The NFL season is officially underway, but St. Louis football fans have been left without a team to call their own. Just because Stan Kroenke gave up on St. Louis, doesn’t mean former St. Louis Rams fans have to give up on the National Football League.
Choosing a new team to follow can be difficult. That is why we have provided an argument for every team in the NFL vying for your loyalty in the 2016-2017 season and beyond.
The Ravens went 5-11 in the 2015 campaign, but things are looking up for the team. The defense has improved, and seems to be working towards returning to the Baltimore way. There’s no doubt that NFL teams, or any professional sports team, often takes on the culture and identity of the city that they reside in. The St. Louis Rams, for example, have had an interesting mix of small-town vibes (Kurt Warner), and violent defense (Aaron Donald, Chris Long, Robert Quinn). Baltimore has been known for its strong and violent defense over the years, and has also been a city that has struggled with the amount of violent crimes it sees on a regular basis. St. Louis residents know that struggle all too well, so there’s a lot of room to relate and empathize with the home of the Ravens.
The Bengals were on a roll last year until Andy Dalton got hurt. Unfortunately, that seems to be Cincinnati’s biggest issue. Every year, for almost the past decade, the Bengals prove to be one of the more talented teams in the league, but at the same time, whenever it counts, they can’t seem to pull it together. They can blame it on injury last season, but for the most part, there just seems to be a hump that they haven’t been able to get over. Fans of the St. Louis Blues will actually get some strange deja vu following the Bengals. We don’t know what the future holds for the Blues and Bengals, but watching either team guarantees some quality entertainment, as well as a legitimate chance to win week-in and week-out.
Marshall Faulk, Stephen Jackson, Todd Gurley. St. Louis Rams fans have had some great running backs over the years, so maybe you want your new team to focus on the run as well. The Browns are built to run the ball. Duke Johnson Jr. and Isaiah Crowell could really become a surprisingly dangerous running back duo. St. Louis Rams fans have learned to not “expect” wins in recent years, so you should feel right at home cheering for the Browns.
Six: that’s the number of Super Bowl win’s that the Steelers have won, and they could be extremely close to legitimately competing for another one. The Rooney family has run the franchise so well, and there are very little question marks surrounding the front office. St. Louis Rams fans are in a desperate need for stability, and there aren’t many more teams more stable than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
We often think stability equates to boring, but that isn’t always true. Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are two of the most exciting players in the league today. If Bell can stay out of trouble andBrown continues his dominance, don’t be surprised if we see them both enshrined at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The Bears were pretty impressive in the 2016-2017 opener against the Houston Texans. They ended up losing, unable to score in the second half, but the game could have easily been a blow out. Expectations are very low for the Bears this season, and there are going to be more heartbreakers to come this year, but becoming a Bears fan now is an investment, not a midlife crisis purchase.
Matthew Stafford had an excellent game against the Indianapolis Colts in their season opener. He spread the ball efficiently, threw for three touchdowns, and had no interceptions. Mixing that with what could be the best pass rush in the division, the Lions could definitely compete against the Bridgewater-less Vikings and the Green Bay Packers. The way that they have handled the departure of Calvin Johnson proves that this franchise is heading in the right direction.
Green Bay Packers
The quintessential small-town team, the Green Bay Packers, could very much be the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL. The same argument could be made about the Steelers, but Green Bay fits the midwest mindset a bit better than the Steelers. Regardless of who you are making the argument for, these three teams are consistently relevant and are some of the best draft and develop professional sports teams.
There is a lot of history in Green Bay, and even if you don’t decide to become a cheesehead in 2016, be sure to place seeing a game at Lambeau Field on your bucket list. It’s a really special experience that is hard to replicate anywhere else.
The Rams are moving on, and so should you. It’s a new era for your relationship with the NFL, maybe it’s time to join a team that appears to be progressing and changing quite nicely. The Vikings are in their new stadium this year, and coming off of a division title in 2015, Minnesota will be in the playoff discussion for quite some time. Unfortunately, their assumed franchise quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, suffered a nasty injury, and who knows how well he can recover. If Bridgewater is back at full strength in 2017, there could easily be a time where the Vikings are the team to beat in the NFC North, and not the Green Bay Packers.
