Depressed Bills fan? Looking for a new NFL team to root for? Well we have all the answers for you.
Whether it’s been friends, co-workers, or family members – I’ve been asked by many the ideal way to adopting a new NFL team.
The good news is, the criteria is up to you. I’ll just lay out all the options throughout this entire article.
Here are some examples:
1) You may be a bandwagon hopper and looking to jump to a team that won’t disappoint you and is expected to contend right away. PS, this would definitely help if you’re a Leafs fan.
2) You may prefer an up-and-coming team where you can join at just the right time. That way you’ll look pretty smart around your friends and co-workers.
3) Or maybe you prefer to start from the bottom. Some people want to live through the ups and downs of a new team so you don’t get called out for bandwagon hopping. That’s a common theme of this article.
We’ll do this in two parts, starting with the AFC. We’ll provide you reasons why and why not to select each of the 16 teams in this conference and we’ll continue tomorrow with the 16 in the NFC.
And to help, if you’re not a huge NFL buff like yours truly, I’ll give you a comparison to another team in one of the other three major North American sports.
This is broken down division-by-division. Just so you’ll get a clear idea of who your new rivals would be.
Last year’s record: 6-10
Coach: Doug Marrone
Core players: C.J. Spiller (RB), Jairus Byrd (S), Stevie Johnson (WR)
Why this team? The obvious answer is the tailgate. The pre-game party at the Ralph is one of the best environments in the entire league. They boast some of the most exciting players in the league with electric playmaker C.J. Spiller now the face of the franchise and a young quarterback in EJ Manuel, who’s certainly worth getting excited about. If Manuel is legit, these guys can return to respectability much quicker than you may think.
Why not? You’d better be a tough SOB if you’re going to hop on this bandwagon because there’s nothing easy about being a Bills fan. They’ve suffered some of the most heartbreaking losses in NFL history (Scott Norwood’s missed field goal comes to mind), and are faced with some of the worst luck in sports. Look at this season for instance, they already have two injured quarterbacks and may have to start an undrafted rookie whose name is pronounced “Tool” (actually spelled Tuel). There just seems to be a dark cloud over this organization.
Other sport comparison: Toronto Maple Leafs. Remember the Game 7 loss (meltdown) against the Bruins? That’s basically what it feels like to be a Bills fan most of the time. The historic franchises, the long playoff droughts, the history of choking, these guys are like long-lost brothers. Only Leaf fans could relate to a team that lost four Super Bowls in a row, and a playoff game on a kick return touchdown that Bills fans are convinced should’ve been penalized (Gretzky high stick, anyone?)
Last year’s record: 7-9
Coach: Joe Philbin
Core players: Ryan Tannehill (QB), Cameron Wake (DE), Mike Wallace (WR)
Why this team? For the first time since Dan Marino retired (you may remember him from historic films such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), the Dolphins appear to have a legitimate quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. That can’t be understated. There isn’t a more important position in sports and the Dolphins have completely fumbled this position since Marino retired (Cleo Lemon, Chad Henne, John Beck, Daunte Culpepper, etc.). And, have you seen Tannehill’s wife!? He has to be smart.
Why not? It’s a very hard franchise to get excited about. They have very average talent, an inept general manager, and you have to go up against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick twice a year. You’ve seen Miami sports fans on TV before – don’t really care about anything until they’re winning. Yeah, it’s a very lackadaisical group. And the worst thing: the team has recently switched from a classic logo to this new, weird hipster Dolphin. C’mon man!
Other sport comparison: Toronto Blue Jays. As we saw this summer in Toronto, paying big money for free agent veterans doesn’t always lead to instant success. The Dolphins have to hope they have better luck after their big off-season spending spree. Like the Blue Jays, the Dolphins haven’t really been relevant since the early ‘90s and reek of a desperate team trying to quickly speed up their rebuilding process.
New England Patriots
Last year’s record: 12-4
Coach: Bill Belichick
Core players: Tom Brady (QB), Rob Gronkowski (TE), Vince Wilfork (DT)
Why this team? The two most important positions on an NFL team are the head coach and quarterback and the Patriots have A+ people in both areas. Brady and Belichick are surefire Hall of Famers and the main reason New England has made five Super Bowl appearances (won three) since 2001. The Patriots have outstanding ownership and the organization as a whole is generally known for doing things the right away (insert Spygate joke.)
Why not? There is some serious risk with this team. Brady and Belichick aren’t youngsters anymore and you have to wonder how much they truly have left. The Pats have lost a whole bunch of offensive talent (Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, etc.) and the best days for this group may be behind them. There’s a reason they haven’t won since 2004. And I’ve gone this far without mentioning Tim Tebow. Ugh.
