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(Photo: Fotolia)
(Photo: Fotolia)

Since 2007, the NFL has exported regular season games to London where quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends have thrilled Brits at a packed Wembley Stadium. So it’s time for those of you who haven’t yet picked a team to pledge your allegiance.

First ask yourself a couple of important questions: Are you a glory-hunting, bandwagon-jumping, shameless trophy whore? Alternatively, do you prefer to get behind an underdog that, in all likelihood, will languish in unsuccessful obscurity the duration of your fandom?

To help you decide, we’ve created a beginner’s guide to fans of multiple NFL franchises. But remember: A team is for life, not just Super Bowl Sunday.

Arizona Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. (Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. (Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Why are they the Cardinals? Though the cardinal remains a popular bird throughout North America, the Arizona Cardinals were not, strictly speaking, named after it. If legend is to be believed, the team in fact acquired its name when it started in Chicago after the then owner Chris O’Brien responded to observations that the team’s jerseys were “faded red.” His response: “they’re not faded red—they’re cardinal red.”

The team: Pity the long-suffering Cardinals fan. Not only have the Cards never won a Super Bowl, they haven’t reached playoffs since 2009. The franchise, established in 1898, is the oldest continuously run professional American football club in the U.S., and one therefore suspects they had a large, loyal following. Sadly, due to the club’s nomadic history, this isn’t the case. Beginning life in Chicago, the Cardinals drifted down to St. Louis in 1960. Then, in 1988, they traversed the Great Plains, scaled the Rockies and settled (for now at least) in Arizona. The problem was most people living in the Phoenix area in 1988 already had a team (Dallas Cowboys), and now we’re left with a society nobody seems to want.

Current Player to Watch: Andre Ellington. Cousin of San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Bruce Ellington, Andre is arguably the Cardinals’ most irreplaceable player. Playing in the running back position, Ellington has brought balance to the team’s offense during an impressive winning sequence throughout the 2014 season.

All-Time MVP: Larry Fitzgerald. Still playing for the Cardinals after 10 years, Fitzgerald has only ever played for the same NFL team. He is regarded as one of the best wide receivers in the sport and currently ranks in the top 20 list of most receptions in NFL history.

Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons. (Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons. (Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Why are they the Falcons? The name came about in 1965, when Georgia high school teacher Julia Elliott suggested “Falcons” during a contest. Elliot, who was not alone in suggesting the name, wrote at the time, “The falcon is proud and dignified, with great courage and fight. It never drops its prey. It’s deadly and has a great sporting tradition.”

The team: Known as “The Dirty Birds,” the Falcons are a long-shot team who’ve never won a Super Bowl. Last year they were tipped by many as legitimate contenders, but a season riddled with injuries meant they finished with a 4-12 record.* Picking the Falcons would be similar to supporting a club like Southampton. They’re decent, yes, but you must know your place and manage expectations.

*For the uninformed British reader, the convention in American sports is to list form in a W-L-D format (although draws are very rare in U.S. sports, so the “D” is often dropped). For example, if you were watching a game and the commentator said, “The Giraffes are presently three and two right now,” that means, coming into the current game, the Giraffes had won three games and lost two.

Current Player to Watch: Matt Ryan. Playing as the team’s quarterback, Ryan has made the third highest number of consecutive pass completions in NFL history (22).

All-Time MVP: Tommy Nobis. Signing with Atlanta in 1965, Nobis became the team’s first-ever draft pick.

Baltimore Ravens

Haloti Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens. (Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Haloti Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens. (Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Why are they the Ravens? This name in fact has its roots in American literature. When the Baltimore Sun (newspaper) conducted a reader poll to decide the team’s name, “Ravens” finished top for the very reason that former Baltimore native and American poet Edgar Allan Poe wrote the poem “The Raven” while living there.

The team: Baltimore has two types of fans: Elders who supported the city’s original football team, the Baltimore Colts (relocated to Indianapolis in 1984), and the new generation who adopted the game when the Ravens were established in 1996. For such a young franchise, the Ravens boast a large, dedicated support base. Hardly surprising if you consider the remarkable success they’ve enjoyed in their mere 18 years of life (they already have two Super Bowls to their name—2000 and 2012). The Ravens are a solid bandwagon for any new fan to hitch to a ride on.

Current Player to Watch: Haloti Ngata. This nose tackle has played with the Ravens since 2006, adding a Super Bowl championship ring to his collection of accolades in 2013.

All-Time MVP: Ray Lewis. Playing his entire career as a linebacker for the Ravens, Lewis won two Super Bowl Championships and was named MVP at Super Bowl XXXV in 2001.

Buffalo Bills

Kyle Orton of the Buffalo Bills. (Photo: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Kyle Orton of the Buffalo Bills. (Photo: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Why are they the Bills? No prizes for guessing which historic American figure this team was named after. When it was decided in 1947 that the Bisons (as they were then known) needed a new name, contestants looked to frontiersman Buffalo Bill Cody for inspiration. It was particularly fitting that the team was supported at the time by the Frontier Oil Company.

The team: The Bills are famous for their unfortunate record of reaching four consecutive Super Bowls (1990-93) and losing them all. For years, Bills fans were bitter, but time healed all wounds, and they can joke about it now (however, wait for them to crack a joke first; don’t goad them, for they are potentially dangerous creatures). Any way you look at it, there’s no escaping the fact the Bills exist in trophyless purgatory, and things have only become worse in recent seasons. Indeed, they haven’t been to the playoffs this century. The fans are perhaps the most tortured in the NFL.

