardi and have had the pleasure of watching Brett Favre then Aaron Rodgers the past couple of decades.
5. New York Giants/Jets
New York is too big of a market to choose between Giants and Jets fans. Both have their specialties but both have loyalty.
Fans of the Jets are famous (or infamous) for their relentless passion coupled with the love-hate relationship they seem to have with their team. The key thing here is emotion, something Jets fans are never short on.
They’re the louder and brasher of the two New York fan bases. Every draft, we hear them the most at the Radio City Music Hall, seemingly booing any draft pick they make. They’re always loud though and their emotions never turn to apathy, which is the key. Whether they’re loving or hating their team, they’re paying attention.
Giants fans are a little more old-school. Success has calmed them down, as the team has four Super Bowls, two in the past six years. Make no mistake about it though. They are loud and show up at Metlife every Sunday to support their team.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh is a great blue collar sports town and they have a football team that has always captured the spirit and attitude of the city perfectly. Six Super Bowls is bound to build a loyal fan base and the marriage between the fans and the team has been a balanced one with a lot of give and take.
The glorious decade that was the 70s set the franchise up for generations of passionate fans. Many outside the city are hardcore Steelers fans themselves. They also travel the best of any fan base. Watch any Steelers road game and you’ll still see a great share of black and yellow in the stands. They always sell out their home games.
Loyalty’s hard to measure here because the franchise has had so much success. With some rebuilding years seemingly ahead, their loyalty and patience will indeed be tested.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
They’re loud, obnoxious and unpleasant for opposing fans, but they love their team. They’re clearly the more suffering of the Pennsylvanian franchises, yet their fire for their team still burns strong.
They are a tough bunch, just ask Santa Claus. They are tough on their team, but in a way you can’t blame them. Not winning a Super Bowl, despite having a rich history would upset any fan base. They’re probably the most successful franchise to never win a Super Bowl. It’s not nice hearing you’re the best runner-up or the no.1 loser. Always a bridesmaid.
Again, while they are tough and will not hesitate to boo their team out of their own stadium, their love is never questioned.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
They’ve gone 20 years without a playoff win and 44 years since their last Super Bowl. Yet they show up every Sunday, decked out in red and yellow, believing in their Chiefs. Kansas City is forgotten when discussing loud, passionate stadiums, but it hasn’t gotten by me.
It’s probably because so few meaningful games have been played at Arrowhead in recent memory. We’ll perhaps see more of this in the near future, as things are looking up for the franchise, and we will likely see their crop of talent bring the fans more home playoff games in the future.
Perhaps the best tailgaters in the NFL as well, Kansas City gives you all the ingredients of what an NFL city should have.
1. Dallas Cowboys
The most loved and most hated team in the NFL is the Dallas Cowboys. They fill a 100,000 seat stadium every Sunday and continue to cheer on a mediocre team that has failed to live up to its glory years.
That’s not the fans’ fault though. Cowboys fans are everywhere. Maybe it’s the star on the helmet or them being dubbed America’s Team, but whatever the case may be there’s something special about Dallas.
Perhaps it’s because football is religion in the state of Texas and the Cowboys have clearly had a better history than Houston’s in football. It it the richest NFL team and right there with the New York Yankees for the richest franchise in North America. That doesn’t happen without a loyal, widespread fan base.
Whether you like them or not, give credit where it’s due. No fan base has a greater imprint on the NFL than supporters of the Cowboys do.