Other sport comparison: San Antonio Spurs. In the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs have become the model organization because of their reliable head coach and star player combination. The outstanding duo of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich have won four titles and are the closest comparison to Brady and Belichick. Both teams are near the end of their championship windows but for now, they’re perennial contenders.
New York Jets
Last year’s record: 6-10
Coach: Rex Ryan
Core players: Mark Sanchez (QB), Nick Mangold (C), Antonio Cromartie (CB)
Why this team? While this team may be unaware the forward pass does in fact exist, the Jets play a classic pound-the-rock style. They’re built around a hard-hitting defence and a grind-it-out rushing attack that brings back memories of classic teams from the 1960s. And you get Joe Namath! LOTS of Joe Namath. (Sorry, Suzy.)
Why not? Rex Ryan. Mark Sanchez. Buttfumbles. Do we need to keep going? These guys may be the most dysfunctional organization in all of sports. Seriously, run far away as fast as you can. Unless you have a thing for Sanchez’s mustache or cheering for teams with no offensive talent, this is a complete dumpster fire.
Other sport comparison: New York Mets – Like their New York counterpart, the Queens-based MLB team is the ugly duckling to the more prominent team in the same city (Giants/Yankees).
Last year’s record: 10-6
Coach: John Harbaugh
Core players: Joe Flacco (QB), Ray Rice (RB), Terrell Suggs (LB)
Why this team? These aren’t your father’s Ravens anymore (yeah we know they came to be in 1995). Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone and Joe Flacco is now the face of the franchise. It’s a new era. All of a sudden, the Ravens could have an exciting offence for years to come.
Why not? It’s tough to hop on with the team that just won the Super Bowl. Not many of your friends or co-workers will respect that sad display of character.
Other sport comparison: New Jersey Devils. Like the Devils, they’ve been able to accumulate multiple championships with a defensive-oriented, unsexy style. While both are going through an identity change, the two have consistently been amongst the league’s elite since the late 1990s.
Last year’s record: 10-6
Coach: Marvin Lewis
Core players: A.J Green (WR), Geno Atkins (DT), Andy Dalton (QB)
Why this team? For once, the Bengals actually appear to be functional. They have playmakers on offence, an elite young defence, and have become a team that is actually known for their play on the field rather than the amount of times they’re arrested. Over the past three years, the Bengals have drafted as many good young players as anyone in the league. Yes, that’s not a typo.
Why not? Well, they’re the Bengals. In all seriousness, the Bengals play in the toughest division in the conference and have a quarterback with a somewhat limited ceiling. Andy Dalton is rock solid but doesn’t appear to be at the level of some of the other elite young players – something that may hinder the Bengals’ potential over the next few years.
Other sport comparison: Los Angeles Clippers. A team that has been a complete laughingstock for most of their existence is finally figuring it out. Like the Clips, the Bengals appear to be peaking and on the verge of their first run of sustained success in several decades.
Last year’s record: 5-11
Coach: Rob Chudzinski
Core players: Trent Richardson (RB), Joe Haden (CB), Joe Thomas (LT)
Why this team? The Browns surprisingly have a pretty decent core of young talent. Cleveland had a productive off-season and appears to be moving in the right direction for the first time in a while. They reshaped the front office and brought in two of the most highly-touted assistant coaches (Norv Turner, Ray Horton) to help rebuild the franchise.
Why not? The colours. Is there a worse jersey in sports than the Browns? Not only that, their so-called franchise quarterback Brandon Weeden is three months older than Aaron Rodgers and he is in just his second season! These guys have mostly been a disaster since they came back as an expansion franchise in 1999. And their coach is nicknamed “Chud.”
Other sport comparison: Columbus Blue Jackets. Remember these are the expansion Browns, not the classic Cleveland teams from the ’60s and ‘80s. Like their fellow in-state franchise, they’ve made just one playoff appearance and have done little to speak of outside of that. But both teams look to be on the rise. Surprisingly, they still have a pretty good fan base – despite their similarly awful uniforms.
Last year’s record: 8-8
Coach: Mike Tomlin
Core players: Ben Roethlisberger (QB), Troy Polamalu (S), LaMarr Woodley (LB),
Why this team? This may be the most iconic franchise in the entire league. They have an extensive history with the most Super Bowl victories and have an elite quarterback in the prime of his career. The Steelers also have the best travelling fan base so you will be surrounded by supporters in any city you go to.
