Ranking the most tortured fanbases in the NFL for 2018

What breaks an NFL fan? Losing, sure. Missing the playoffs year after year can grind away at your heart. But what breaks your soul is losing hope, having glory right there in front of you only to see it snatched away, watching as your bitter rivals celebrate the sweet, sweet victory that’s denied you.

Here, we run down the definitive list of the most tortured fanbases in the NFL for 2018, the broken armadas that root year after year, so often in vain. (Here’s last year’s run.) Remember: “broken” doesn’t mean “bad.” No, we’re talking broken in spirit, not body. “Broken” means you’ve been conditioned to expect less, you’ve had years (or decades, or half-centuries) of failure piled atop your poor overloaded shoulders, trauma upon trauma so vast that a wild-card playoff exit feels like a Super Bowl victory. We do this not to mock, but to sympathize. You deserve better, NFL fans, and accepting that you’re broken is the first step.

Steel your hearts. Let’s begin.

10. Green Bay Packers

What? The ever-devoted Packer legions? The faithful on the frozen tundra? How could that fanbase be broken? They’re all owners of the franchise, as they’ll tell you within thirty seconds of meeting you? Yeah, yeah, but here’s a question for the esteemed owners of the Green Bay Packers: you’ve had two of the greatest quarterbacks in history in uniform for the last quarter-century, and how many Super Bowls have you won? … Exactly. Green Bay’s high on its own supply, and memories of Bart Starr are obscuring the fact that their time with Aaron Rodgers is slipping away.
Last year’s Broken Fanbase ranking: N/A
Last Super Bowl won: 2010
Yahoo Sports preseason ranking: 8th

9. Cincinnati Bengals

Look, the fact that Marvin Lewis still has a job despite never winning a playoff game in 15 years in Cincinnati is proof enough either that this fanbase is too forgiving or that team ownership is too nice. Cincinnati won its final game of the season last year, a miraculous last-second Andy Dalton prayer-throw victory over the Baltimore Ravens, and that’s apparently enough to keep the Bengal fandom happy and moderately hopeful. It shouldn’t be.
Last year’s Broken Fanbase ranking: 9th
Last Super Bowl won: N/A
Yahoo Sports preseason ranking: 27th

8. Oakland Raiders

We sliced the San Diego and St. Louis fanbases from our rankings last year, and sadly, Oakland’s on the way out too. The arrival of Jon Gruden is a terrible tease for these long-suffering folk; either he’ll be great and Oakland will be shipping its prize team to Vegas, or he’ll be terrible and Oakland will suffer through yet more godawful football. There is absolutely no way any of this ends well for the Oakland fanbase.
Last year’s Broken Fanbase ranking: N/A
Last Super Bowl won: 1983
Yahoo Sports preseason ranking: 19th

7. Chicago Bears

To some extent, the Bears themselves have an impossible task: to measure up to the legendary teams of yore that still dance in the dreams of Chicago fans far and wide. This year’s model could go 16-0, disembowel the Packers, dismember the Vikings, and scare the Patriots into forfeiting the Super Bowl and they’d still rank behind the 1985 team in the hearts of Bears loyalists. Spoiler: this year’s team isn’t going to do that. And the sad thing is, the fanbase would be happy if the Bears don’t accidentally set Mitchell Trubisky on fire during a Gatorade shower.
Last year’s Broken Fanbase ranking: 8th
Last Super Bowl won: 1985, of course
Yahoo Sports preseason ranking: 26th

6. Detroit Lions

You know the story here: guys in the conversation for best running back and best receiver in NFL history played here, and Detroit won nada. It’s a cautionary tale for Green Bay, sure, but it’s a long, plodding nightmare for Lions fans. Matthew Stafford, he of the everybody-go-long-and-get-open mentality, is back, and that always gives hope. But unless Hope can run for 150 yards a game and open up the offense, Detroit fans are once again going to content themselves with … well, nothing, really.
Last year’s Broken Fanbase ranking: 6
Last championship won: 1957
Yahoo Sports preseason ranking: 16th

