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NFL’s Most Popular Teams

Dallas, home of the most popular franchise in American team sports, had hoped to host its beloved Cowboys in the Super Bowl this year.  Alas, the team stunk up the joint so much that its head coach got fired at mid-season. As a consolation prize, though, they get the second and fifth most popular teams in the NFL:

To N.F.L. executives, networks, sponsors and others who make millions of dollars off the Super Bowl, Packers-Steelers may be one of the game’s most compelling matchups: two of the league’s oldest and most storied franchises with star quarterbacks, hard-hitting defenses and flashy offenses.

Both teams have rabid followings in their home states, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and beyond. With Cheeseheads and Terrible Towel wavers in all 50 states, and many of them spending heavily to get to the game, this Super Bowl will most likely be the most watched sporting event ever, and perhaps the most lucrative one as well.


The Dallas Cowboys are the most popular football team in America, but the Steelers are second and the Packers are sixth, according to Luker on Trends, Powered by the ESPN Sports Poll.

I knew that the Cowboys were number one and would have guessed the Steelers were number two.  They’re the two most successful teams of the Super Bowl era and were the dominant franchises in the 1970s, when the NFL catapulted to its current status as easily the most popular American spectator sport.    Here’s how all 32 teams rank:

For the most part, the rankings seem reasonable:  The teams that have done well in recent years and those from the biggest cities dominate the rankings. (Which, it should be noted, were compiled before the current season kicked off; I suspect the New York Jets would be higher now.)

How the woeful Cincinnati Bengals can be ranked so high is a mystery; they’ve been awful for two decades.  And, while they’d been awful for several consecutive seasons before a nice resurgence this season, the Rams won a Super Bowl and appeared in another a mere decade ago.  Then again, they haven’t been in St. Louis all that long, relocating there from Los Angeles for the 1996 season.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.


  1. reid says:

    I’m shocked the Raiders aren’t higher on the list. I thought they were kind of the bad-guy version of Dallas, popular everywhere. I guess years of mediocrity takes its toll….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 7

  2. James Joyner says:

    The Raiders and 49ers are shockingly low considering the heights both have reached. Is the Bay Area market that small?

    San Fran is tied with Dallas for 2nd, with 5 SB wins. But it has been awhile, I guess. The Raiders won one in recent memory, although they’ve totally tanked since.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8

  3. John Burgess says:

    And I’ll join the shockwagon to expess amazement that the Redskins are only a bit behind the Patriots! WTF? I’m sort of surprised that the Redskins are in at #11.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    As an Indiana resident, I’m shocked that the Colts rank that high, not because they’ve had bad seasons lately (obviously they haven’t), but because Hoosiers seem to be so fair-weather about their own team.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  5. tom p says:

    My Lambs…. We’re comin to git ya….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  6. Drew says:

    God damxxnd sons of a bixxxch what the fxxxck where the hell are yoou stupid sons a bixxxches horses assxxxs coming from!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The Barse are the best!!!!!!!!! Don’t you understand? DITKA RULES?!?!?

    OK. My blood pressure is back below 200/110……….

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 19

  7. G.A.Phillips says:

    The Cowboys no.1? Must be a bigger illegal alien problem then the government’s letting on.

    And the Bears no.4?lol, I demand a recount! somebody call Ghostbusters!!!!!

    Viqueens no.6? I guess purple is a mighty popular color these days, and so is sucking lol…..

    And good golly Green Bay no.5, I don’t get it, we got like Packer bars in kookamunga and $hit!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 13

  8. rodney dill says:

    Sorry Drew, the Bears still suck.

    Go Pack!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 13