Why not? The Steelers are starting to enter the decline phase with their current group. They’ve failed to add enough young players on defence and have lost a ton of talent due to a poorly-managed salary cap. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t exactly the most likeable player either. It’s arguably one of the worst times to jump on this bandwagon.
Other sport comparison: Detroit Red Wings. Like the NHL’s Red Wings, the Steelers have an aging roster that remains very competitive. Both have outstanding coaching, scouting and management teams that are amongst the league’s most respected groups.
Last year’s record: 12-4
Coach: Gary Kubiak
Core players: J.J. Watt (DL), Arian Foster (RB), Andre Johnson (WR)
Why this team? With strong drafts in recent years, the Texans have assembled a top-notch group of young players. J.J. Watt is just 24 and he may be the most exciting defensive player in football. The up-and-coming roster also features one of the elite running backs (Arian Foster) and wide receivers (Andre Johnson) in the league.
Why not? It’s never ideal to choose a team with no real history as the Texans came in as an expansion franchise in 2002. As well, Houston doesn’t have the upper-echelon quarterback that is so important in today’s game — something that could hold them back from getting past teams like Denver and New England in their conference.
Other sport comparison: Tampa Bay Rays. Just like Tampa Bay, the Texans had a miserable start when they came in as an expansion franchise. The organizations were bottom-feeders for their first several seasons before strong personnel decisions helped quickly turn their fortunes around. The Texans are ascending with a group of very talented pieces.
Last year’s record: 11-5
Coach: Chuck Pagano
Core players: Andrew Luck (QB), Robert Mathis (LB), Reggie Wayne (WR)
Why this team? It takes most franchises decades to replace a legend at quarterback (Peyton Manning) but the Colts were able to do it in just one season. Andrew Luck is the ideal young QB to build your team around and he should have the Colts as a perennial contender once they can surround him with better talent. Jump on this team, now!
Why not? You may be sick of their owner Jim Irsay and his erratic tweeting. If you like over-the-top messages with a lot of capital letters, he’s perfect! Outside of that, there’s just not much downside with the franchise at this point. Unless you’re a bitter man from Baltimore (they stole the franchise overnight in the 1980s).
Other sport comparison: Pittsburgh Penguins. The Colts were able to quickly replace their longtime quarterback with their next franchise player in Luck. While it wasn’t that quick or easy of a transition for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL but there haven’t been many teams that have been able lose superstars such as Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux and quickly find replacements on the same level with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Also, both the Colts and the Penguins have won championships since 2006.
Last year’s record: 2-14
Coach: Gus Bradley
Core players: Maurice Jones-Drew (RB), Justin Blackmon (WR), Mercedes Lewis (TE)
Why this team? If you’re looking for a complete rebuilding job, this is an ideal situation for you. They’re essentially starting fresh with a new general manager, head coach, and likely soon-to-be new quarterback. They have a forward-thinking front office that includes the best moustache of any owner in pro sports.
Why not? Well, where do we get started? They have as little talent as any team in their conference and haven’t really accomplished anything since the mid-1990s. The Jags fans (not many of those really exist) have struggled to show up on a consistent basis and there have been constant rumours of the team moving to L.A. or even London. You need some more?
Other sport comparison: Florida Panthers. The Jaguars have lacked an identity for most of the last decade, mostly due to the consistently poor results. The Jags haven’t been able to establish a big following and have had issues selling out their seats — something that is very familiar to the NHL team across the state.
Last year’s record: 6-10
Coach: Mike Munchak
Core players: Chris Johnson (RB), Jake Locker (QB), Kenny Britt (WR)
Why this team? Awesome city (Great bars and BBQ). Awesome jerseys. Seriously, I love Nashville. When it comes to their roster, they do have a number of exciting young players but it’s mostly a raw group overall. If these guys can grow together, they can have a very nice core to build around. So much will come down to Jake Locker, who’s been playing the best football of his young career this pre-season.
Why not? The Titans are kind of stuck in no-man’s land. Their talent level doesn’t match the top two teams in the division and they’re basically an unknown entity at this point. In today’s NFL, the head coach and the quarterback are so critical to future success and the Titans have completely unclear answers at both positions. It won’t be fun going up against Andrew Luck the next 10 years.
Other sport comparison: Dallas Stars. Like Dallas, the Titans were a consistent contender from the late 1990s until the mid 2000s when they their roster was as strong anyone in the league. The Titans have sort of faded into mediocrity and are now trying to rebuild their image on the fly. Both lack the iconic players they once had.
