A GUIDE TO THE THIRTY-TWO NATIONAL "HANDEGG" LEAGUE TEAMS FROM A PERSON WHO HASN'T WATCHED A GAME START TO FINISH IN ABOUT FIVE YEARS, OR, A GUIDE TO THE BLIND FROM A ONE-EYED MAN
Green Bay Packers: they play in a small northern Wisconsin industrial town as a relic of when most NFL teams were in small midwestern industrial towns. That combined with their lack of private ownership (they're a not-for-profit that occasionally pretends to sell "stock," which consists of a piece of paper saying you own a share of the team, which, for the complete lack of equity, resale value, and voting rights it confers, I could sell you just as well with Adobe Creative Suite and a decent sales pitch) gives them a populist appeal that's unmatched in North American sports. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the league, which is important, and are basically set up to contend every single year despite the NFL's attempts to engineer parity.
Recommended if you like: sausage, friendliness, Germans, flannel, beers, beards, beards named Olivia Munn
Detroit Lions: They've bounced back from the first and only 0-16 season in league history, but still haven't completed the turnaround. They recently fired a coach who had them playing like reckless dip :censored:s so they've matured into just kind of a good football team. Notable for being the one Detroit team that hasn't regularly contended for championships. They play indoors so there's none of that Battle With The Elements stuff you'd expect from a northern team, but there's not really much of a It's So Loud In The Dome thing, either, probably owing to how browbeaten their fans must be by now. They play on Thanksgiving every year, even when they're garbage. Their best player in team history was notable for not celebrating touchdowns with much enthusiasm, and then retiring from the game with the same phlegmatic trudge.
Recommended if you like: Ford cars, urban decay, square pizza
Minnesota Vikings: They seem to be good more often than not in my lifetime, seldom awful, but rarely great, and when things do start looking really good for them, everything comes crashing down in some outstandingly wonderful way that often manages to be more ridiculous than the last time. They had one of the best regular seasons of all time in '98 and then fell short of the Super Bowl on a field goal to some horsecrap Atlanta team no one remembers. Their central-casting lunkhead coach got in trouble for scalping Super Bowl tickets. There was an incident involving a "sex boat." They fell short of another Super Bowl because stupid old Brett Favre threw an interception. Then the best running back of a generation got kicked out of the league for beating the crap out of his kid with a tree branch. Through all this, Minnesotans manage to keep up their famous Scandinavian stoicism and understatement. Forget hooliganism: Vikings games, along with Packers games, are the kinds of places where if you stand up and clap, some old fart will turn to you with his or her index finger pressed to his/her lips, saying "some of us are trying to watch the game."
Recommended if you like: lakes, Norwegians, malls, losing, calm comfort in your unshakable belief that you're superior to everyone
Chicago Bears: A team that's been around since the NFL itself but hasn't used its head start for all that much. The team was owned by the same guy for about the first 60 years or so, but then passed down to his daughter and the bumbling nouveau-riche pindicks she spawned with her space cadet of a husband. The Bears have famously neglected offense in favor of defense and special teams for almost their entire history, which has been spun into an allegory for "blue-collar" Chicago, even though Chicago has been systematically dismantling its working class for decades now. They have the same kind of dynastic succession of middle linebackers that most teams have with quarterbacks. This defense-first approach worked to great effect in 1985, when they visited absolute devastation upon the league and wrote a rap song about it. It worked to lesser effect in 2005 and 2006, when winning games with everything but offense was fun in the way that watching a dog walk on its hind legs is fun, but they didn't win anything. More often than not, though, the Bears are just average, painfully average, as close to a .500 team in the modern era (2002-pres) as you'll find. Chicago has a love affair with the Bears that defies explanation given how little they give their fans, who are often fat, loud, and stupid even by NFL standards. This was a topic of parody on Saturday Night Live in the early '90s, the result of SNL's cast working up through improv at Second City and seeing these morons around. I mean, the Cubs don't win anything, either, but at least going to Wrigley Field in the summer is generally accepted as fun. The Bears play in a cramped dump of a stadium that sits on a beautiful lakefront like a turd on the train of a wedding dress, and more often than not it's cold and grey and windy, and it's not even easy to drive to. This stupid team had one good year that no one can let go of because there's nothing else. One. One year. The Bears are the worst. Don't like the Bears.
