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Every Type of Football Party You and Your Friends Need to Throw This Fall

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Jeremy Nguyen/Thrillist

You’ve seen it before: The cold nachos. The limited seating. The sad crowd huddled around a tiny flat-screen. These are the hallmarks of your average football party and it’s absolutely no way to enjoy America’s favorite sport. But fear not, because this guide is anything but average. Here you’ll learn how to throw the best parties all season long, from 12-hour marathons that will test your hosting endurance to loading all of your friends onto the ultimate party bus.

Party 1: Your Best Tailgate Ever

You know the tailgate routine: burgers, Bud Light, debating uncle Frank on the best quarterback in the league, repeat. This is about revamping the standard pre-game ritual and making you a parking lot legend.

Best Party For: The tailgate regulars who want to turn up the dial.

Your Game-Day Strategy: You’ve seen the expert-level tailgating setups by now: the trailer that eerily resembles a backyard, the mobile hot tub, the retrofitted school bus that now houses a restaurant-quality grill. Cool, yes, but overkill. Instead of shelling out for the fancy gear, you should be focusing on the three F’s: food, fun, and football. Instead of throwing a bunch of supermarket burgers in the cooler, taking up valuable beer real estate, marinate kebabs overnight and grill them to a perfect medium rare. For fun, skip the cornhole -- or bags, or baggo -- and grab a few of these inflatable wideouts to test your quarterback skills. And if you're planning on spending the whole day at the tailgate before a late kickoff, don’t miss games happening elsewhere in the country just because you’re posted up in the parking lot. Grab a tablet or a laptop and some wireless speakers and stream away. Make sure if you go this route that you bring a device charger that can plug into a cigarette-lighter outlet. And maybe the most precarious problem: making your streaming services, well, stream. Be prepared for the data costs of using your smart phone’s internet. Or, buy a WiFi dongle (to operate as your WiFi antenna) and connect to public, park, or stadium WiFi.

Party 2: The Post-Game Tailgate

The pregame tailgate has a formula: you park, grill, drink, and then make the gridiron pilgrimage en masse. But what if you could flip the script and make the game the beginning rather than the end? The postgame tailgate can be tricky -- early kickoffs work best, and throwing one after a loss can be a bummer -- but when you hit all the right notes, it can become the highlight of the season.

Best Party For: Your friends who are always late and have probably never made it in time for a regular tailgate.

Your Game-Day Strategy: It’s going to look a lot like your typical tailgate prep, but with a lot more thought put into storage. The beer is going to have to stay cold for a few extra hours, so make sure whatever cooler you bring can handle keeping those Bud Lights frosty. Reheating snacks is always a little dicey in the wilderness of the parking lot, so a slow cooker, which you can buy for around $30 if you don’t already have one, can be a wise investment -- especially if you fill it with chili or queso (which are both great opportunities to use bread bowls instead of plates to cut down on trash). You're also going to have a lot more real estate as the parking lot clears, so make sure someone has a pigskin handy so you can stage a parking lot dramatization of the game you just watched with all your friends. The best thing about the post-game tailgate? You can keep it going as long as you want, or at least until security shows up and gives you the boot.

Jeremy Nguyen/Thrillist

Party 3: The House Party Marathon (Bonus Points for London Games)

This is not for the faint of heart (or the fragile of living room). If you consider yourself the best host in town, someone who will not crack under the pressure of making breakfast, lunch, dinner, and infinite snacks -- not to mention stocking a day’s worth of Bud Light to keep each shift of new guests happy -- then you might be up for the challenge of hosting an all-day, all-game extravaganza. If you want an extra challenge, invite everyone over for a game day where NFL teams play in London. Just be sure to brew a few gallons of strong coffee.

Best Party For: The super host whose favorite part of game day is organizing an enormous get-together.