Brock Osweiler looks like he might be worth the money that Houston paid to sign him. Lamar Miller seems to finally have found a team that will run him effectively and often. DeAndre Hopkins is one of the best wide receivers in the league, and he will be even better with Will Fuller becoming a legitimate threat. This is the best this offense has looked since Andre Johnson was at his prime, and Arian Foster had a healthy season. If you’re still unsure about hopping on the Texans’ bandwagon, just realize that we haven’t mentioned J.J. Watt until now. This team is going to be good, and are a few pieces and some experience away from being favorites to win the AFC.
Andrew Luck. Also, the Lucas Oil Stadium is only around 3 hours away from St. Louis. Next!
For a while, the Jaguars were the rumored team to be taking an interest in moving to St. Louis. It’s not going to happen. At least, not for the foreseeable future. Which is a bummer, because this is another one of those teams that people are having to take notice of. This passing game is the real deal. They seem to be making a larger effort to make Julius Thomas a relevant tight end again, and Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are freaks at the wide receiver position. The Jags have their franchise quarterback in Blake Bortles, and it looks like he will be as good as Andy Dalton, at the least, but who knows how far his potential actually goes. The defense is really good, on paper. If they can reach their full potential like Blake Bortles, they’ll give anyone in this division a run for their money.
St. Louis Rams fans are quite familiar with the Tennessee Titans franchise. While they might not be the biggest fans of them from the past, it could be quite the easy transition for NFL fans looking for a new team. What we saw from DeMarco Murray in the season opener against the Vikings has us really excited. Yes, we have seen him eat up the yards when he was in Dallas, but he appears to be an even more explosive threat this year. Murray and Derrick Henry were monsters receiving out of the backfield, against a really solid run defense in the Vikings. We can’t wait to see what they do against teams that aren’t as good at defending the run.
The Falcons signing Mohammed Sanu makes Julio Jones an even greater threat. It’s not like he needed the help, but the Falcons have the ability to spread the field with these two wide receivers, and Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman receiving out of the backfield. Unfortunately, their defense is going to have a hard time in this devision full of other devastating offenses.
This probably won’t be the most popular pick amongst your friends or other NFL fans. The Panthers have lost two straight games against the Broncos’ defense: the Super Bowl and their season opener. That’s okay though, they’ll probably be the favorite to win every other game they play this year. That’s why hopping onto the Panthers’ bandwagon will bring you some heat. You know what, though? St. Louis football fans don’t NEED popularity; they need wins, and the Panthers will deliver. Go ahead, we won’t judge. Enjoy cheering for the winning team for the first time in a long time!
New Orleans Saints
It really doesn’t matter who the wide receivers are; Drew Brees can turn anyone into a star, and he proved that in the season opener against the Raiders. Not only is he still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, he is also one of the easiest guys to cheer for. Brees is in a special tier of good character and likable personalities. With Peyton Manning gone, Brees might be the most likable person in the NFL, and a great role model for future generations of St. Louis football fans.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A lot of people thought/hoped Jameis Winston was going to be a bust, and some still think that it’s going to happen. He had a solid rookie season, and will be even better this season. Become a Buccaneers fan now, and get to say, “I told you so!” The fact that Jameis Winston and Mike Evans have the opportunity to play their whole careers together has to be a terrifying thought for any opposing defense.
If you are going to become a Bills fan in 2016, it probably has very little to do with football. It probably has everything to do with watching the dumpster fire that is Rex Ryan. There’s a chance that he might not be a head coach in the NFL for much longer, so get your fix of Rex Ryan now before he is forced to take a defensive coordinator job elsewhere.
