Baseball may be America’s pastime but football, and the NFL in particular, is the most popular sport in America today. Last season the NFL made over $13 billion in revenue and 111.9 million people tuned in to watch the Denver Broncos defeat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 this past February. But what makes football truly special is the passion of the fans. NFL fans are famous for braving bad weather and outrageous beer prices in the hopes of cheering their team to victory. We at SmartAsset thought it would be interesting to measure the fan experience in order to determine which NFL teams have the most die-hard fans.
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What do we mean by “die-hard?” We made a few assumptions for this study. First, we assumed that fans who are willing to pay more for the experience of watching their team in person can be considered more die-hard. To that end, we looked at the average ticket prices and concession stand prices for each NFL team.
We also wanted to reward fans who continue to show up even though their chances of seeing their team pull off a victory is on the low side. So we looked at the attendance rate for each team over a five-year period from 2011 to 2015 and compared it to the teams’ win rates for that same time period. To see where we got our data and how we analyzed it, read the data and methodology section below.
- Packed football games. Americans love watching their teams battle on the gridiron. Even the lowest-attended team, the St. Louis Rams (the Los Angeles Rams as of the 2016 season), had an average attendance rate of 85% over the period we analyzed. This compares favorably to sports like baseball where attendance is often below 80%.
- NFC East rules. Fans of the NFC East teams (the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles) may want to ignore their heated rivalries for a moment and bask in the fact that all four teams cracked the top 10.
- Double down. In addition to the aforementioned Giants, the Jets came in 10th, making New York one of two states to grab two coveted spots in the top 10. The other state is Texas. The Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans clocked in at 2 and 9, respectively.
- Fans never give up hope. The Jaguars are the team with the lowest win rate – a measly 23.7% – over the period we analyzed. Despite this, their fans showed up to fill almost 94% of seats.
1. Chicago Bears
Bears fans nabbed the top spot in our ranking mostly due to their impressive attendance rate in the face of high ticket prices and a fairly low win percentage. Supporters of “da Bears” (as they are known to longtime “SNL” viewers) have to pony up $108 on average for a ticket. That’s the fith-highest price in the league, according to our data. And they’re more likely to witness a loss than a win, as the Bears had only a 46% win rate over the time period we considered. Sadly, early injuries to starting quarterback Jay Cutler and starting running back Jeremy Langford, combined with a poor start to the 2016 season mean the Bears and their die-hard fans may be in for another long Super Bowl hibernation.
2. Dallas Cowboys
America’s Team climbed to second in our rank due to mediocre on-field success mixed with expensive ticket and concession prices. The cheapest soda someone can find at a Cowboys game is $6 for 20 oz and the average ticket costs $110. In spite of the high prices, Dallas fans still flock to AT&T Stadium at a 101.8% attendance rate. Cowboys fans will be hoping fantasy football darling Ezekiel Elliot is able to carry the load this season while star receiver Dez Bryant and the oft-injured Tony Romo get back to health.
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3. Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles fans have been on a bit of a roller coaster recently. After two straight successful campaigns under Chip Kelly in 2013 and 2014, Eagles fans may have thought they were on their way to something promising, utilizing his fast-faced attack. Alas, it was not to be. In 2015 the team finished with a losing record and Kelly was fired. Still many fans are no doubt wondering if this is their year as the team is off to an impressive start under new head coach Doug Pederson.
4. New York Giants
Giants fans have to pay an eye-watering $123 per ticket on average – the highest in the league – to see their team throw the pigskin. So it’s just as well they can enjoy a 12 oz beer for $5. That price might strike New Yorkers as suspiciously low, but a little research shows a Bud Light Beer Garden on MetLife stadium’s premises where tailgaters can snag cheap beer before kickoff. Despite the team’s 38% win rate for the five-year period we analyzed, fans managed to fill 93% of seats on average.
5. San Francisco 49ers
As the winners of five Super Bowl championships, the 49ers have one of the proudest traditions in the NFL. But the team has fallen on hard times recently and hasn’t posted a winning record in the past two years. Many are likely waiting to see if former Eagles coach Chip Kelly can right the ship. In the meantime, fans have to pay the second-highest beer price in the league ($10) and the third-highest ticket price ($117 on average). None of that has prevented the team from earning a solid 100.9% attendance rate.
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6. (tie) Washington Redskins
Washington fans have also suffered from a few brutal losing seasons recently, including a particularly bad 3-13 record in 2013. Despite that, fans still flock to the stadium filling it to 89% capacity on average.
6. (tie) Indianapolis Colts
There’s no doubting Colts fans’ dedication. They have the highest average attendance rate in the league at 103.9%. The on-field performance hasn’t quite matched fan enthusiasm. The Colts only won 53% of their games over the five-year period we researched. The reason they aren’t ranked higher in our study is because, compared to other NFL outings, it’s relatively inexpensive to see star QB Andrew Luck and his team. Ticket prices average $87 and a beer-soda-hot dog combo will set you back less than $18.
8. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have lost some of their mojo since Ray Lewis retired after their 2012 Super Bowl victory over the 49ers. Ravens fans pay the eighth-highest ticket prices and face the third-highest concession prices. But the team still boasts a 100% attendance rate.
9. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans are the most recent team to join the NFL as a reincarnation of the Houston Oilers. Fans seem happy to have a team back in the city because according to our data they have the eighth-highest attendance rate in the league.
10. New York Jets
The Jets have long been in the Patriots shadow when it comes to AFC East dominance. But despite the lack of success, Jets fans still venture out to New Jersey to see their team in person. High prices are the norm in the New York region and tickets to see the Jets play are no exception. On average fans pay $105 per ticket.
Data and Methodology
To determine the NFL teams with the most die-hard fans, we gathered data on the following factors:
- Ticket prices. This is the face-value price of a single ticket to a game on average. Note: this does not factor in premium ticket prices. Ticket prices were taken from Team Marketing Report’s 2015 analysis of NFL prices.
- Concession prices. This is the total price of the cheapest beer and soft drink available on the premises, plus the cost of a hot dog. Concession prices were taken from Team Marketing Report’s 2015 analysis of NFL prices.
- Attendance rate. This is the average percentage of seats that were filled at home games over a five-year period from 2011 to 2015. Detail-oriented readers will see that some teams had an attendance rate of over 100%. This is because the advertised maximum attendance numbers do not include standing room only tickets or extra seats that may have been added to luxury box areas. Attendance data comes from ESPN.com.
- Win percentage. This is the percentage of wins each team had over a five-year period from 2011-2015. Data on wins comes from ESPN.com.
- Dedication factor. The dedication factor is the difference between a team’s attendance rate and its win percentage. This is meant to measure how “dedicated” a team’s fans are, or how much they continue to show up to games even when their team is less likely to win. Teams with a higher dedication factor score did better.
In order to produce our overall ranking, we ranked all 32 NFL teams by the following four metrics: ticket prices, concession prices, attendance rate and dedication factor. We gave ticket prices and the dedication factor full weight, and we gave half weight to concession prices and the attendance rate.
In compiling beer prices we looked at the cost of the cheapest beer available to fans. Typically the cheapest beer available was also the smallest size available. For example the cheapest beer at a Buffalo Bills game is $9 (which is among the top 10 highest beer prices in the league), but that price is for a 20 oz beer. At an Eagles game, fans can get a beer for $8.50 but that’s for a 12 oz beer.
After ranking each team on each of the four metrics, we then gave each team an average rank based on those metrics. We applied a score between 0 and 100 based on that average ranking. The highest-ranking team got a score of 100 and the lowest-ranking team got a score of 0.
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