Being a fan of any professional sports franchise can be a labor of love, and that is especially the case for those who actively support AFC North teams. Weather conditions can make for some bitter-cold outings on those December afternoons and evenings, particularly for those who attend games in Pittsburgh or along the shoreline of Lake Erie. That is even more true when the teams that call those areas home are out of postseason contention by the time Santa begins checking his lists twice.
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Odds are that fans from each of the division’s clubs would claim to be the best of the bunch. It turns out that there is an group out there looking to prove one of those fan bases to be correct.
Emory Sports Marketing Analytics has spent years working to determine which teams have the best overall fans in the National Football League, and the group updated its list for 2015 on July 8. As was explained by Manish Tripathi from the Emory website, several factors, such as fan surveys and also attendance numbers for every team, all played roles in this year’s rankings for the best fans in the NFL. Those interested in reading more on the study can do so by clicking here.
The Baltimore Ravens Are Clear Winners
It is easy to understand why fans of the Baltimore Ravens, who finished fourth overall among all NFL fans in the study, remain so high on their favorite team. The Ravens won the Super Bowl in February of 2012. Baltimore is essentially a postseason mainstay these days.
The Ravens routinely win over 50 percent of their home regular season contests, and those games against hated rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers are some of the more entertaining events on any NFL schedule. 2014 could have been a rough year for the Ravens considering all that went down regarding the Ray Rice fiasco. It turns out that not even controversy could slow the team down.
Fans of the Ravens will once again have high expectations for the club heading into training camp. Joe Flacco is, at absolute worst, the second-best quarterback in all of the AFC North. All one has to do is enter “Ravens” and “Super Bowl” into the search engine of his choice to see that some supposed experts and bloggers are predicting big things for the 2015 Ravens. Regardless of how the team is performing on the field, you can bet that M&T Bank Stadium will be loud.
It almost always is.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Are Distant Second
Do not shoot the messenger, Pittsburgh Steelers fans. Nobody from NFL SpinZone, particularly the individual responsible for typing this sentence, conducted the study that was used to determine the rankings that listed Pittsburgh fans as 14th overall in the NFL. Followers of the Steelers have mostly had a blessed existence over the past decade, as the team has twice won the Super Bowl over that time. The city of Pittsburgh could soon be linked with the Super Bowl in a different way. Heinz Field is up for consideration to host a future championship game, which would make for the second “cold-weather Super Bowl” since MetLife Stadium in New Jersey hosted the event in February 2014.
The harsh truth of the matter is that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is not getting any younger. Big Ben may have a massive frame for a signal-caller, but that frame has been through numerous wars and has taken far more beatings than have most quarterbacks of his size who have started in the league for over a decade. The window for this current crop of Steelers winning a Super Bowl is not yet closed, but it is not as open as it was a few years ago.
The Cincinnati Bengals Are Ten Spots Lower
Often third in AFC North power rankings, it is the Cincinnati Bengals checking in at 24th overall in the 2015 NFL Fan Equity Rankings. The upcoming regular season could prove to be make-or-break for the Bengals in several ways. Superstar wide receiver A.J. Green has stated that he will not be talking about his contract status until after the end of campaign.
While that was to be expected, the notion that Green could look for higher ground next spring if things go terribly wrong for the Bengals over the next five months has to be downright terrifying for fans. Quarterback Andy Dalton is still looking for that elusive first ever playoff victory, and he is quickly losing the patience of the remaining supporters that he has within the Cincinnati fan base.
What has been somewhat lost in the shuffle of discussions about his contract is that the Bengals could theoretically begin looking to move on from Dalton as early as next March depending on what occurs between now and New Year’s Day. That topic includes breakdowns of cap hits and dead money that are better suited for another time and another post. The shortened version of the story is that 2015 will be the biggest year to date of Dalton’s professional career.
It should not be “Super Bowl or bust” for Dalton. That is an ask for any quarterback let alone one that has yet to notch a one-and-done postseason win. If, however, Dalton were to suffer a meltdown of any kind in January — either in the final regular season game against division rivals the Ravens or in the playoffs — the Bengals may be tempted to see what other options at quarterback are out there.
No pressure, Andy.
The Cleveland Browns Are Dead Last
Well here is a big shocker: The Cleveland Browns have the “worst” fans in the AFC North. Only the Miami Dolphins were lower on the overall 2015 Emory Sports Marketing Analytics list. While this ranking is probably harsh to a fan base that has suffered and suffered, those running the franchise need only look in the mirror to understand why the Browns are so low in the rankings.
Cleveland has not given fans a winning team since the 2007 season. The Browns may still not have a top-tier quarterback on the roster unless second-year pro Johnny Manziel proves doubters wrong. It is not all bad, though, as All-Pro cornerback Joe Haden had the top-selling jersey in the NFL as of July 2015.
That’s something. Right?
One thing you can say for sure about the fan base of the Browns is that FirstEnergy Stadium will be packed and rocking during those September and October dates. Only if/when the Browns are seemingly out of the playoff race as Thanksgiving looms ahead will those who purchased game tickets begin making other Sunday plans. Cleveland fans have proven their loyalty for decades, so much so that they fought to reclaim a franchise that was stolen from them in the 1990s. That type of rabid support deserves better from this franchise.
It is on the Browns to provide more to their paying customers.
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