Recommended if you like: Poles, '80s novelty songs, veneers of proletarian romanticism on giant engines of ruthless capitalism, losing to the Packers
St. Louis Rams: They were really really good about fifteen years ago but found themselves among the league's worst teams recently. They're coming out of their slump now, but have one foot out the door for Los Angeles, where they had played for about fifty years until a showgirl from St. Louis killed her husband, engineered the team's failure in greater L.A., and moved them to some little nothing town in Middle America best known for a giant croquet wicket and the idea that Totino's Pizza Rolls constitute a local delicacy. They play in the most depressing venue in the league, a cheaply built dome that always seems dark and empty, but hey, not like you'll have to sweat that much longer.
Recommended if you like: Los Angeles
Seattle Seahawks: A recent Super Bowl champion behind a stifling defense after their hippy-dippy coach realized you can't call a penalty on every single play. Sometimes regarded as "the Nike team." The team has also taken on the reputation of some pretty unwavering blackness, despite playing in lily-white Seattle, where the only other things that are black are the coffee and the hearts of venture capitalists. Marshawn Lynch has become a hero for shirking his interview responsibilities to old white men, responding to every question with "yeah." Richard Sherman gives old white men trouble at any number of turns and is either America's leading public intellectual or an unspeakable word, depending on whom you ask. Even poor Russell Wilson, a talented quarterback with the personality of wet bread, got in some trouble with his locker room (and some Sherman-infatuated members of the media) for being "not black enough." Add to that that the coach is a 9/11 truther and it's pretty obvious that the Seahawks inspire some very strong opinions in people. It's really quite a feat for a team that seemed to go 8-8 every year for thirty years. Still, I wouldn't hold it against you if you don't want to piss on the third rail here.
Recommended if you like: gaudy athletic apparel, strong takes, jet fuel not melting steel beams, black lives mattering
San Francisco 49ers: long regarded as kind of the "prestige" franchise of the NFL, the one that didn't get down and dirty as it dispatched its opponents with finesse and precision. This has eroded in recent years, with a run of bad seasons ended by a renaissance where the 49ers were winning with their run game and defense -- an anomaly not only for the 49ers but for the modern NFL. Don't let the name fool you: they recently moved from San Francisco itself, a tiny little penis-head of a city amidst a big bushy junk of a metropolis, to Santa Clara in the 21st-century dystopia that is the Silicon Valley. This has made their games readily accessible to some of the world's most awful people. Now that the team's value has shot up with this move, the owners are getting the team ready for sale. In other words, holy crap, they suck now.
Recommended if you like: Vines, brand extensions, sponsored content, Latino gangs, arrogant misanthropy
Arizona Cardinals: the oldest team in the league, now playing outside Phoenix, via St. Louis, via Chicago. Spent years playing and losing as the second tenant at Arizona State's stadium. So irrelevant as to barely exist for most of their tenure, they now play in a big metal blob where the grass surface rolls out of the stadium on a tray and are moderately competitive.
Recommended if you like: being forgotten about, principled stands against American imperialism with tragic endings, xenophobic sheriffs, highs of 110 degrees
Carolina Panthers: a new-ish expansion team in Charlotte, a new-ish major American city. The team has been good and also bad. The team is owned by a crusty old ex-player who, despite having been a professional football player, is regularly the most unyielding hardliner against the players in collective-bargaining negotiations.
Recommended if you like: light blue, hypocrisy, McMansions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kind of the original rags-to-riches story of the NFL, they entered the league in 1976 with a logo that everyone made fun of for looking gay and promptly lost all 14 of their games. They continued to be varying degrees of bad until the Glazer family bought them and turned them into a model franchise with their revolutionary bend-but-don't-break defensive scheme. They picked up a big national following, and even an international following, because people from overseas would think "hmm, I liked Disney World, they are closest," ostensibly. Of course, all good things come to an end, but it took a pretty long time in Tampa. I think their decline lasted about ten years. Now they're really bad and have terrible uniforms, but could be saved by a Heisman-winning quarterback who may have raped a girl and stolen crab legs from a grocery store.
