A lot of teams (read: all of them) claim to have the best fans in the NFL. "Best" being a superlative, we know that this can't actually be true, so to get to the bottom of the lies, Emory University studied fan behavior (using math!) to determine which NFL teams actually had the most engaged and passionate fans.
Emory used 15 years worth of data on attendance, prices and revenues and compared it to team performance, median incomes and other normalizing factors. You can read Emory's full methodology here. The most important thing is the conclusion: The Dallas Cowboys have the best fans in football.
Behind the Cowboys were a few usual suspects. In order, the New England Patriots, New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens have the long history, large followings and recent success that ought to create passionate fan bases. The first real surprise is perhaps the New York Jets having the fifth-best fan base despite their recent struggles. History is kinder to them, however, and certainly being in the New York City market helps.
THE PACKERS, STEELERS AND SEAHAWKS AREN'T FLEECING THEIR FANS ENOUGH
This study may be a little biased towards markets that are big enough to charge their fans more money than anywhere else. Still, the study supposedly adjust for that to some extent. The Packers and Steelers have won more titles than anyone, yet rank as just the seventh- and 14th-best fan bases, respectively. The Seahawks, meanwhile, have been perhaps the NFL's hottest team the last few years, yet has just the 26th-best fan base by Emory's measure. There may be a good explanation:
And these teams will do better when we switch to non-financial metrics such as social media following. But for the current "revenue premium" model these teams just don't price high enough. In a way, these teams with massive season ticket waiting lists are the most supportive of their fans.
The Packers, Steelers and Seahawks aren't charging their fans enough money, and that's why their fans will never be as great as the Cowboys'. Sorry guys.
CHARGERS FANS AREN'T THAT BAD
Quirks of an imperfect study aside, there was some genuinely useful information to be gleamed. Among the three teams most-often discussed as likely to relocate to Los Angeles in 2016, the Chargers appear to be the healthiest from a fan support perspective. They ranked a respectably middling 17th on this list -- pretty good, considering San Diego has just four playoff wins in its six appearances in the last 15 years.
The Rams are 23rd despite winning a Super Bowl within the scope of the study (albeit at outer boundary) and the Raiders are way down at 30th, despite having one of the rowdiest end zone sections in the league.
DANG, THERE ARE SOME HISTORICALLY GREAT TEAMS AT THE BOTTOM
Joining the Raiders in the basement are the Cleveland Browns (31st) and Miami Dolphins (32nd). Being good once upon time apparently doesn't give teams that much cachet with fans. In the Browns' case, it probably also doesn't help that the team was deactivated for three seasons after Art Modell moved the original franchise to Baltimore.
The Dolphins don't have that excuse. The study notes that Florida teams tend to do poorly in studies like this, but Miami fans still fall well short of the Jaguars (29th) and Buccaneers (21st).