Current Player to Watch: Kyle Orton. Now with his fifth NFL team, Orton is currently the starting quarterback after being released from the Dallas Cowboys earlier in the year.

All-Time MVP: Bruce Smith. As a key player in the Bills’ hugely successful run in the early 1990s, Smith played defensive end as the team reached four consecutive Super Bowl finals. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

Carolina Panthers

DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers. (Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers. (Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Why are they the Panthers? Established in 1993, the name was chosen not by a newspaper poll or a local contest but by owner Jerry Richardson’s son, Mark. He decided that the name and team colors should go hand in hand. Thus, he also had the privilege of choosing the team’s black and blue jerseys.

The team: If you want to be a noncommittal, casual supporter of an NFL franchise, look no further than the Carolina Panthers. Fans of the Panthers have been referred to as a “wine and cheese” crowd because they’re laidback, loosey-goosey and hardly the most rambunctious football fans. The Panthers’ home, the Bank of America Stadium, also frequently appears in “The NFL’s Quietest Stadium” polls.

Current Player to Watch: DeAngelo Williams. As the team’s running back, Williams has claimed several Panthers records, including number of single-game rushing touchdowns and number of single-game rushing yards.

All-Time MVP: Steve Smith. Currently plying his trade at the Baltimore Ravens, Smith had previously served the Panthers in a 12-year stint as the team’s wide receiver. In his time with the franchise, he amassed 800 receptions.

Chicago Bears

Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears. (Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears. (Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Why are they the Bears? Shortly after the team moved from Decatur, IL, to Chicago, founder George Halas changed the name from the Chicago Staleys to the Chicago Bears. His reasoning was simple: there was already a baseball team in the city, the Cubs. Given that footballers are typically larger in physical stature than baseball players, “Bears” seemed to Halas as the obvious next step.

The team: The Chicago Bears were a big deal in the 1980s, but since they’ve consistently come up short. They’ve won more regular season games than any NFL team, have a large fan base, a rich history, and are a world-famous franchise. However, the last time they won anything was the 1985-86 Super Bowl. Bears fans, much like Liverpool fans, have a disproportionate sense of how important their team is today. Nobody cares anymore.

Current Player to Watch: Jay Cutler. Before recently signing a seven-year contract extension with the Bears, Cutler amassed a career-high 89.2% passing rate during the 2013 season and has so far topped that in the current campaign.

All-Time MVP: Walter Payton. Playing as a running back for the Chicago Bears over a 13-year stint, Payton won two MVP Awards and helped his team win Super Bowl XX in 1986.

Cincinnati Bengals

A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo: John Grieshop/Getty Images)
A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo: John Grieshop/Getty Images)

Why are they the Bengals? The Bengals were founded in 1965 by coach Paul Brown, who, instead of opting for a breathtakingly original name, chose that which had previously been used by an unrelated Cincinnati Bengals team during the late 1930s/early 1940s.

The Team: Bengals fans are notorious for their chant, “Who dey! Who dey! Who dey think gonna beat dem Bengals?!” Anyone with even a passing interest in American football will know that this battle cry is markedly similar to the New Orleans Saints’ chant, “Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say gonna beat dem Saints?!” Who sang which first is as contentious as the old “chicken or the egg” conundrum. Indeed, the phrase was widely used by Bengals fans in 1981, but apparently not by Saints fans until 1983. However, evidence suggests that many Louisiana high schools and colleges chanted a variation of the phrase in the 1970s, in which case one would naturally conclude that the Saints are the true real owners. The debate rages on.

Current Player to Watch: A.J. Green. The Bengals’ wide receiver made more receptions in his first three seasons than any other receiver in NFL history.

All-Time MVP: Anthony Muñoz. A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Munoz is one of the most revered offensive linemen in the sport’s history. Among his many accomplishments, Muñoz made 11 Pro Bowl selections and nine All-Pro selections and was named in the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Cleveland Browns

Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns. (Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns. (Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Why are they the Browns? Once again, this name transpired as a result of a fan contest. In 1945, the Cleveland All-America Football Conference franchise found that the popular choice was to name the team after its then general manager Paul Brown. However, had Brown had things his way, there might well have been more than one “Panthers” team gracing the National Football League. Alas, rights to the name “Cleveland Panthers” had already been taken up elsewhere and so the Cleveland Browns stuck.

The team: Despite not winning anything of significance since the 1964 NFL Championship (they lost their franchise in 1995-1999), Cleveland Browns fans are perhaps the most fiercely loyal in the NFL. The infamous Dawg Pound, the section of the stadium where the rowdiest supporters gather, began in the mid-1980s and quickly gained a reputation for misbehavior and boisterousness. Similar to British soccer hooligans of the same era, members of the Dawg Pound drank heavily before games and would often pelt opposing team players with batteries, Milk-Bones, rocks, eggs and anything else small enough to sneak into stadiums. An excellent choice for any ex-firm members.

Current Player to Watch: Joe Thomas. The 29-year-old linebacker has been selected to Pro Bowl in seven consecutive years since becoming a pro in 2007. He was ranked 18 in the NFL’s Top 100 Greatest Players of 2014 list.