Your Game-Day Strategy: Party prep will differ depending on timezone. For all the west coasters, rise and shine: you’re going to have to get that coffee brewing and bacon sizzling early because breakfast is the crown jewel of your Sunday kickoff. Stick to easy to serve (and snack on) finger food options here like bacon- and sausage-wrapped pancakes that everyone can eat like tacos. East of the Pacific Time Zone, you’re looking at brunchier options, which means a big stack of pancakes or high-quality donuts to hold people over until it’s time to grill.

Snacks should be laid out in small but well-distributed portions. In other words, that barrel of guacamole on the coffee table is going to be gone before halftime, but a smattering of smaller dips placed around the party perimeter has a chance of lasting the whole day. The obvious go-to's here are in the snack pantheon: pretzels, chips, homemade bar nuts if you're feeling ambitious. A few well-placed bowls of sour cream and onion dip and maybe some hummus will go a long way towards keeping everyone satisfied between the main food waves.

One last thing: get your viewing setup right. Rent, borrow, or buy a TV that can be seen across the house and setup any other internet-connected screens you have as viewing stations throughout the party. Just make sure to keep one tuned to RedZone for the stat geeks.

Party 4: All Aboard the Party Bus

Tell your friends to throw down $100 each and meet you on Sunday morning -- no questions asked. This is the football party bus, and once you experience it, you’ll wonder how you ever rolled to a game without it.

Best Party For: Those of you who always have to bum rides to the game in that friend’s minivan that smells like wet dog and burritos.

Your Game-Day Strategy: This is more about wrangling people than supplies so make sure the constantly tardy friend arrives 30 minutes before you actually leave. You’re going to be stocking the bus yourself, and since it may be a bumpy ride heading to the stadium, make sure to get your hands on low-mess snacks -- no chili or chowder. Think handheld when you're putting together the party menu: a giant stack of pizzas can get serious mileage or, if you're heading over around breakfast, breakfast burritos or a sack of bagels and cream cheese. And yes, you should have as many giant bags of chips and pretzels as can fit in the bus. You’re also going to need to grab enough Bud Light for every passenger and keep them on ice for both pre- and post-game revelry. Pro tip: be generous when tipping your driver. He’s the guy who has to deal with you singing Billy Joel karaoke in traffic on the way home and decides where you get dropped off at the end of the night.

Party 5: The Rivalry Potluck

Want to spice up those big rivalry games? Why not turn it into Football Night in America meets Chopped?

Best Party For: The people who saw John Madden do a turducken autopsy on live TV and thought, “Hell yeah.”

Your Game-Day Strategy: At the end of the day, this is really a way to trick your friends into making delicious food by tapping into their natural sense of team pride and state rivalry (especially if they have to abide by this list of state-favorite foodstuffs). As host, you’ll be providing the Bud Light and judging the cook-off. The rules are simple: each team picks a regional dish and has 90 minutes to put it together -- for the sake of hungry friends, no overtime. The three-person judge panel has got to be impartial, so make sure everyone is leaving their biases outside (tip: nominate the friends who are there for the food, not the game.) If a team is still cooking when the 90 minutes are up, they're only allowed to finish if they wear their archrival's jerseys until their dish is ready.

Jeremy Nguyen/Thrillist

Party 6: The Football Picnic

It’s autumn, which means there’s still precious time before you have to head indoors for the season. So here’s how to ambitiously make the most of it: grab a movie projector, a laptop to stream the game, and a cooler full of beer, and make your way to the backyard for a game of 3-on-3 while cheering for your team onscreen.

Best Party For: Your one friend who always talks about how he could’ve gone pro if he were 2 inches taller.

Your Game-Day Strategy: Using either your garage or a sheet as a screen for your projector, find a place in the yard to have the game playing. The rest of the free space is for a goal-line showdown: this is basically 3-on-3 touch football where you have four shots to score -- passing only, no QB sneaks or anything on the ground -- before turning the ball over to the other team. If you score and the other team doesn’t, they’re out. It’s a do-or-die situation here so make sure to get your slant and hook routes down pat. Don't worry, if your team gets knocked out early, you can just crack open a Bud Light and settle in for the second half.