We know how it feels. (Getty)
We know how it feels. (Getty)

5. New York Giants

From one angle, those out-of-nowhere Eli Manning Super Bowl wins were the worst thing that could have happened to the Big Blue Nation, because now they expect that every first down is the start of a run that’s going to end with the Lombardi Trophy. That ain’t happening, not now, not anytime soon, and neither Odell Beckham Jr.’s acrobatic catches nor his kicking-net romances are changing that.
Last year’s Broken Fanbase ranking: N/A
Last Super Bowl won: 2011
Yahoo Sports preseason ranking: 25th

4. Cleveland Browns

Look, Cleveland deserves consideration as the toughest fanbase in sports – rooting for a team that’s won one game since 2015 is a special kind of bold … or stupid. The Dawg Pound’s got hopes on the horizon, but Cleveland has a way of vaporizing hopes like they’d never existed. Even if Baker Mayfield has a good year this year, in the offseason his left arm is gonna leave for Miami and his right one for Los Angeles. You know it’s true.
Last year’s Broken Fanbase ranking: 5
Last championship won: 2017. Oh, wait, you meant football. 1964.
Yahoo Sports preseason ranking: 32nd

3. Washington Redskins

Look, this is a team that, by virtue of its incompetent front office and the forgiving nature of its fans – who still cling tightly to championships won more than thirty years ago – could be Number One every single year. But they’ve got both proven veterans and shiny new rookie talent arriving in town – even if some of that talent won’t be ready until 2019, apparently – and that gives them a one-year reprieve. But only one.
Last year’s Broken Fanbase ranking: 1
Last Super Bowl won: 1991
Yahoo Sports preseason ranking: 23rd

2. Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta’s another team that could hold down the No. 1 spot in perpetuity, if only because of those two numbers, 28 and 3. But the Falcons have a shiny new stadium and a still-potent team, so they’re spared the indignity of the top ranking. All you need to know about the Falcons fanbase’s stability, though, is the terror that rippled through Falcondom at the thought of losing Julio Jones earlier this offseason in a negotiating ploy. Julio wasn’t going anywhere, but Falcons fans were already prepared to burn his jersey and their hopes anyway. Hang in there, Atlanta, good days are still ahead.
Last year’s Broken Fanbase ranking: 3
Last Super Bowl won: Super Bowl 50.75
Yahoo Sports preseason ranking: 10th

1. Minnesota Vikings

Now how on earth can this be the NFL’s most broken fanbase, you’re wondering. Didn’t they just have the greatest playoff moment in NFL history? Why, yes they did. Problem was – as it always is for Minnesota – the glory came too soon. Do you remember what happened after Stefon Diggs leaped past the New Orleans Saints? This was a team that had the opportunity to make history – to be the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium – and it completely pooped the bed against the Eagles. That’s some artisanal, grass-fed, farm-to-table heartbreak, friends, sliced lean and served cold. And that’s how you break a fanbase.
Last year’s Broken Fanbase ranking: N/A
Last Super Bowl won: Also N/A
Yahoo Sports preseason ranking: 1. High expectations only prolong the agony.

Dropping out of the rankings: St. Louis/San Diego, Buffalo, Jacksonville, New York Jets
Probably ought to be in here somewhere: Indianapolis, Kansas City, Denver
Fan bases that aren’t broken but need to be: New England, Philadelphia, Dallas, Pittsburgh

So there you have it. Offer up your own takes, or confess your own tortured fandom, in the comments below. If you know a fan of one of these teams, give ‘em a hug. And if you are a fan of one of these teams, take heart … at least you won something.

Tough time to be a Washington fan. (Getty)
Tough time to be a Washington fan. (Getty)

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

More from Yahoo Sports:
Dan Wetzel: Is Tiger Woods back?
Charles Robinson: Broncos may be running out of patience with young QB
Cubs stun Nationals with one of baseball’s rarest plays
Jeff Passan: Latest incident proves MLB is still a white man’s game