All-Time MVP: Jim Brown. As a running back for Cleveland between 1957 and 1965, Brown was selected nine times to Pro Bowl, eight times to All-Pro and was named NFL MVP on more than one occasion. In 2009, a ranking on the NFL’s official website placed Brown at No. 2 on its list of Greatest NFL Players of All Time.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys. (Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys. (Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Why are they the Cowboys? The team now known as the Dallas Cowboys went through a couple of names before deciding on their world famous branding. First they were the Steers, then the Rangers, until finally it was decided that people might confuse the latter with a local minor league baseball team of the same name.

The team: Known colloquially as “America’s Team,” the Cowboys are a franchise similar to Manchester United in that if you don’t love them, you vehemently despise them. Also similar to Manchester United, the Cowboys enjoyed great success in the 1990s and won three Super Bowls, leading many “plastics” to jump on the glory bandwagon. They’ve been found wanting on the field in recent seasons, but they will almost certainly rise again. A reliable choice for any newcomer.

Current Player to Watch: Jason Witten. Having played all of his eleven professional years with the Cowboys, Witten ranks second for number of career receptions for a tight end player.

All-Time MVP: Emmitt Smith. As if his other records and accolades were not enough, Smith won three Super Bowl Championships and was named MVP at Super Bowl XXVIII, during a highly successful period for the Cowboys.

Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos. (Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos. (Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Why are they the Broncos? Once again, the Broncos’ name came about as a result of a fan contest. In choosing the Broncos, supporters would revive a name previously used by Denver’s Midwest Baseball League.

The team: Without doubt the most famous Broncos fan of all time is the Barrel Man (real name Tim McKernan), who braved Colorado weather for 30 years sporting nothing but an orange barrel covering his torso, a cowboy hat, and boots. The tradition began in 1977 after McKernan made a $10 bet with his brother that wearing a barrel would land him on television. And, of course, it did. Sadly, McKernan died at 69 in 2009 due to lung failure, but his legend lives on at the Pro Football Hall of Fame (where he is honored in the Visa Hall of Fans). The Broncos have a dedicated fan base—they’ve sold out every home game since 1970—so don’t pick them if you’re looking for a team to casually support. Broncos fans are known for their playful “IN-COM-PLETE!” heckle aimed at opposing teams when they throw an incomplete pass.

Current Player to Watch: Peyton Manning. Simply put, Manning is among the greatest quarterbacks to ever grace the NFL. Though in the twilight of his career (Manning is just two years younger than recently retired Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs), he still packs a throw. In 2013 alone, Manning topped the board in the following categories: number of passes completed and attempted, as well as the number of passes resulting in a touchdown.

All-Time MVP: John Elway. In a career that overlapped that of legends such as Joe Montana and Dan Marino, Elway played quarterback for the Broncos for the better part of 15 years. In that time, he amassed two Super Bowl championships and finished runner up on a further three occasions.

Detroit Lions

Calvin Johnson (right) of the Detroit Lions. (Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Calvin Johnson (right) with teammate Joique Bell of the Detroit Lions. (Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Why are they the Lions? As with the Chicago Bears, this name came about as a direct comparison with one of Detroit’s other sports teams—the Detroit Tigers. Radio executive George A. Richards, who moved what was then known as the Portsmouth Spartans to Detroit in 1934, said, “The lion is the monarch of the jungle, and we hope to be the monarch of the league.”

The team: Detroit’s heyday is a very distant memory. In the 1950s, they won three NFL Championships (1952, 1953 and 1957), but since they’ve won just one postseason game in 56 years. You’ll need a lifetime of patience and little in the way of ambition should you choose the Lions.

Current Player to Watch: Calvin Johnson. One of the highest-paid players in the NFL, Johnson plays as a wide receiver for the Lions and, as such, recently broke the NFL record for most receiving yards in a single season (1,964).

All-Time MVP: Barry Sanders. The former running back is often considered the best player never to reach a Super Bowl final. He currently ranks third (behind Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith) on the list of NFL rushing yards.

Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. (Photo: Tom Lynn /Getty Images)
Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. (Photo: Tom Lynn /Getty Images)

Why are they the Packers? Quite simply, the Green Bay Packers were named—as per contractual agreement—after team sponsor, the Indian Packing Company. The deal was struck in exchange for monetary funds that helped the Packers seal equipment and uniforms during its early days.

The team: If archetypal small-town teams with rich histories are your thing, then boy, do we have an NFL team for you. Known as “cheeseheads” (a reference to Wisconsin’s cheese production), Green Bay fans are instantly recognizable by the giant slices of cheese they wear on their heads. They’re also notoriously dedicated. Every Packers home game has sold out since 1960 and, according to the club’s website; the waiting list for season tickets is currently 81,000 people. This means there are more supporters on the waiting list than seats in the Packers’ stadium. In addition, because only around 90 fans per year turn over their season ticket, it’s estimated the wait time is a whopping 955 years. (If you sign up today, you can expect a call in the year AD 2969.) Season tickets are passed down to heirs and, for this reason, many Green Bay fans designate a recipient of their season ticket in their will. The club also boasts a unique ownership model—the fans own them. The Packers are the only community-owned, non-profit, professional major league franchise in American sports. They’re also not afraid to tailgate during a polar vortex.