The Seahawks are a difficult team for anyone to play for the season opener. So even though Tannehill didn’t have a great game, there is still reason to hope. Why? It seems that this might be Tannehill’s last real shot with the Dolphins. We have reached the precipice with Tannehill, and it’s time for him to prove he can do it, or it’s time that the Dolphins start considering moving in another direction. Running back Doug Martin of the Buccaneers faced the same issue during his contract season in 2015. While Tannehill has a contract that lasts until the 2020 season, that doesn’t mean that the Dolphins would find a way to move him if he can’t deliver. Then again, if he can’t deliver, it might be hard to sell anyone else in the league with his massive contract. The Dolphins are in a pressure cooker situation, and that will be entertaining to watch this season.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady has been suspended, but Jimmy Garappolo has already proven to be a nice replacement during the season opener against a tough Arizona Cardinals defense. That’s just as much evidence of great management as it is Jimmy G’s talent. As long as Bill Belichick is the head coach and/or Kraft continues to run the team as well as he has, the Patriots will continue to be the favorite to win the AFC East. If you’re considering becoming a Patriots fan, you better hope that Brady’s plans for retirement can align with Jimmy G’s contract, which ends in 2018.
New York Jets
J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS?!? So you’re thinking about becoming a Jets fan, huh? Cool. While the New York Giants really seem to capture the postcard culture of the Big Apple, the Jets seem to capture the pizza rat culture of “New Yawk.” The Jets fandom is quite interesting. Loud, outspoken, and undeniably passionate. If they start to win more, which they might because of their improved coaching, Jets fans could become the most insufferable fanbase in the NFL, and it’d be so much fun to be part of that!
The first thing that Cowboys fans will try to sell you on as someone looking for a new team to cheer for, is the notion that Dallas is “America’s Team.” This is true; but only in the same sense that “America’s Got Talent” accurately captures the talent of citizens of the United States. Sure, there are some good things to like. Dak Prescott doesn’t look awful. Ezekiel Elliott appears to be the future of the franchise and he has a solid line to run behind. Then you have all of the reality TV nonsense. Which is fine, if you like that sort of thing. Let’s just hope, for your sake, as a new Cowboys fan, that the Cowboys can get their act together and start to resemble The Voice instead of a group of Chads from the last season of The Bachelorette.
New York Giants
Odell Beckham and Eli Manning had a great year together in 2015. The Giants also added the rookie Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz is healthy for the first time since 2014. There is also a new commitment to the run, and Rashad Jennings looks ready alongside pass catching running back Shane Vereen. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Eli and his Giants, is that you can never count them out. This could be a tight race for the division title and it doesn’t hurt to place your bets on the Giants.
With Sam Bradford gone to the Vikings, Carson Wentz is officially the starting quarterback for the Eagles. He was pretty impressive in his NFL debut, but we might take that with a grain of salt (it was against the Browns). With that being said, he looked really good, and he might prove to be a promising player for the City of Brotherly Love.
Speaking of “love.” Philadelphia fans have been known to be pretty unforgiving when it comes to the Eagles. They’ve never hesitated to boo their own players, and maybe as a former Rams fan, you need to let loose some of that tension and hate. Look at the 2016-2017 season as an Eagles fan as an extended anger management session. No-one will think twice about you screaming at your own team.
You like that? We like that! Now that the Redskins seem to fully be behind Kirk Cousins, they can finally build a team around him. They’ve added Josh Norman to the secondary. There’s buzz sounding Matt Jones having a breakout year. Jordan Reed could compete to be the best tight end this season. DeSean Jackson is always a home-run deep threat as a wide receiver. If you were to ever become a Washington fan, now is the time. They’re still flying under the radar, but could easily be a playoff team this year.
You might find it hard to hop on the previous Super Bowl winner’s bandwagon. You can catch a lot of flack for it. It also doesn’t help that the Broncos have the best defense in the NFL, but nothing is guaranteed in this league. Peyton Manning is gone, but in terms of pure offense, you won’t be missing out on much. Manning had an awful season in 2015, and Trevor Siemian appears to be a more than comparable quarterback in terms of game management. Will Siemian be as good as Peyton Manning some day? Probably not. He doesn’t have to be though. To bring the Broncos to the Super Bowl, he just needs to take care of the ball, and C.J. Anderson seems poised for a bounce back year, after a slightly disappointing 2015 campaign.
