Nathan Hards is The Rookie Fan, a newbie to the NFL. RealSport will be following Nathan as he makes the most difficult decision any rookie NFL fan has to make – which team to support! NB: In order to be “fair” to all teams, Nathan is generally only looking at teams’ success since 2002, when the Texans joined the league.
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the NFC North, the home of some of the oldest franchises in the history of football. We’ll be looking at the four teams from the northern states, and what positives and negatives we can find on them. So let’s jump in with both feet.
Minnesota and the Vikings has a big personal pull for me. I know a lot of people from Minnesota, and I’ve always liked the visuals of the Vikings as a team. They’re a strongly branded team, with a decent following and recognition from the UK. They play a solid form of football that really awards physicality on the field, and pressure on the plays. From a defensive standpoint, they’re looking pretty solid, and they’ve pulled 7-2 so far this season.
The Vikings are a big team, but they’ve not really been able to deliver on their promises. Since 2002, the Vikings have only gained a divisional trophy. It’s getting to the point where they’re falling into the same bracket as the Oakland raiders, with people mocking them for being the ‘also ran’ team. Backing the Vikings is fun, but you’re not likely to be walking away with much to boast about. Wild cards, and decent seasons don’t fill shelves. Damn though, their defence can hit!
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay, Wisconsin, the Lambeau field is one of the oldest fields in the game. The Packers can look all the way back to the start of the NFL, with a history reaching all the way back to 1921. These guys care slightly less about their rivalry with the Vikings than their neighbours do, but it makes for an entertaining dynamic between the two states. Green Bay are the only team in the NFC North to pull a Super Bowl victory since 2002, and are quite comfortable winning this division year on year. The boys from Green Bay are a solid team to back, and you gain the historic aspect of supporting a team with real roots, that hasn’t moved all over the country.
Green Bay Packers fans are hated, passionately by almost every other team in the NFL. You announce yourself as a Packers fan, and you are immediately greeted by eye rolls, and marked as ‘one of them’. It’s a side affect of the history. Yes, you won the first ever superbowl, and yes, the trophy is named after your famous Coach, and yes, you have the longest standing stadium in the game. Seriously though, let it go. The packers are infamous for only getting to the conference, and then falling to pieces at the last minute, and their stadium is one of the worst in the whole league. You will be unpopular, and you won’t have that much to celebrate about, but you do get to be smug.
Who has been playing longer than Green Bay? The Bears. Whose field is older? Chicago’s. I have actually been to Chicago, so I guess that is a tick in the box for me, as it was a really nice place. These guys are backed by their President! Seriously, Obama is a big fan, and once compared himself to Aaron Rodgers. The Bears have a long history, and at Soldier field you can feel it, refitted in 2003, it feels modern but also has lots of features that remind you of the roots of the game. If history is your aim, and you don’t fancy being a Cheesehead, then the Bears are your boys.
Just don’t look at the results. Seriously. Chicago are notorious for losing, and losing games that they really shouldn’t. They’re 4-5 so far this season, they lost to the Lions – we will get to them shortly – and it’s become a thing that they get beat over the head with. The can win Divisions, and even conferences, but they’re a bit light on the Super Bowl front, even if we look past the 2002 embargo on awards that the Texans made necessary for this piece. You are going to be doing a lot of crying into your beer, but it will make the wins all the sweeter.
The Lions. Detroit City. The lions have a solid following in Detroit. The fans back the team, and there aren’t too many people outside of Detroit bandwagon hopping. You’re not going to be accused of being a fairweather fan.
This is because the Lions suck. 3-7 so far this season with wins over teams in the last minute, which were thrown away by bad plays. The Lions are being torn apart this season, and some major repercussions are on their way for this streak of awful games. If you go beyond this season, they’ve won nothing in 15 years. 1993 was the last time they won a Division. If you’re going for the underdogs, these are your guys. They go out on the field and get torn apart season after season, but they still keep coming.
This is another hard one for me, there are some genuine personal reasons for me to pick teams in this division. I’m actually finding it hard to pick between two front runners.
The Lions are out. Straight out. They suck, I’d like to apologise to the whole of Detroit for this, but I think the Lions should first.
Green Bay – Nah… I don’t want to be one of those guys. Results aren’t everything for me. I’m more about the team as a whole.
The Vikings are a great team, and they are well branded, with some solid plays. They’re just pipped to the post on this one, and I’m sure I’ll get loads of hassle from my colleagues for dropping Minnesota, but I’m going with what I know.
The Bears walk this one. They’ve got the history, and they’re not dicks about it. They have some results, but they’re not swimming in victories, and I like the idea of really being able to celebrate those wins. So the Bears walk into the conference final with the Bucs. Leaving two spaces in the next round.
Next issue, we tackle the NFC East. Running with the Giants, Eagles, Redskins, and the Cowboys. Let us see who can lift themselves above the others on the Eastern seaboard.