Current Player to Watch: Aaron Rodgers. The team’s long-term replacement for Brett Favre, Rogers is the only quarterback in the history of the NFL to record a career passer rating of over 100.00 for five consecutive seasons.

All-Time MVP: Bart Starr. Recent fans of the sport might have hoped to read the name of Brett Favre for this entry. However, Starr—a Pro Football Hall of Famer—won two Super Bowl championship during a streak in which the Packers won five titles. Between 1960 and 1967—with Starr as its quarterback—the Packers recorded an exceptional 68.9 win percentage.

Houston Texans

J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans. (Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans. (Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Why are they the Texans? A relatively new franchise, the Texans’ name came about through a series of focus groups set up during 1999 and 2000.The name Texans was included—along with Apollos, Bobcats, Stallions, and Wildcatters—in a provisional list of five prospective choices. Eventually, the list was pared down to three teams, until the name Texans finally stuck.

The team: When the original Houston NFL team, the Oilers, relocated to Tennessee in 1997 (where they became the Tennessee Titans), their fans had three choices: 1. Follow the team hundreds of miles to its new home. 2. Switch allegiances to state rivals Dallas Cowboys. 3. Move to another country where nobody cares about American football and just forget the whole darn thing ever happened. But in 2002, the Texans joined the NFL as an expansion team and gave the city’s football fans an opportunity to regroup and get behind a new franchise. So today Texans fans are mostly made up of the ex-Oilers faithful. The most avid fans sit in the bull pen where regulars create atmosphere at games by chanting, holding up giant Texans jerseys, and turning their back when opposition scores.

Current Player to Watch: J.J. Watt. Having been drafted to the Texans in 2011, Watt has become a defensive stalwart for the Texas outfit. In 2012, he was named both the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year and AFC Defensive Player of the Year and in 2013 was ranked fifth on the NFL’s list of 100 Greatest Players.

All-Time MVP: Andre Johnson. Still playing for the Texans having been drafted in 2003, Johnson holds almost all receiving records in the team’s history. Among these records are most career receptions (913) and most career receiving touchdowns (61).

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts. (Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts. (Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Why are they the Colts? The name ofIndianapolis’s NFL franchise actually bears no etymological ties to the city, nor even to the state of Indiana. In fact, the Colts originated in Baltimore, MD, where they had been named for the region’s tradition of horse racing and breeding. It was not until 1984—22 years before the team’s triumph at Super Bowl XLI—that the Colts were moved to Indianapolis.

The team: If you’re looking for a team with consistency, the Colts are dripping in it. Since 1999, they have only failed to make the playoffs twice, and this golden era culminated with their crowning as Super Bowl champions in 2006. The star quarterback during this period, Peyton Manning, was replaced in 2012 by another star quarterback, Andrew Luck, so the future looks bright. The fans have a reputation for being loud but friendly (isn’t that lovely?).

Current Player to Watch: Andrew Luck. Things looked bleak following the departure of Colts legendary quarterback Peyton Manning, but the Colts soon replaced him with top draft pick Andrew Luck.

All-Time MVP: Peyton Manning. The current Broncos star quarterback was instrumental in the Colts’ successful run in the 2000s, leading the team to their first Super Bowl Championship since the relocation to Indianapolis.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Josh Scobee of the Jacksonville Jaguars. (Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Josh Scobee of the Jacksonville Jaguars. (Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Why are they the Jaguars? As you may have worked out by now, the best way to formulate a team name is through a fan contest. The team now known as the Jacksonville Jaguars did this very thing, with the names Sharks, Stingrays and—yes—Panthers being considered, before Jaguars was chosen in 1991.

The team: If you’re one of these masochistic sports fans that secretly enjoy supporting the perennial whipping boys, say hello to your new NFL team. Currently, the Jaguars have only won one game so far this season and don’t have a hope in hell of making playoffs. Further, they struggle to draw crowds, mainly because there were already two Floridian NFL teams (Tampa and Miami) in existence when the Jaguars established in 1993. But if you do choose the Jaguars, you can watch them play Wembley this November and again for the next two seasons. So there’s that.

Current Player to Watch: Josh Scobee. During the team’s short history, Scobee has notched up two records: joint highest number of 50+ yard field goals in one game and the joint most consecutive converted field goals in the Jaguars history (20).

All-Time MVP: Tony Boselli. After signing with the Jaguars out of college in 1995, Boselli was the team’s first ever draft pick. In a stint that lasted seven years, he was listed in the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team.

Kansas City Chiefs

Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Why are they the Chiefs? How did the Chiefs get their name? You guessed it—through a fan contest. Like several NFL franchises, Kansas’ team was previously housed in a completely different state and city. In this case, the Dallas Texans moved to Kansas City in 1963, whereupon the current name was established.

The team: Despite being the sixth-smallest media market in the U.S. with an NFL team, the Chiefs consistently average high attendances in both good and bad seasons. On a game day, Arrowhead Stadium’s 26,000-space parking lot becomes the biggest and best barbeque joint on Earth. They’re also loud. So loud, in fact, that the Guinness World Record for the loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium was set at Arrowhead, 29 September 2014, in a game against the New England Patriots, a deafening roar of 142.2 dbA. Therefore, in summary, the fans are loyal, loud, and enjoy a good tailgate. What’s not to love?

