Football fandom in the United States is a territorial phenomenon, with modern NFL fans feeling enormous allegiance to the individual team that they root for. All that’s necessary to understand the depth to which fans feel dedicated to their teams is to walk into a stadium housing a rivalry game, such as between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, or between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants.
Even after a century of history, with an immense number of changes to the rules of the game and the way in which professional football is consumed by fans, these ancient allegiances still stand, and a map of the NFL’s fan bases paints the entire nation in 32 different sets of team colors.
But the NFL wasn’t always such a national phenomenon, and most of the teams in the league have gone through significant changes throughout their history.
When the NFL was founded in 1920 (under the name “The American Professional Football Association”), there were only 10 teams in the league, only two of whom still exist today: The Chicago Bears (formerly the Decatur Staleys) and the Arizona Cardinals (formerly of Chicago).
All told, nine of today’s NFL franchises trace their roots back to before World War II. Three more became a part of the league when the NFL absorbed the rival All-America Football Conference 1950, and 14 more teams were added to the rapidly expanding league during the period of rivalry with the American Football League (AFL), which eventually merged fully with the NFL in 1970.
As a part of the AFL-NFL Merger, the league was organized into two conferences, each with 13 teams. The American Football Conference (AFC) consisted of the ten constituent franchises of the dissolved AFL plus three NFL teams (the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cleveland Browns, and the Baltimore Colts); the National Football Conference (NFC) consisted of the balance of teams.
Subsequently, the league added two expansion franchises in 1976 (the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) to bring the conferences up to 14 teams each, then went up to 30 teams with the addition of the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995, and finally ended up at the 32 teams that constitute the league today when the Baltimore Ravens were established in 1996, the Cleveland Browns were reinstated in 1999, and the Houston Texans were enfranchised in 2002.
This 32-team system that the NFL adopted gives the National Football League we know today a harmonious system of organization: The league is divided into two conferences, each with 16 teams, and the conferences in turn are each split into 4 divisions, each with 4 teams.
From this mathematical symmetry comes the rotation of opponents that each team plays against in the regular season, as well as the structure of the playoff tournament that determines a champion of the league each year.
Here is a broad view of the way in which today’s 32-team National Football League is organized:
|Buffalo Bills||Baltimore Ravens||Houston Texans||Denver Broncos|
|Miami Dolphins||Cincinnati Bengals||Indianapolis Colts||Kansas City Chiefs|
|New England Patriots||Cleveland Browns||Jacksonville Jaguars||Oakland Raiders|
|New York Jets||Pittsburgh Steelers||Tennessee Titans||San Diego Chargers|
|Dallas Cowboys||Chicago Bears||Atlanta Falcons||Arizona Cardinals|
|New York Giants||Detroit Lions||Carolina Panthers||St. Louis Rams|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Green Bay Packers||New Orleans Saints||San Francisco 49ers|
|Washington Redskins||Minnesota Vikings||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Seattle Seahawks|
Each of these 32 franchises has its own story, many of them having a rich history stretching back generations upon generations. Let’s take a brief look at each of the teams in the NFL, listed in alphabetical order:
Headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, the Cardinals represent the NFC West, and play home games at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Though the Cardinals lay claim to being the oldest continuously run pro football team in the United States, the team has migrated three times in its history, playing first in Chicago before moving to St. Louis in 1960, and finally to Arizona in 1988, making them the desert nomads of the National Football League.
The Cardinals have had comparatively little postseason success in their long history: Before their Super Bowl appearance with Kurt Warner and “The Greatest Show on Turf” in 2008, the last time the Arizona Cardinals competed for a championship Harry S. Truman was in the White House. Currently, the Cardinals lay claim to the longest active championship drought in all of North American Sports, after the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball ended their 108-year drought in 2016.
Headquartered in Flowery Branch, Georgia, the Falcons represent the NFC South, and play home games at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons joined the National Football League as an expansion team in an era when the vast majority of NFL teams were located in either the Midwest or the Northeast, and were one of the first franchises given a charter in a city south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The Falcons were one of the most anonymous teams in the league for their first two decades of existence until the team drafted cornerback Deion “Prime Time” Sanders in 1989, who brought the team into the bright lights as his nickname suggests. Under the ownership of Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank, the Falcons have had two major eras in the 21st century, under quarterbacks Michael Vick and Matt Ryan.