Recommended if you like: redemption, Manchester United, Florida weirdness, alarm clocks, Bucfan56
Atlanta Falcons: I dunno, I should have outsourced this to HedleyLamarr. They're just there. They had a quarterback who ran a dogfighting ring. They had a coach quit mid-season to coach college football instead, which is like the Atlanta-est thing ever. I'm burning out. Oh, they're getting a new stadium that looks like a robot butthole.
Recommended if you like: existing, robots, their buttholes
New Orleans Saints: famous for rebuilding New Orleans after the flood by being good at football. Actually, the team usually wasn't very good at football, and wasn't really supported all that well, either, so they had one foot out the door for San Antonio until the league made it known that bailing on New Orleans would be bad p.r. for the league. But they stayed, and eventually won a Super Bowl, and this made everyone happy. They had kind of an America's Team thing going for a while, what with how uplifting that whole thing was, but they squandered it all when they got busted for paying players under the table to injure their opponents. Their fans range from the lovable New Orleanians who make food and music for tourists to genuinely terrifying backwoods folk who like to shoot things.
Recommended if you like: redemption, vengeance, pastries, parts of America that for better or worse sure aren't boring or average
Philadelphia Eagles: Team that's usually good but never wins the big one. The Philadelphia fan mythos is pretty overpowering: they throw snowballs at mall Santas, they throw batteries at everyone else, they're mean, they're loud, there's a jail in the stadium basement, so on, so forth. I dunno, I think the Philly fan thing is kinda cool. They play it up and then go to their white-collar Comcast jobs in the morning. It's harmless.
Recommended if you like: rudeness, throwing up on yourself, ignoring professional basketball
New York Giants
Recommended if you like: sniffing your own farts
Washington Redskins: This was a team that was pretty successful in the '80s along with the Giants and 49ers, but they've traded on those years almost as much as the Bears have traded on 1985, and truth be told, it's getting a little old and they really need to write some new history. The team is owned by a weird little tyrant of a man who made his millions early in life by selling advertising space where advertising space didn't used to be, and has basically treated the Redskins as his personal toy, making snap judgments and bad decisions on a weekly basis. Of course, his worst decision is probably doubling down on calling them the Redskins, which most people would seem to prefer they not do. This, along with the years of irrelevance, has done a good job of silencing what would otherwise be a proud fanbase. Thankfully, it's Washington, so everyone was probably already a little too proud of themselves to begin with.
Recommended if you like: dearths of local culture, explaining why things aren't racist, people who can't tell you what their jobs are
Dallas Cowboys: This is America's Team, but much like the Redskins, they haven't really done much since the mid-'90s and no one has the heart to tell them that the sobriquet belongs to the Packers now. The only thing they've done since the Super Bowl years that seemed sufficiently All-American was have a fresh-faced quarterback dating a blonde with big jugs. They play in a giant monument to Texan opulence and tastelessness and wouldn't have it any other way. They're starting to turn a corner these last couple years but haven't been able to close it out. The worst thing is I wouldn't mind if they did.
Recommended if you like: anything big
Pittsburgh Steelers: Another contender for America's Team and populist spirit, but the nationwide Steelers following is less a matter of the unchurched adopting them so much as the fact that Pittsburgh has experienced a huge diaspora. They're also kind of like the Bears in terms of being a one-family business in an industrial city and loving coaches with mustaches, except the Steelers don't suck all the time. The Steelers pick up a sort of kindred-spirit respect from NFC fanbases who don't have to deal with them all the time. The 49ers used to get this too, I think.
Recommended if you like: French fries (you call them "chips") on sandwiches, life in a northern town
Cleveland Browns: the Browns were a beloved old team that moved to Baltimore, but the NFL handled this crapstorm by "suspending" the intellectual property of the Browns and then giving them to a new expansion team, while the original Browns roster and front office continued as the Baltimore Ravens. This sends certain CCSLCers into conniption fits. Since being reinstated in 1999, the Browns have probably been the worst franchise in the league over such time, making the playoffs once, going 0-1, and generally finishing 5-11 while the Ravens have gone on to great success. The Browns, long respectful of their traditional brown and orange uniforms dating back to the '50s or '60s, just redesigned them into some monstrosity of words on pants, "rise-shadows," and head-to-toe orange. Their star quarterback is already in rehab for alcohol.