Current Player to Watch: Jamaal Charles. Currently rated the eighth greatest player in the NFL for 2014, Charles has been named the players’ choice for Kansas City Chiefs MVP four out of the last five seasons.

All-Time MVP: Len Dawson. Dawson was a member of the Chiefs team that won the championship at Super Bowl IV. For his part in this success, he was named the game’s MVP. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

Miami Dolphins

Cameron Wake of the Miami Dolphins. (Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Cameron Wake of the Miami Dolphins. (Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Why are they the Dolphins? Once more chosen by a fan contest, the world renowned Miami Dolphins caught on because, in the words of former owner Joe Robbie, “The dolphin is one of the fastest and smartest creatures of the sea. Dolphins can attack and kill a shark or a whale. Sailors say bad luck will come to anyone who harms one of them.”

The team: A fair-weather fan base. When the team is doing well, the stadium is full. When the team’s on a losing streak, fans flock to the beach or a Miami Heat game. The Dolphins have only reached the playoffs once since 2002 and their fans will likely refer you to their glorious past.

Current Player to Watch: Cameron Wake. Named the Dolphins’ MVP in 2012, Wake drafted to the team back in 2009. He is currently ranked 66 on the NFL’s list of Greatest Players in 2014.

All-Time MVP: Dan Marino. Despite having never won a Super Bowl (though he did finish runner-up at Super Bowl XIX), Marino is nonetheless heralded as one of the great quarterbacks of all time. During a 16-year career with the Miami Dolphins, he was named as the team’s MVP on an astonishing 12 occasions and became a 2005 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Minnesota Vikings

Cordarrelle Patterson of the Minnesota Vikings. (Photo: Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
Cordarrelle Patterson of the Minnesota Vikings. (Photo: Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

Why are they the Vikings? This one owes a lot to the ancestral make-up of Minnesota. The team’s then general manager Bert Rose settled on the Vikings to represent the strong Scandinavian heritage within the state.

The team: Between 1969 and 1976, the Vikings reached four Super Bowls but lost every one of them. Since then, nothing too noteworthy has happened on the field. The fans are instantly recognizable by their “Helga hats:” purple hats with white horns and blonde braids. They are often heard singing their fight song, “Skol, Vikings” (skol meaning “cheers” in Nordic languages) during games to intimidate opposition.

Current Player to Watch: Cordarrelle Patterson. He may be relatively new to the team, having signed with the Vikings in 2013, but Patterson is already making waves. Among some of his early achievements, he recently broke the Vikings’ record for the longest touchdown by a wide receiver (67 yards).

All-Time MVP: Fran Tarkenton. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986, the former quarterback (who enjoyed two stints with the Vikings) was ranked number 59 in a list of 100 Greatest Football Players of All Time in 1999.

New England Patriots

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. (Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. (Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Why are they the Patriots? Originally known more specifically as the Boston Patriots, the team’s name was selected by fans in honor of the city’s standing as the so-called “birthplace of the American Revolution.” The name was changed to the New England Patriots in 1971.

The team: This global superpower knows the importance of bringing its brand to new markets. The Patriots have already played two regular season games at Wembley Stadium and claim to have one of the biggest British fan bases of all NFL teams. CHECK THIS! In this sense, they’re a lot like Manchester United are to American soccer fans. Both find it easy to attract support on the opposite side of the pond due to their being the most successful teams in their respective leagues over the past 25 years. Recently, however, the star has begun to fade. Poster boy quarterback Tom Brady can’t be too far from retirement and if longstanding coach Bill Belichick (a master tactician much like Alex Ferguson) goes too, the Pats may soon need a restructure similar to Old Trafford’s. Choosing the Pats now will make you a little late to the party.

Current Player to Watch: Tom Brady. Though nearing retirement, Brady is indisputably one of the most accomplished quarterbacks of all time. He is one of only two players (along with John Elway) to reach 5 Super Bowl finals (winning 3 times) and has won two Super Bowl MVP awards.

All-Time MVP: John Hannah. An offensive lineman for the Patriots between 1973 and 1985, Hannah later became the team’s first player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and, during his playing days, was dubbed by Sports Illustrated as “the Best Offensive Lineman of All Time.”

New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees of the New England Saints. (Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Drew Brees of the New England Saints. (Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Why are they the Saints? There were a number of reasons for this name to have fallen into place, not least of which was the fact that New Orleans is famous for the song, “When the Saints Go Marching in.” Officially named through (cue drumroll) a fan contest, the New Orleans Saints became a franchise on All Saints Day.

The team: The New Orleans Saints used to have a reputation for being poorly supported by their fans and justifiably so. During a particularly poor season in 1980, in which the team only won one game, Saints fans christened their team “the Aints” and went so far as to turn up to games wearing brown paper bags over their heads. For the next quarter century, the franchise dwindled in unsuccessful ambiguity, but when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, it united fans in a way nobody foresaw. In 2009, the Saints made it to the Super Bowl and were underdogs to the mighty Indianapolis Colts. But against all the odds, the Saints won. For many fans, the Super Bowl victory symbolized the city’s resurgence following Katrina and the club gained thousands (if not millions) more supporters across America, giving rise to the “Who Dat Nation.”