Headquartered in Owing Mills, Maryland, the Ravens represent the AFC North, and play home games at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. The establishment of the Ravens organization was a matter of some controversy, with the team beginning play in Baltimore in 1996 as a relocation of the Cleveland Browns’ franchise. The Browns’ players and coaches abandoned the city of Cleveland to seek greener pastures, and left behind the historical records, colors and logos, and intellectual property.
Under the management of former Browns’ superstar tight end Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens have made it to two Super Bowls in their short history and won both. Newsome’s first pick in his first draft as general manager of the Ravens was none other than Ray Lewis. Widely heralded to be the greatest middle linebacker to ever play the game of football, Ray Lewis came to be the face of the franchise and played out his entire prolific 17-year career in Baltimore.
Headquartered in Orchard Park, New York, the Bills represent the AFC East, and play home games at New Era Field. Contrary to popular belief, the Bills are the only team in the league to play home games in the state of New York, with the New York Giants and New York Jets both playing in New Jersey. The Bills began as one of the founding franchises of the rival American Football League, which merged with the NFL in 1970 and became the American Football Conference.
The Bills’ only period of success after the AFL-NFL Merger came around 1990, where the team made the playoffs in 10 of the 12 seasons between 1988 and 1999. Unfortunately, the only thing Buffalo won during this stretch was the questionable distinction of being the only team in the history of the league to make it to four consecutive Super Bowls and lose all four. In the 21st century, the Bills have been greatly overshadowed by their much more prolific division rivals the New England Patriots.
Headquartered in Charlotte North Carolina, the Panthers represent the NFC South, and play home games at Bank of America Stadium. Winning their bid for one of the two NFL expansion franchises in 1993, along with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Carolina Panthers are the third-youngest team in the National Football League. Despite their youth, the franchise has been blessed with considerable postseason success relative to other franchises, competing for two Super Bowls in their first two decades of play.
Being such a newcomer to the league, the Panthers have had only two major eras of play, the first under head coach John Fox, quarterback Jake Delhomme, and defensive team leader Julius Peppers. Under this leadership, the team made it to their first Super Bowl in 2003. Next, the team rose to another Super Bowl appearance in 2015 under the leadership of head coach “Riverboat” Ron Rivera, quarterback Cam Newton, and defensive team leader Luke Kuechly.
Headquartered in Lake Forest, Illinois, the Bears represent the NFC North, and play home games at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. One of the only two franchises in the National Football League today that were original charter members of the NFL, the Bears began play as the Decatur Staleys in 1919 before moving to Chicago in 1921 and being renamed the Bears shortly thereafter. The Bears are one of the oldest and most storied franchises in the history of North American professional sports.
In addition to legendary players such as running back Walter Payton, linebacker Dick Butkus, and tight end Mike Ditka, the Chicago Bears lay claim to assembling what is likely the greatest defense (and arguably the greatest team) in the history of the NFL: the ’85 Bears, who went 15–1 and won the Super Bowl with Mike Ditka as head coach and 11 All-Pro selections on the roster. The team’s rivalry with the Green Bay Packers ranks among the top in sports, although the Packers have been the mores stable franchise and the better team throughout the 21st century thus far.
Headquartered in Cincinnati Ohio, the Bengals represent the AFC North, and play home games at Paul Brown Stadium, so named for their founder and longtime manager (the former founder of the Cleveland Browns’ organization, which also bears his name). After Paul Brown’s passing in 1991, the ownership and management of the team passed to his son, Mike Brown, and the organization has taken on the character of Paul and Mike Brown throughout its history for better or worse.
Despite widespread criticism, Mike Brown exercised full control over the Bengals until a decision was made to cede control over football operations to a committee in 2009, with Brown aged 73 at the time. As a result, with long-time head coach Marvin Lewis gaining more power over personnel decisions, the Bengals made the playoffs in five consecutive seasons after having missed it in 18 of the previous 19 seasons, drafting franchise players including Andy Dalton, A. J. Green, and others.
Headquartered in Berea, Ohio, the Browns represent the AFC North, and play home games at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns are one of the oldest teams in the National Football League, beginning play in a rival league that was formed upon the return of the World War II soldiers from overseas. After dominating the All-America Football Conference and subsequently competing in 7 of the subsequent 9 NFL Championships, the Browns were one of the league’s first dynasty under founding head coach and franchise namesake Paul Brown.