Recommended if you like: factories of sadness, LeBron James, failure
Cincinnati Bengals: just as the Bears are one game over .500 in the 32-team NFL era, the Bengals are one game under. Pretty sure they've made the playoffs more times than the Bears have in that time, though. They had a brief run as the Everyone Gets Arrested team in the 2000s, but that seems to have calmed down. The Bengals have the coolest helmets but weird overdesigned uniforms. Bengals fans share the same woe-is-me groaning as fans of other midwestern teams that go 9-7 too much, but I don't think they really add any new wrinkles to it. Still, cool helmets!
Recommended if you like: dressing up as animals, more Germans, tense race relations, some sort of ungodly chocolate spaghetti chili
Baltimore Ravens: A perennially competitive team whose fans are nevertheless perpetually aggrieved about everything all the time, real or imagined. Ravens fans seem to puff up their chests over their proximity to Bodymore Murdaland but wouldn't be caught dead in it, instead sticking to the smoked-glass midrises of suburban Maryland where people cheerlessly fill out TPS reports about drone strikes.
Recommended if you like: seafood, The Wire, Edgar Allan Poe, bureaucracy
Indianapolis Colts: Formerly Peyton Manning and the Manning-ettes, they replaced him with Andrew Luck after tanking a season and interrupting their long run of double-digit-win seasons. Colts fans are polite and boring as you'd expect from Indianoplace, but the owner himself is a drug-addled nutbar who buys up all the memorabilia and ephemera an 17-year-old boy would buy. Like the Steelers, they're hard to dislike too much if they're not a thorn in your side.
Recommended if you like: high school basketball, Jack Kerouac, leaving places unannounced in the middle of the night
Houston Texans: A replacement for the late lamented Houston Oilers, the Texans (named for playing in Texas) have had a long road to respectability since joining the league in 2002. They've since lost a lot of that respectability, so this is as close to getting in on the ground floor as you're going to get these days. Being the other Texas team keeps their fans grounded, I suspect.
Recommended if you like: humidity, pollution, sprawl, cattle
Tennessee Titans: The Oilers of old, the Titans enjoyed a bit of a cultural moment in 1999-2000 when, new to the scene with cool new uniforms and logos, they lost the Super Bowl to the Rams by a yard, making them sort of a team everyone else could get behind. Their quarterback, Steve McNair, was one tough bastard of a quarterback who could take a beating from everyone except for the mistress who shot and killed him after his playing days were done. The Titans had an orphan 13-3 season a few years ago but have fallen into small-market obscurity, just toiling and missing the playoffs.
Recommended if you like: Y2K, Smurfs, stale things
Jacksonville Jaguars: hey, "your" team! The NFL expanded to Jacksonville in 1995 after withholding better cities like Baltimore and St. Louis for existing teams to move to, leaving an overgrown port city in northern Florida. Another vaguely trendy team of the late '90s that has fallen on hard times, the team flirted with relocation rumors before getting new ownership who turned the stadium into some kind of redneck riviera with people watching the games on giant TVs from swimming pools. The fans are understandably defensive about being in the league's most irrelevant market and will get very ornery about it.
Recommended if you like: London, chlamydia, realizing what actual Florida is like
Denver Broncos: A team that couldn't win the big one until they did, twice in a row, and then went right back. Probably a safe bet if you want your team to be good every year, but who knows what the future holds once Peyton Manning retires? Broncos fans like to chant "IN-COM-PLETE!" every time the opposing quarterback throws an incompletion. It gets annoying fast. They're also very loud.
Recommended if you like: marijuana, ultimate frisbee, hiking, Subarus, the effect thin air has on blood alcohol content
San Diego Chargers: Owners of awesome throwback uniforms that they never wear anymore. A team whose window has been shut for a couple years but still hasn't had the heart to be actively terrible, thus keeping people's hopes up. They might move to Los Angeles too.
Recommended if you like: beaches, avocados, having lots of kids, Lights Out
Kansas City Chiefs: another one of those goody-two-shoes football teams that thinks it has some higher calling than making big fat guys stand in lines and run into each other. They recently tried running themselves like the Patriots, which is to say paranoid and belligerent and straight-up weird, but it didn't take and they went back to doing things in a more traditionally footbally way. Good fans. Maybe not America's Team, but about to be Missouri's.