Current Player to Watch: Drew Brees. Helping the Saints take the Super Bowl against the Indianapolis Colts in 2009,Brees was also named the Super Bowl MVP and equaled a Super Bowl record of 32 pass completions. Brees is also the NFL’s all-time record holder for pass completion (66%).

All-Time MVP: Willie Roaf. As an eleven-time Pro Bowl selection (mostly with the Saints) and nine-time All-Pro selection, Roaf is a highly decorated player. In 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

New York Giants

Eli Manning of the New York Giants. (Photo: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Eli Manning of the New York Giants. (Photo: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Why are they the Giants? Another fairly common trend you may have noticed in this list is the name clash between a town or city’s football and baseball teams. The New York Giants were no exception, and as such changed their branding to the New York Football Giants. Actually, this name even stands—at least for legal purposes—to this day, despite the baseball team’s move to San Francisco in the late 1950s.

The team: Giants fans are usually well-read in the game’s history and, fortunately for them, their team has an illustrious one, boasting four Super Bowl Championships and four NFL Championships. They’re a loyal bunch too; the waiting list for a season ticket is well over 125,000 people. The club’s most iconic fan is a chap named Joe Ruback, better known by his superfan alter ego, License Plate Guy. His wacky shtick is to attend games with license plates draped around his torso. Due to the Giants’ stadium location in New Jersey, the Giants fan base draws heavily from both New Jersey and New York.

Current Player to Watch: Eli Manning. Peyton is not the only quarterback named Manning setting the NFL on fire. His little brother Eli has proved a success in his own right and has actually won more Super Bowl championships (2) and more Super Bowl MVPs (2) than his brother. Not bad, eh!

All-Time MVP: Lawrence Taylor. A 10-time Pro Bowl and 10-time All-Pro selection and 2-time Super Bowl winner, Lawrence Taylor is widely considered to be one of the greatest players of all time. Playing his entire professional career with the Giants, he won an unparalleled 3 Defensive Player of the Year awards.

New York Jets

Michael Vick of the New York Jets. (Photo: Evan Habeeb/Getty Images)
Michael Vick of the New York Jets. (Photo: Evan Habeeb/Getty Images)

Why are they the Jets? Here’s another example of the team’s owner taking the initiative. Having acquired the franchise in 1963, Sonny Werblin changed the name from the Titans to the Jets to reflect the New York team’s modern style.

The team: The Jets have only won one title (the 1968 Super Bowl) and thus spent the majority of their existence living in shadows of the city’s more successful team, the Giants. This gave fans something of an inferiority complex. Traditionally, blue-collar workers of the Greater New York City area follow the jets while fans see the Giants as the “blue-blooded” team. This working class spirit is embodied by Jets superfan, Fireman Ed. An actual New York City firefighter, Ed led Jets fans in chants throughout games, but hung up his cheerleading boots following the infamous “butt fumble” game, in which the Patriots beat the Jets 49-19. So disgusted was Ed following the butt fumble, he left the game at halftime. He has since returned to support his beloved Jets, but no longer attends games in character. Like the Giants, the Jets base is in New Jersey, so they have fans from both states.

Current Player to Watch: Michael Vick. Known just as much for his off-field antics, Vick recently signed with the Jets in a $5 million one-year deal.

All-Time MVP: Joe Namath. Dubbed “Mr. Jet,” the quarterback helped the New York Jets to an unlikely victory at Super Bowl III against the previously-named Baltimore Colts.

Oakland Raiders

Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders. (Photo: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders. (Photo: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Why are they the Raiders? This fan contest was initially won by Oakland policewoman Helen A. Davis, who submitted the nickname Señors. However, the name was controversially abandoned when a writer for the Oakland Tribune complained that “we don’t have the accent mark for the ‘n’ in our headline type.” Subsequently, the name became the Oakland Raiders.

The team: The “Raider Nation” are without doubt the rowdiest, most rambunctious, menacing set of NFL fans. Every home game they dress up like it’s Halloween and the most hardcore sit in the “Black Hole” section of the Oakland Coliseum from where they taunt, tease and intimidate opposing teams and their fans. Similarly to U.K. soccer hooligans, Raider Nation has a reputation for drinking, brawling and causing mayhem wherever they go. Hunter S. Thompson described the Raider Nation as, “Beyond doubt the sleaziest and rudest and most sinister mob of thugs and whackos ever assembled in such numbers under a single roof.”

Current Player to Watch: Derek Carr. A rookie beginning his professional career in 2014, Carr has impressed as the Raiders’ quarterback. In only his fifth game, he set a new franchise record for the most passing touchdowns in a regular season game for a rookie (4).

All-Time MVP: John Madden. A special mention here for someone who was more successful as a coach than a player—leading the Raiders to their first ever Super Bowl Championship in 1976. He is also known internationally for his eponymous video game series, Madden NFL.

Philadelphia Eagles

LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo: Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo: Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)

Why are they the Eagles? The naming of Philly’s NFL franchise was actually quite symbolic of the time period. President Roosevelt had begun to enact the New Deal, a chief tenet of which had been the National Recovery Act. This act’s symbol featured a blue eagle, which was the sole inspiration behind the team’s name.