Kansas City Chiefs
Why not keep your fandom in Missouri? The Chiefs have one of the best home-field advantages in the country. Arrowhead Stadium and the culture surrounding it is the most collegiate atmosphere in the NFL. They’re also a playoff team without their starting running back. Honestly, the Chiefs are everything that the Rams have been trying to be in the past 5 years. They rely on their defense. Their quarterback is makes few mistakes. They run the ball efficiently. They get the most out of their wide receiver corps, which features Mizzou alum Jeremy Maclin. It’s not easy for St. Louis sports fans to cheer on Kansas City teams, but it might be worth it to make this the exception to the rule.
The Raiders are more than likely on the move to Las Vegas. Which means, it will be pretty affordable to catch a Raiders game, as well as watch some other great shows in the desert. This is all just a bonus for you as a new Raiders fan. The Raiders are one of the most exciting young teams in the NFL. Derek Carr is their franchise quarterback. Khalil Mack is one of the best pass rushers in the league. Amari Cooper is proving to be an elite wide receiver. The supporting cast is also rock solid. The offensive line is a hidden gem, and the young running back corps is stacked. The Raiders will be making a deep run in the playoffs before too long. Hop on the hype train now and get a good seat before everyone else does.
San Diego Chargers
If the Chargers move into the new stadium in Los Angeles with the Rams, the irony of claiming the “other” LA team has us rolling with laughter already. There’s no shame in becoming a fan of a team out of spite. Also, Philip Rivers is one of the most under-appreciated players in the NFL who makes wearing a bolo tie cool!
If you’re going to cheer for a former St. Louis NFL team, why does it have to be the Rams? It doesn’t. The Arizona Cardinals have been a division rival, so it might be a tad bittersweet to become a Cardinal fan, but chances are, you are already a St. Louis Cardinal fan. The Arizona Cardinals were once a St. Louis team as well. Put all of that red and white you have to good use, and start pulling for the team in Phoenix. If Carson Palmer can stay healthy, they might have a real shot at the Super Bowl for the next 2 or 3 years.
San Francisco 49ers
The starting quarterback in SF is Mizzou alum, Blaine Gabbert. So there is already some familiarity for Missouri football fans. The 49ers have also hit rock bottom, and are working to become a relevant team in the west again. It will be hard, especially in this division, but if you can tough out these rough times, that is something to be proud of as a fan, and you can prove that you're much more dedicated to your team than Kroenke was to St. Louis.
The Seahawks have very sneakily become a team that is seen not heard. You used to not be able to escape the Seahawk hype, but now it seems that they may have become the NFLs forgotten team. Which it shouldn't, because they’re still pretty good. They’ve lost some defensive pieces, their offensive line isn't what it used to be, and Beast Mode is off in retirement land. That being said, Dough Baldwin has made serious improvement, and there is still a possibility of this being a championship team. You would have just been a fair-weather fan had you joined the bandwagon over the past 3 years, but now that the initial hype has died down, there is a perfect spot waiting for you.
Los Angeles Rams
Ouch. It hurts to even type that. How could we even suggest such a thing? The Rams have two very special players in Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley. St. Louis football fans were lucky enough to see them play in Missouri. If you really like that franchise, and what it is building, forget anyone who says you’re in the wrong for sticking with them. There’s a bit of a double standard of hating the franchise for bailing on St. Louis, and then saying you have to bail on the team that you have been following for the past 20 plus years. Who knows if Jared Goff will ever prove to be worth the number one overall pick, but Aaron Donald makes up for a world of mistakes for this franchise. Don't be mad at us for this, it’s just a suggestion.
So there you have it, a (hopefully) compelling argument for each team for the 2016 NFL season and the foreseeable future. Let us know who you will be cheering for in 2016 in the comments below!