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! So here it is, the first part of my series on selecting a team to support in the NFL, and the agony involved. I’ll present relevant information for each team in a division, and select a winner from each one. These will then ‘play off’ at a conference level, all the way up to the final two teams at the ‘Super Bowl’. I will then have to stick with whichever team wins. That will be my team, forever, no matter what. All statistics presented are from 2002 to present, to make things fair for the most recent team added to the NFL. So without further preamble, let’s dive straight in, with the AFC East.
New England Patriots
The Pats are playing well – and have been for a while – with four Super Bowl titles on the last 15 years, alongside 2 conference and 3 division titles. Unfortunately, that creates an association of a glory seeker with any new supporters. You’d need to be comfortable with being associated with bandwagon hopping if you’re diving in with the Pats. The Pats are no strangers to controversy when it comes to their tactics on and off the field. So you’d need to get used to defending the actions of the back room staff, and the players on the field, when it comes to how they won the game. Expect lots of headlines with –gate at the end to be posted on your wall.
New York Jets
New York, New York. So good they gave them two teams. We’ll cover the Giants in the NFC east article. New York is an easily recognisable name, and would make a logical choice for someone from across the Atlantic. The Jets are not as big a brand across the pond, so you may get Kudos for that, but you’d probably need to back it up with some knowledge about the team. At 5-3 in the league, with some odd results thrown in, it’s still not clear if the Jets are real contenders this season, and with the Giants looking for payback for the preseason defeat, as well as another match against the Patriots coming up, this could be a hard second half of the season. In the last fifteen years, the Jets have pulled out two division crowns, but haven’t quite pulled it off at the conference level. You’re not going to be accused of bandwagon jumping, but with the Giants running a higher scoreline on the Super Bowl front, you may find yourself getting a lot of stick from guys that consider themselves fans of the ‘real New York’.
The Bills haven’t won anything of note in the last fifteen years, but that doesn’t stop them from having one of the most enthusiastic fanbases going. They have a never-say-die attitude on and off the field, and this can make for some entertaining coverage. You might not get many banners, but you’ll probably have fun anyway. Buffalo Bills fans don’t care. They are rowdy, and they are loud, and they are tailgating all year round. Bills fans get a lot of stick, and most teams consider them to be uncouth at best, and lunatics at worst. If you’re going with the Bills, you’re going to have to defend the behaviour of other fans more than the behaviour of the team. Then again, being a Bills fan, you probably won’t care.
At the bottom of the division, with a 3-5 record so far, they have managed some convincing wins against both Houston and the Titans. Having signed some interesting players this season, it’s entirely possible that these underdogs could start making some waves, if they can get their plays consistent. It’s always going to be a wild ride with the Dolphins. Miami is the kind of team you would expect from that part of America. Miami is all about image and leisure. The Dolphins have a really strong brand, and are one of the most recognised teams across the Atlantic, but their last 15 years in the AFC haven’t yielded many real results for them. You can wear all the gear, but you might struggle to defend your record. Decision time, who will be coming through as my pick from the AFC East, up to the AFC conference? It’s going to be the Bills. I don’t want to be accused of bandwagon hopping, and the other two teams in the division don’t really grab me in the way that the Pats and the Bills do. At least if the Bills keep disappointing me, It’ll be entertaining.