The team: It’s tough being an Eagles fan. Not least because they share a division with three teams (Cowboys, Giants and Redskins) who’ve enjoyed much more success than they over the years. For this reason, Eagles fans are noted for their unwavering loyalty in the face of consistent failure. Also for this reason, the Eagles fans like to have a few drinks and get unruly. So uncontrollable, in fact, that at their former home, Veterans Stadium, they had a court room and holding cell in the basement to deal with the arrests of fans..

Current Player to Watch: LeSean McCoy. As a running back, McCoy recently smashed the record for number of rushing yards in an individual season (1607).

All-Time MVP: Reggie White. As a 13-time Pro Bowl, 13-time All-Pro selection, and one-time Super Bowl winner, White remains one of the most decorated players in the game. Many of his accolades came during his seven-year stint with the Eagles.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Why are they the Steelers? On the opposite side of Pennsylvania to the Eagles, meanwhile, the Pittsburg Steelers changed their name in 1940 from the Pirates after owner Art Rooney held a contest among the public. Like many other entrants, a steelworker (Pittsburg is known for its steel production) by the name of Joe Santoni suggested Steelers. The rest is history.

The team: Steelers fans are a classy breed who don’t lower themselves to trash-talking. Their team’s record speaks for itself: They have won more Super Bowls (six) and AFC Championship games (eight) than any NFL team. Simple as that. Supporters of the Steelers are “Steeler Nation” and are in possession of perhaps the most famous piece of fan paraphernalia in the world: The Terrible Towel. The Steelers have sold out every home game since 1972 and the waiting list for a season ticket is currently at 88,000, which roughly equates to fifty years. Therefore, you’re welcome to be a fan, but you’ll likely be long gone by the time your name gets to the top of the waiting list.

Current Player to Watch: Ben Roethlisberger. The two-time Super Bowl winner has enjoyed a 10-year career with the Steelers, with whom he achieved 100 victories in just his first 150 starts. This record is beaten only by Tom Brady, Joe Montana, and Terry Bradshaw.

All-Time MVP: Joe Greene. Going by the moniker of “Mean Joe” Greene, the former defensive tackle is widely revered as one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the NFL (in other words, the American football equivalent of Bobby Moore). He was a member of the successful Steelers team that claimed 4 Super Bowls in 6 years during the mid-to-late 70s.

St. Louis Rams

Robert Quinn of the St. Louis Rams. (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Robert Quinn of the St. Louis Rams. (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Why are they the Rams? The Rams have actually been housed in three different locations during their history. Starting out in Cleveland, the team later spent almost 50 years as a mainstay of the Los Angeles area, before moving to St. Louis. The name was chosen because the general manager’s favorite team had been the Fordham Rams.

The team: When this franchise moved from L.A. to St. Louis in 1995, the results immediately bore fruit. In their first six years in Missouri, the Rams reached two Super Bowls, beating the Tennessee Titans in 2000 and losing to the Patriots in 2002. It was during this time the Rams’ offense took the nickname the “The Greatest Show on Turf.” Since then, things haven’t been great down in St. Louis (they’ve not qualified for the playoffs since 2004). This has the knock-on effect of their consistently ranking near the bottom of NFL attendance charts. Given the team’s short history in St. Louis, there is little in the way of fan culture or tradition to be found at a Rams game.

Current Player to Watch: Robert Quinn. Signing with the Rams in 2011, Quinn—a defensive end—was voted Pro Football Writers Association NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.

All-Time MVP: Eric Dickerson. The former running back turned out for the Rams in 11 straight seasons and was three times voted the UPI NFC Offensive Player of the Year. Moreover, he currently holds the seventh highest number of rushing yards in the NFL. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

 

San Diego Chargers

Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers. (Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers. (Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Why are they the Chargers? Once again, the Chargers were named through a contest. However, the story goes that upon reading the name for the first time, team owner Baron Hilton was so taken by the eventual winning entry that he did not even open another letter.

The team: The Chargers’ very feeble, blasé support base always appears near the wrong end of any fan-ranking polls. You can’t call them fairweather fans either, because even when the team’s doing well they still rank low in attendance. Case in point, in the 2007 season the Chargers reached the AFC Championship Game, yet still finished bottom of the NFL attendance table.

Current Player to Watch: Philip Rivers. Known for his endurance, Rivers ranks 4th on the NFL’s all-time list of consecutive quarterback starts, behind the Manning brothers and Brett Favre.

All-Time MVP: LaDainian Tomlinson. The recently retired running back was named in the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team and currently ranks second in the list of all-time rushing touchdowns.

 

San Francisco 49ers

Patrick Willis of the San Francisco 49ers. (Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Patrick Willis of the San Francisco 49ers. (Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Why are they the 49ers? This well-known team from San Francisco derived their name from a pivotal year in the city’s history: 1849—the year the first settlers came during the gold rush.

The team: 49ers fans divide into two distinct groups: old (and lucky) enough to remember the five Super Bowl victories in a 14-season span between 1981 and 1994, and the new generation of fans who, for 20 years, have known nothing but playoff heartbreak. This year the franchise moved into a fancy new home, Levi’s Stadium, as their iconic former home, Candlestick Park, was outdated and crumbling. Hopefully, the new stadium inspires, rejuvenates the team, and brings back the glory years.

Current Player to Watch: Patrick Willis. Winning the NFC Championship in 2012, linebacker Willis has ranked top 30 in the NFL 100 Greatest Players list in each of the past four seasons.