Recommended if you like: mock turtlenecks, eating food in a parking lot
Oakland Los Angeles Oakland Raiders: The coolest. Owned for years and years by Al Davis, a crazy old Jewish man who walked around everywhere in a tracksuit and aviator sunglasses, which just so happens to be all I've ever wanted out of life. He came into ownership as a coach for the team and eventually worked his way up to owning the damn team through various deals and subterfuges, and then made life a living hell for the NFL by moving to Los Angeles without permission, moving back to Oakland without permission, and generally disagreeing with and obstructing every single thing the league tried to do, often just because he felt like it. He once fired a terrible coach and prepared a PowerPoint for the assembled media on what a terrible coach the guy was and why he deserved to be fired. Everyone was up in arms over this, but it would turn out in the years to come that this was absolutely the correct thing to do after all. Now that Al is dead, the team has been passed down to his son, who looks like a satanic Dennis the Menace. The Raiders were famous for picking up every druggie, screwup, and criminal that no one else would take, and won a few Super Bowls doing it. Unfortunately, as the league evolved, the Raiders didn't, for years sticking to a gameplan of "run, run, run, run, okay now bomb it" that worked well when just running really fast in a straight line and catching a deep pass was enough to beat a defense. Ironically, that would probably work really well in today's league. Be that as it may, nothing they do has worked well in today's league, having missed the playoffs for twelve years in a row and often being really terrible while doing so. Raiders fans tend to interpret the Raider Nation thing in different ways. While some like to play up the Black Hole thing and dress as Darth Vader or bikers or leather daddies or whatever, some people (okay, fine, cholos) will dispense with the silly LARPing and just shiv you. I haven't done photos in this and it's been by design but this is my favorite NFL picture ever:
A peace summit between the most evil man in the universe and Darth Vader. This is the best team.
Recommended if you like: N.W.A., playing the bad guy, grandiose sloganeering, hurting people, not actually caring about the outcomes of football games
New York Jets: The other New York team, everyone sort of picks on them because they're not the Giants, who win the Super Bowl in the years that they choose to emerge from up their own ass. Meanwhile, the Jets haven't won much of anything since the '60s, and always seem to be in some sort of tabloid controversy, like their fat loud coach having a foot fetish, or their quarterback engaging in a charming gavotte called the "butt fumble." Jets fans add spice to the annual draft ceremony by showing up at Radio City Music Hall and going "OHHH!!!! OHHHH!!! NOOOOO!!! OHHHH!!! HEEYYYY! AWWW!!!! OHHHHH!!!!" at whoever the Jets draft because it's always the wrong guy.
Recommended if you like: spelling words and repeating them three times, being the loudest guy in a bar, generalized New York agita
Miami Dolphins: the only franchise to have an undefeated championship season, the remaining members of the team get together and pop champagne every time the last undefeated team of a season loses its first game. Lots of people hate this. I think it's awesome. If you hate it so much, let's see you do it. Bitch. Recently wearers of hideous uniforms, the team debuted some cool throwbacks, which give us hope.
Recommended if you like: Ace Ventura, taking one's talents to South Beach, Cuban sandwiches, Cuban cigars, Cuban people
Buffalo Bills: Unlike the other U.S. sports leagues, the NFL doesn't have any teams in Toronto, Montreal, or anywhere in Canada, so this is the closest thing. The Bills played a couple games in Tronna but no one went, so they're back home in Western New York full-time for the time being. The Bills went to four Super Bowls in a row and lost all of them, and the team's been bad for about 15 years now, but the team was recently purchased by an oil baron whose mission in life is to make Buffalo somewhat livable. Somehow this encompasses the Bills being not terrible. They might make the playoffs this year.
Recommended if you like: chicken wings, measuring snowfall in feet, tucking your dick between your legs and dancing to New Wave music
New England Patriots: Saving the worst for last. I don't even like football and I still hate the Patriots. There's nothing to add. No one's going to let you be another goddamn Patriots fan.
Recommended if you like: treason against the Crown, persecution complexes, spying on people, surreptitiously tampering with game equipment, being a sore loser, being a sorer winner, being reprehensible in all ways to all people