After Paul Brown’s departure from the team, Browns fans were blessed once again to enjoy the short 9-season career of Jim Brown, widely hailed as the greatest running back of all time. Despite their early success, however, the Browns unfortunately fell into ignominy in the 1990s, eventually seeing the team leave to start a new franchise in Baltimore and enduring three seasons without a team. Since being revived, the Browns have been the laughingstock of the NFL, with 8 GMs, 9 head coaches, 15 starting quarterbacks (8-game minimum), and only one playoff appearance since 1999.
Headquartered in Frisco, Texas, the Cowboys represent the NFC East, and play home games at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Joining the NFL as an expansion team in 1960, the Cowboys were formed in response to the clamor for the NFL to have more professional teams in regions other than the Midwest and the Northeast. The Cowboys have been unusually prolific among NFL teams, being tied for second in the league in Super Bowl appearances, and leading the NFC in championships.
From 1966 to 1985, the Cowboys posted 20 consecutive winning seasons, appearing in the Super Bowl six times under legendary quarterback Roger Staubach. The Cowboys then enjoyed another dynasty in the 1990s with “The Triplets:” quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmit Smith, and wide receiver Michael Irvin. Since winning their three Super Bowls in the 1990s, the Cowboys have struggled in the 21st century to make it back to championship-caliber football, despite having been under consistent ownership by billionaire Jerry Jones since 1989.
Headquartered in Dove Valley, Colorado, the Broncos represent the AFC West, play home games in Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado. Beginning play in 1960 as a charter member of the rival American Football League, which merged in the NFL in 1970, the Broncos are among the oldest and winningest franchises in all of professional football, being tied for the second-most Super Bowl appearances in the league and having suffered only six losing seasons since 1975.
The Broncos’ most prolific period of success came under the leadership and phenomenal play of quarterback John Elway, who played his entire 16-year career in Denver and led the team to two Super Bowls. At the time of his retirement as a player, Elway had won the most games of any starting quarterback in history. In a heart-warming move for lifelong Denver fans, John Elway came back to become general manager of team in 2011, and once again led the Broncos to their third Super Bowl victory in 2015, this time as an executive.
Headquartered in Allen Park, Michigan, the Lions represent the NFC North, and play home games at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Originally established as the Portsmouth Spartans, the Lions are one of the oldest franchises in the National Football League, moving to Detroit in 1934 and playing in the same city without stop for the next eight decades. Unfortunately, during this period the city of Detroit has sponsored the Lions through the second-longest championship drought in the league (behind the Arizona Cardinals).
This is not to say that the Lions haven’t enjoyed periods of success throughout their long history, most notably with the arrival of running back Barry Sanders in 1989, after which the Lions made the playoffs in 6 of the subsequent 9 seasons, but the 21st century has seen the Lions circle the bottom of the barrel. Before being revitalized with the arrival of franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Lions became the only team in league history to go 0–16 in 2008.
Headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the Packers represent the NFC North, and play home games at Lambeau Field. The franchise is unique in being the longest-standing team in the National Football League to maintain consistent play in its original location, and also lays claim to being the only American professional sports franchise to be publicly owned, with the team’s 5 million shares distributed between over 350,000 community stockholders, and management decisions made by a 45-member board of directors.
The modern history of the team begins with legendary head coach Vince Lombardi, who coached the team to victories in the first two Super Bowls after the AFL-NFL Merger. After bringing these championships back to “Titletown, USA”, Lombardi died of cancer and the championship trophy was renamed in his honor. After this initial success, the Packers suffered through a long period of mediocrity before being revitalized under the leadership of quarterbacks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
Headquartered in Houston, Texas, the Texans represent the AFC South, and play home games at NRG Stadium. The youngest team in the league, the Texans are just beginning the process of developing an organizational identity, trying to differentiate themselves in the hearts and minds of those Houston fans who had rooted for the Oilers team that played football in Houston from 1959 to 1996 before moving to Tennessee to become the Titans in 1999.
Though it took nearly a decade to build up a competent coaching staff and a winning roster, the Texans finally emerged in the second decade of the 21st century as a playoff contender, built around an identity for tough-nosed defensive football exemplified by prolific pass rusher J. J. Watt. Nonetheless, despite hosting the Super Bowl in 2016, Houston remains the only franchise in the league to never compete in a conference championship game.
Headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Colts represent the AFC South, and play home games at Lucas Oil Stadium. Originally founded in Baltimore, the Colts were one of the three franchises in the NFL to join the rival AFL franchises in the new American Football Conference after the AFL-NFL Merger was finalized in 1970. The franchise subsequently relocated to Indianapolis in 1984 in response to dwindling public support for the team.
Subsequently, the recent history of the Colts has centered around two prolific quarterbacks, both drafted with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. Peyton Manning, drafted in 1998, led the Colts to two Super Bowl victories and one of the most dynamic offensive attacks in league history. Subsequently, Andrew Luck was drafted in 2012 with the express intention of replacing Peyton Manning as the franchise quarterback and face of the franchise.
Headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, the Jaguars represent the AFC South, and play home games at EverBank Field. Joining the league as one of the two expansion franchises in 1995 along with the Carolina Panthers, the Jaguars are one of the youngest teams in the league. For this reason, Jacksonville has the questionable distinction along with the Houston Texans of being the only two teams in the league that have never competed in a Super Bowl or any other NFL Championship game.
Unfortunately, the team’s short history has been blessed with little success, in some part due to mismanagement. For the first 16 years of the team’s existence, the Jags had only two head coaches – Tom Coughlin and Jack Del Rio – both of whom served as de facto general manager. Without a dedicated GM for this entire stretch, perhaps it’s little surprise why the Jaguars have been plagued by salary cap issues and financial struggles throughout the 21st century.
Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, the Chiefs represent the AFC South, and play home games at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs began play as one of the charter members of the American Football League in 1960 as the Dallas Texans, subsequently relocating to Kansas City in 1963 and becoming the Chiefs. The Chiefs were the winningest team in the AFL and the first AFL team to win a championship over an NFL team after the AFL-NFL Merger, defeating the dynastic Green Bay Packers.
Since the AFL-NFL Merger, however, the Chiefs have enjoyed comparatively little success relative to other franchises. The team’s last championship was in 1970, and the team has not won a conference championship game to compete for a Lombardi Trophy during the Super Bowl era. In addition, the Chiefs laid claim to the longest drought of playoff victories in the entire league until their win in the 2015/16 playoffs over the Houston Texans, having failed to win a playoff game in the previous two decades.
Headquartered in Costa Mesa, California, the Chargers represent the AFC West, and currently play home games at StubHub Center in Carson, California. Being one of the NFL’s most recent teams to change locations, the Chargers are currently in a state of flux, with the team already having moved to the city of Los Angeles despite the fact that their new Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park (which they will share with the Los Angeles Rams) is not set to be completed until 2019.
Contrary to popular belief, the Chargers did not begin in San Diego, despite the fact that they spent the bulk of their history as a franchise there after one season in L.A. Beginning as a charter member of the American Football League (AFL), the Chargers’ only championship victory came in 1963, before the AFL-NFL Merger, and the team would have to wait another three decades before another championship appearance. Despite the lack of championships, however, the team enjoyed competitive football throughout the 21st century under the leadership of quarterback Philip Rivers.
Headquartered in Agoura Hills, California, the Rams represent the NFC West, and play home games at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. The most representative fact about the Rams organization is that they are the only franchise to win a championship in three different cities: One in Cleveland (in 1945), one in Los Angeles (in 1951), and one in St. Louis (in 1999).
The Rams played in St. Louis from 1995–2015, most notably under the leadership of superstar quarterback Kurt Warner, who around the turn of the 21st century led the team to a high-octane offense nicknamed “The Greatest Show on Turf.” Subsequently, the team moved back to Los Angeles in 2016, after an inadequate stadium arrangement prompted the team’s front office to seek a new agreement that would allow them to move into a different market.
Headquartered in Davie, Florida, the Dolphins represent the AFC East, and play home games at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Along with the Atlanta Falcons, the Dolphins lay claim to being the oldest NFL franchises in the Deep South, having begun play in 1966 as a member of the AFL. Though not initially successful before the AFL-NFL Merger in 1970, the subsequent three decades up until the turn of the 21st century were among the most prolific in the league.
Specifically, the Dolphins went to the playoffs in 22 of the 32 seasons from 1970 to 2001, and under the leadership of legendary head coach Don Shula (who stayed with the team from 1970 until his retirement in 1995), Miami notched a perfect season in 1972 and won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1972 and 1973. Subsequently, the Dolphins enjoyed immense success for the entire 17-year career of Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. In the 21st century, however, the Dolphins have been largely overshadowed by the success of their division rivals, the New England Patriots.
Headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, the Vikings represent the NFC North, and play home games at U. S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings joined the National Football League as an expansion franchise in 1960, one of the few franchises that made it into the dominant NFL instead of being denied and starting the rival AFL. The Vikings’ only championship came before the AFL-NFL Merger, in 1969.
Subsequently, the Vikings have appeared in four different Super Bowls, but have lost all four, keeping the fans waiting for their first opportunity to inscribe the name of the franchise on the Lombardi Trophy. Despite the lack of championship success, however, the Vikings have been one of the winningest teams in the league since their inception, with the 3rd-most wins in the league. In the 21st century, the primary thing holding the Vikings back has been the lack of an elite quarterback.
Headquartered in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the Patriots represent the AFC East, and play home games at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots were one of the charter members of the AFL, and changed their name from the Boston Patriots to the New England Patriots after merging with the NFL in 1970 and relocating to Foxborough in 1971. The Patriots enjoyed limited success in their first 4 decades of existence, competing in two championships.
However, after acquiring head coach/de facto general manager Bill Belichick and drafting quarterback Tom Brady in 2000, the New England Patriots have subsequently become the envy of the league, dominating the 21st century in essentially all statistical categories. Belichick and Brady have become the winningest head coach/quarterback combination in league history, with 14 division titles and 5 Super Bowls over the course of their tenure with the team.
Headquartered in Metairie, Louisiana, the Saints represent the NFC South, and play home games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints were founded on All Saints Day (a Catholic holiday) in 1967, one of the NFL’s earliest expansion franchises. Immediately after being founded, the Saints endured one of the longest stretches of mediocrity in the history of professional sports, winning a total of 0 playoff games between 1967 and 1999 in only four appearances.
Subsequently, Saints fans enjoyed a revitalization coinciding with the rebuilding of the city of New Orleans (and much of the surrounding region) following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This culminated in the first and only Super Bowl victory for the Saints in 2008 under the leadership of quarterback Drew Brees, one of the most heart-warming and emotionally touching stories in the history of the National Football League.
Headquartered in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Giants represent the NFC East, and play home games at MetLife Stadium. The Giants are one of the oldest teams in the league, and the only team among the group of five who joined in 1925 who still play in the league. Known for a long time as the “New York Football Giants” to differentiate them from the baseball team of the same name, the Giants currently share MetLife Stadium with the New York Jets.
The Giants were highly competitive in their first four decades of existence, making over a dozen appearances in the NFL Championship game, but did not appear in the playoffs from 1963–1981, with all but five of these seasons ending up with losing records. Since then, the Giants have been highly competitive, including winning four Super Bowls, two of which came under the leadership of quarterback Eli Manning (younger brother of long-time Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning).
Headquartered in Florham Park, New Jersey, the Jets represent the AFC East, and play home games at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets were founded in 1959 under the name “The Titans of New York”, and were one of the founding members of the American Football League (AFL). The Jets are currently one of two teams to share MetLife Stadium (along with the New York Giants), which, despite the name, is not actually located in the state of New York.
The Jets gained distinction in their early years for being one of the first AFL teams to lure a top college prospect away from the rival NFL, wooing future Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath away from the St. Louis Cardinals. Under Namath’s leadership, the Jets won Super Bowl III in 1968, but have not appeared in a Super Bowl since. In the 21st century, the Jets have been beleaguered by the lack of a consistent presence at quarterback to anchor the franchise.
Headquartered in Alameda, California, the Raiders represent the AFC West, and play home games at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California. One of the original founding members of the American Football League, Raiders founder and longtime head coach/general manager/owner Al Davis was among the most influential figures in the entire league during the process of the AFL-NFL Merger, serving as president of the AFL for a short while before the two leagues merged.
The heyday of the Raiders came in the 1970s under head coaches John Madden and Tom Flores, during which time the team spent 13 seasons in Los Angeles and won three Super Bowls. Subsequently, the Raiders fell into a negative spiral during the 21st century until the death of Al Davis caused management of the team to shift into the hands of GM Reggie McKenzie, who has turned around the franchise in short order to make them competitors once again.
Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Eagles represent the NFC East, and play home games at Lincoln Financial Field. One of the oldest teams in the league, the Eagles have sent an incredible nine players to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in their more than 8 decades of continuous play in Philadelphia. The Eagles participate in one of the most bitter rivalries in the entire NFL, against their division rivals the New York Giants, a manifestation of the much older and much deeper Philadelphia–New York rivalry.
The Eagles also lay claim to one of the more loyal and dedicated fan bases in the entire league, with home games against the Eagles regularly intimidating fans of opposing teams. Despite having excellent fans and several periods of postseason success throughout the team’s long history, however, the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl.
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Steelers represent the AFC North, and play home games at Heinz Field. The Steelers are one of the oldest franchises in the NFL and the oldest in the AFC, being one of the three NFL teams that joined the upstart AFL when the two leagues merged in 1970 to form the new American Football Conference.
Despite the fact that the title of the most successful franchise in NFL history is hotly contested, the Steelers have one of the better claims, having won the most Super Bowl titles of any team in the league and hosted the most conference championship games. During the bulk of the 21st century thus far, the Steelers have been led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Headquartered in Santa Clara, California, the 49ers represent the AFC West, and play home games at Levi’s Stadium. Fittingly, the 49ers joined the NFL in 1949, though their name hearkens back to the Gold Rush prospectors who came to Northern California in 1849. The ‘niners have one of the oldest and most storied franchises in the league, one of only four franchises in the league with five or more Super Bowl victories.
The bulk of the 49ers’ success came during the back-to-back eras of Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, which combined to give San Francisco one of the first NFL dynasties. The team won each of its five Super Bowls with one of these two quarterbacks at the helm. In the 21st century, however, besides a brief period of success under head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers have been one of the less successful franchises in the league.
Headquartered in Renton, Washington, the Seahawks represent the NFC West, and play home games at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks were founded in 1976 along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first set of expansion teams after the AFL-NFL Merger in 1970, making them one of the youngest teams in the league.
Nonetheless, Seattle is known for its formidable home-field advantage (due in part to the noise levels in CenturyLink Field) and has one of the most dedicated fan bases in the league, which the team relies on as a “12th Man” when the players are on the field. The team’s multiple Super Bowl appearances in recent years have been predicated on strong play by the defense, nicknamed “The Legion of Boom.”
Headquartered in Tampa, Florida, the Buccaneers represent the NFC South, and play home games at Raymond James Stadium. Joining the league along with the Seattle Seahawks in 1976, in the first wave of expansion teams post-AFL-NFL Merger, the Buccaneers quickly gained the distinction of being the first post-merger expansion team to win a division title, the first tow in a playoff game, and the first to play in and host a conference championship game, all of these feats occurring together in 1999.
Subsequently, during this same surge of postseason success, the Buccaneers won their first and only Super Bowl in 2002 under head coach Jon Gruden, sporting one of the nastier defenses in the league. Unfortunately, however, the Buccaneers spent much of the subsequent part of the 21st century wallowing away in mediocrity, failing to win a playoff game for over a decade after their Super Bowl win.
Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, the Titans represent the AFC South, and play home games at Nissan Stadium. The team began as the Houston Oilers, one of the charter members of the American Football League (AFL). After winning the first two AFL Championships, the Oilers would fail to compete in a Super Bowl through the first 27 seasons of the post-merger NFL, despite having several periods of playoff success during this span.
Subsequently, the team moved to Tennessee and changed its name in 1999 to the Titans, a name intended to reflect the city of Nashville’s reputation as “The Athens of the South.” After going through the entire process of relocation under head coach Jeff Fisher, the team competed in a Super Bowl in their first season in Nashville – a true Cinderella story – and made the playoffs five more times before moving on from Jeff Fisher in 2010.
Headquartered in Ashburn, Virginia, the Redskins represent the AFC South, and play home games at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. One of the oldest teams in the National Football League, the Redskins are one of only five teams in the league to notch over 600 wins, five of which came in NFL Championship games. After beginning play as the Boston Braves in 1932, the Redskins relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1937
The Redskins have had two major periods of success during their history: the first from 1936 to 1945, and the second from 1982 to 1991. From 1946 to 1970, the Redskins had only four winning seasons and never made it to the playoffs. Most recently, the team has suffered under mismanagement by businessman Dan Snyder, who is widely held to be one of the worst owners in professional sports. Under Snyder’s ownership, the Redskins have gone through 4 GMs, 8 head coaches, and nearly a dozen quarterbacks.