All-Time MVP: Joe Montana. A true legend of the sport, Joe Montana is not only a quarterback hall of famer, but also a four-time Super Bowl Championship winner and a record-breaking three-time Super Bowl MVP.

Seattle Seahawks

Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks. (Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks. (Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Why are they the Seahawks? Decided in a 1975 contest, Seahawks was chosen from among thousands of different submissions. Speaking at the time, general manager John Thompson said, “Our new name suggests aggressiveness, reflects our soaring Northwest heritage, and belongs to no other major league team.”

The team: In the footballing world, Seattle’s fans are so vocal they’re known as the “12th man” (Twelfth Man) (Seahawks fans have twice set the Guinness World Record for the loudest sound at a sporting event). Because of the design of the seating decks and partial roof at their home stadium, CenturyLink Field, the sound of the crowd is amplified and reflected back onto the field. The thunderous noise often causes problems for opposing teams, forcing them to commit numerous false-start penalties. One urban legend goes that in the days leading up to playing at Seattle, opposing teams practice in their stadium with rock music blaring through the sound system at full volume. The Seahawks are current holders of the Vince Lombardi trophy (the award presented to the winners of the Super Bowl) so if you start supporting them today, you’re a reigning champion! Congrats, buddy.

Current Player to Watch: Richard Sherman. Fresh off the Seahawks’ 2014 Super Bowl victory against the Denver Broncos, Richard Sherman recently became among the highest-earning defensive players in the NFL, after signing a lucrative contract worth $57.5 million.

All-Time MVP: Steve Largent. A former wide receiver for the Seahawks (between 1976 and 1989), Largent was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995 and upon retiring, claimed numerous all-time receiving records.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Why are they the Buccaneers? In the same year that the Seahawks were named, this team from Tampa came buccaneering onto the NFL landscape. The team’s name was decided by owner Hugh F. Culverhouse and experts after paring down a list of 400 names. The name is an ode to the pirates who stormed Floridian coasts in the 1600s.

The team: Tampa won the Super Bowl in 2002, but since then the most fun thing about supporting the Bucs is that you get to dress as a pirate every week. The Glazer family purchased the franchise in 1995, and currently own Manchester United as well, so this may sway your decision based on your feelings for the Old Trafford club. Depending on what your criteria are for picking a team, I can tell you the Bucs currently have the coach with the cutest name in football, Lovie Smith.

Current Player to Watch: Gerald McCoy. A two-time Pro Bowl and one-time All-Pro selection, McCoy was ranked number 28 in the NFL’s Top 100 Greatest Players list.

All-Time MVP: Derrick Brooks. Playing his entire professional career with the Buccaneers, former linebacker Brooks was an 11-time Pro Bowl and nine-time All-Pro selection and a Super Bowl Championship Ring holder (Super Bowl XXXVII).

Tennessee Titans

Zach Mettenberger of the Tennessee Titans. (Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Zach Mettenberger of the Tennessee Titans. (Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Why are they the Titans? Initially billed as the Oilers upon the team’s relocation to Tennessee, the Titans acquired their name after owner Bud Adams held a contest across the state of Tennessee. “We wanted a new nickname to reflect strength, leadership and other heroic qualities,” Adams had said at the time.

The team: The Titans relocated from Texas to Tennessee in 1997, played one season in Memphis, and have since settled in Nashville. The catchment area for fans is vast, potentially drawing from neighboring states Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi, none of which have a single major league sports team currently operating. Making it to the 1999 season Super Bowl helped garner support, but the club remains in its infancy; fan culture hasn’t had enough time to develop its distinctive traits and traditions.

Current Player to Watch: Zach Mettenberger. The young quarterback was recently drafted to the Titans after concluding his college football career at Louisiana State.

All-Time MVP: Earl Campbell. Playing as a running back during a six-year stint for the team then known as the Houston Oilers, Campbell won numerous MVP awards and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.

Washington Redskins

DeSean Jackson of the Washington Redskins. (Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
DeSean Jackson of the Washington Redskins. (Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Why are they the Redskins? Often a source of discussion, the Redskins name is thought to have been an ode to former head coach and Native American Henry “Lone Star” Dietz. After the team relocated from Boston to Washington D.C. in 1937, the name changed from Boston Redskins to Washington Redskins.

The team: Here is another team with an impressive history that achieved nothing in the last two decades (they’ve only made playoffs four times since 1993), but still fans flock to the stadium on game days. For many years, a common sight at Redskins games were groups of men dressed in women’s dresses and wearing pig snouts. Founded in 1983, the “Hogettes” cheered on the Redskins (and raised over $100 million for charity in the process) for 30 years before announcing their retirement at the end of the 2012 season. Another familiar sight at Redskins’ stadium is Chief Zee (real name Zema Williams), an unofficial mascot who has been attending games dressed in Native American dress since 1978.

Current Player to Watch: DeSean Jackson. Before signing with the Washington Redskins in April 2014, the former Philadelphia Eagles player made a career-high 82 receptions in 2013.

All-Time MVP: Darrell Green. Arguably one of the greatest defensive backs in the NFL, he played for the Redskins for an astonishing 19 years—breaking all sorts of league records in the process.

 

Time to make your choice. Let us know which NFL team you’ll be following in the comments below:

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By Jon Langford