The NFL has some of the most passionate fan bases in the country. We are probably somewhere in the middle between hockey fans who don’t shave for a few months and Colombian soccer fans who murdered their World Cup goalie in 1994. Sometimes you just have to find the sweet spot.
In terms of the best NFL fan bases, that is tough to quantify. There is a litany of considerations including ticket sales, sticking through thick and thin, and total tonnage of makeup. Before getting into our top ten, let’s look at some near misses and honorable mentions.
New England Patriots
Probably the biggest snub for an obviously huge fan base on this list, but we have our reasons. The Patriots are modern professional sports’ greatest dynasty. Their only rival in terms of sheer dominance and impressive performance in North American sports over the past quarter century is the UConn women’s basketball team.
Reason for the snub? We never met many die-hard Patriots’ fans before 2001. Before Brady and Belichick, they were the fourth most loved team in Bean Town behind the Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins. Fourth best in your hometown just ain’t good enough for our list.
The vaunted 12th man in Seattle is more thanks to the acoustic qualities of the stadium than the fans themselves. Poll Seahawks fans and ask them who Bo Jackson ran over on Monday Night Football. We would not think very many would know the answer. No disrespect intended. Well, maybe a little. Thanks for all the great music and coffee though (seriously, both are great).
Top 10 NFL Fan Bases
With frivolities out of the way, let’s get down to business.
10. New Orleans Saints
This might be a sentimental pick, but we will never forget the first Saints game in the Superdome after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. If you haven’t seen it, don’t let us ruin it for you:
This ranks up there with transcendent sports moments like Mike Piazza’s home run after 9/11 and Dee Gordon hitting a solo shot after Jose Fernandez’s tragic death. Truly chilling stuff.
9. Kansas City Chiefs
The loudest venue in the NFL (sorry again Seahawks) is Arrowhead stadium. Chiefs fans have the charm of being unspoiled by recent success, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the parking lot on Sunday mornings. They don’t even get too upset at Alex Smith or Andy Reid. Right, guys? Guys?
8. Buffalo Bills
The Bills in the 90’s were almost undoubtedly the best team to ever play in the NFL without winning a championship. Four straight Super Bowl appearances is downright absurd. The worst part is they were the better team in at least two of the Super Bowls as well. Despite this, Buffalo Bills’ fans have not committed mass suicide, which lands them at a respectable spot on our list.
7. Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia sports fans booed Donovan McNabb before he played a snap, in addition to Santa Claus, and would probably boo their own mother if she failed to reach the divisional round. Yet, much like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon and pretty much every other movie, their untethered rage comes from caring too damn much. May God bless your tiny little grinchesque hearts, Philadelphia.
6. Denver Broncos
Most people would probably not guess that the longest active sellout streak in the NFL belongs to the Mile High City. The Broncos have sold out every home game dating back to 1970 when M*A*S*H was on the big screen and we can only assume a gallon of gas cost about $0.17 (this was written as a joke before looking up the real number, which is, in fact, $0.36). Back to the point, the Broncos fan base is not flashy, but Broncos Country is die-hard and nearly miss our top five.
5. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland and Pittsburgh are similar in more ways than citizens of either rival town would like to admit. However, when it comes to modern football prowess, there is no comparison. Their wondrous misadventures led to me writing an entire article about their tragic history.
Despite this, Browns fans keep showing up. And unlike their spoiled cross-division rivals, they have a muted optimism every year that is not based on entitlement, but on a pure passion for the game. Sure, there were empty seats at the end of a 0-16 season, but we still have got to hand it to this fan base for commitment.
4. Dallas Cowboys
One can’t deny the passion and the history of America’s team, misnomer though it be. Two distinct dynasties in the 70’s and 90’s helped solidify the Cowboys as a premier franchise. So many great players and great teams have donned the Lone Star that it would be a waste to not have one of the league’s greatest fan bases. Thankfully, that is not a problem and Texas has at least one football team of which it can always be proud.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steel Curtain, The Terrible Towel, Franco’s Army, the Killer B’s, and a gigantic ketchup bottle. Much like the Cowboys, the black and gold have a history dripping with tradition, culture, and rabid fans. The irony of the Steelers success in the Super Bowl era is that they were previously terrible for nearly their entire history to that point. Even in those dark times, Steelers’ fans loved their team’s toughness and blue-collar attitude. All of the championships since then don’t hurt either.
2. Oakland Raiders
If you don’t know why the Raiders are number two on our list, just google “Oakland black hole”. That’s why. The Raider Nation reaches far and wide, did anyone watch the games in Mexico City in 2016 and 2017? It doesn’t matter if the Raiders play in Oakland, or Los Angeles, or Las Vegas, the Raider Nation is an international brand.
1. Green Bay Packers
All the awesome neon orange and camouflage hunting jackets in the world can’t knock this fan base from our number one spot. Fashion faux pas aside, Packers’ fans really represent the old NFL traditions without (as much) of the whining as some other fan bases *ahem, Steelers*.
All of the metrics are there: attendance, support, knowledge of the game, and dedication to their team. After all, the fans do own the team. It was a toss-up between the insanity of Raider Nation against the stalwart cheeseheads.
It boils down to this, attendance at Lambeau field was 50,861 for the NFL Championship game in 1967, which was capacity. The temperature at kickoff was -17 degrees Fahrenheit when factoring wind chill. Zero empty seats. We’re not sure any other fan base can claim that.