Last year’s record: 13-3
Coach: John Fox
Core players: Peyton Manning (QB), Von Miller (LB), Demaryius Thomas (WR)
Why this team? If you love offence (and who doesn’t!), this may be the choice for you. Somehow, they were able to replace a quarterback who couldn’t throw (Tebow) with a Hall of Famer in Manning. The Broncos were stacked last season and could be even more dynamic now that they stole perennial all-star Wes Welker from New England. Watching Manning every week is a special sight and these guys are going to be a pleasure to watch.
Why not? Aww, the Denver Broncos! Like the Patriots, this may be a short-term solution for you. Denver’s franchise quarterback is 37 years old and we don’t know how many years he has left. Once Manning is done, who knows with this team will become? But for now, we can’t find any real glaring holes without nitpicking. Star defender Von Miller will miss some time to a suspension, but they should be able to make due.
Other sport comparison: St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals are a classic franchise with outstanding fan support and a ton of on-field success. That’s a great way to portray the Broncos organization. Denver is a fairly consistent playoff team (hey, they even won one game with Tebow!) and has one of the true home-field advantages in the NFL. Just like St. Louis in baseball, special things happen to players when they come to Denver.
Kansas City Chiefs
Last year’s record: 2-14
Coach: Andy Reid
Core players: Jamaal Charles (RB), Tamba Hali (DE), Alex Smith (QB)
Why this team? The roster is significantly more talented than their record last season would indicate. There’s a reason a 2-14 team had five all-stars. The Chiefs have a new coach with a history of rebuilding a franchise (Andy Reid) and a quarterback coming from a winning program (Alex Smith). If Reid can do anything close to what he did in Philly, this will be a fun team to follow for the foreseeable future.
Why not? Can you really trust Smith? For most of his career, he was a disappointing first overall pick in San Francisco before he was revitalized under Jim Harbaugh. It remains to be seen if Smith can be a true franchise guy and that’s the make or break point for this organization to take the next step.
Other sport comparison: Edmonton Oilers. The Chiefs are full of young, exciting players but haven’t been able to put it together. Just like Edmonton, K.C. has been able to stock up talent with high draft picks and is waiting to finally see some results for this group. Both franchises brought in new highly-touted coaches to get their organizations back in order. Great fan bases, too.
Last year’s record: 4-12
Coach: Dennis Allen
Core players: Darren McFadden (RB), Jared Veldheer (LT), Tyvon Branch (S)
Why this team? This is a tough one. I dug deep and seriously could hardly think of any reason you’d want to become a Raiders fan right now. Outside of their cool Starter hats from the ‘80s, or the fact that they’ll likely have the first pick next year, there is a real dire situation. My brother took the plunge around 2002 and I haven’t seen any sports fan in my lifetime deal with that kind of pain and frustration. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone.
Why not? This could take a while. Well, let’s start with the fact that their most talented player is their kicker! Their most dynamic skill player, Darren McFadden, can’t stay on the field and seems to be hurt as much as Eric Lindros used to be. Their quarterback, Matt Flynn, has just two career starts and their roster is loaded with average players that won’t excite much of anyone.
Other sport comparison: New York Islanders (Mike Milbury era). Just to be clear, I am not referring to the current John Tavares Islanders. I’m talking about the franchise the Islanders used to be when Milbury was the GM. It’s scary how close those teams resemble what we’ve seen out of the Raiders the last 10 years. Bad trades, boneheaded signings, dysfunction at every level, and more draft busts than you can even imagine. Al Davis isn’t around anymore but we remain skeptical that these guys can turn it around.
San Diego Chargers
Last year’s record: 7-9
Coach: Mike McCoy
Core players: Philip Rivers (QB), Antonio Gates (TE), Eric Weddle (S)
Why this team? Well, the weather or the great jerseys would be the obvious answers. In terms of football, the Chargers finally ended the Norv Turner era and are starting fresh across the entire organization. They have a new coach and general manager and seem to be committed to rebuilding the team the right away. You may not know Mike McCoy by name, but he’s the guy who actually made Tebow a serviceable quarterback back In Denver. Impressive, isn’t it?
Why not? The Chargers have never been able to shed their underachiever label. Philip Rivers once looked like he was becoming one of the league’s great players but has completely faded as the talent around him has eroded. Until they can fix the offensive line and finally find an adequate replacement at running back for LaDainian Tomlinson, these guys will be stuck at 6-10 or 7-9.
Other sport comparison: St. Louis Blues. The Chargers have been good for a number of years but just can’t seem to get over the hump. Like the NHL’s Blues, the Chargers have had a number of talented teams that looked like contenders on paper but haven’t been able to win it all.
Wednesday: We look at the teams in the NFC