Travel

Every NFL Team's City, Ranked

philadelphia eagles fans
Harry How/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Much to the chagrin of Will Smith's character in that one movie, the NFL is still going strong. And because there are plenty of places actually providing meticulous breakdowns of actual stuff that is likely to take place in actual games, we aren't going to do that. What we are doing is ranking the actual cities associated with every NFL team (i.e., New York doesn't get penalized for technically playing in Jersey), based on everything that isn't football: the food, the natural beauty, the people, our subjective biases against the state of Florida, etc.  

If you have complaints, you can call Matt's house phone line anytime after 2am Central. But for now, just revel in our unimpeachable yet highly subjective NFL city ranking: 

30. Green Bay, WI

Green Bay Packers  
This really isn't fair. Green Bay wouldn't even perform all that well on a ranking of cities IN WISCONSIN. Pitting it against the nation's great metropolises is like pitting opposing defenses against Aaron Rodgers. So yeah, it's a good thing the team is generally successful, because the town has all the personality of an AutoZone parking lot.

29. Jacksonville, FL

Jacksonville Jaguars 
In your heart of hearts, you have to know that when your motto is "Where Florida Begins" and your residents, called "Jaxsons," share a name popular with the boy children of couples who own UFC gyms, you're not going to end up high on this list. 

And as much as we respect a city known for its contributions to the world of logistics and "golf-related tourism," this is the least sexy Florida destination in the NFL. And though King St in Riverside is doing its best hip-new-food-town impression, the most appealing aspect of a night out in the land of Jaxsons is still the possibility of seeing Fred Taylor at the Shim Sham Room. They do take backhanded compliments well, though.

28. Charlotte, NC

Carolina Panthers
Imagine you're in a nondescript airport, your flight is delayed, and you're stuck next to this awkward and insufferable guy in a polo shirt who won't stop talking to you about his recent promotion at Wells Fargo. Now imagine living that experience perpetually. Such is Charlotte. But there's hope! While most North Carolina residents will tell you to travel a bit outside Charlotte find the best barbecue, just about any Carolina barbecue beats most of what's elsewhere, and Charlotte has plenty.

Buffalo skyline, NY
Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

27. Buffalo, NY

Buffalo Bills
Buffalo is like if a mid-tier Canadian city crept across the border and hoped no one would notice it just hanging out up there in the far reaches of New York, sipping a Labatt tallboy and trying to keep snow off its faded Thurman Thomas jersey via an also-faded Bills starter jacket, the orange hue of wing sauce still staining its cheeks from a recent trip to Anchor Bar as it ponders engaging in a zesty round of parking-lot sex. You know, metaphorically speaking.

26. Tampa Bay, FL

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
There are nice things to be had here -- beautiful beaches in close proximity, the splendors of Cigar City Brewing, a few good restaurants (Edison: Food+Drink; Rooster & the Till; a place called Big Ray’s with crazy-good fish sandwiches); it's just too bad nearly everyone I've met from Tampa (and I have cousins here, so I've met a bunch) is basically Kevin from the Netflix show Bloodline, but even more fidgety. 

25. Cincinnati, OH

Cincinnati Bengals 
All the forced niceness of a good Midwestern upbringing combined with just a hint (or more than a hint, depending on who you're dealing with) of Kentucky redneck that made its way across the river. On the one hand, Cincinnati has more going for it than you might think if you're the sort of person who just lumps that whole part of the country together: beautiful rolling hills, Graeter's ice cream, a perpetually underrated beer scene. On the other hand, any place where the local cuisine of note is meat-like nightmare sludge with notes of cinnamon can only climb so high.

24. Phoenix, AZ

Arizona Cardinals
Imagine the movie Cocoon, but a city. Actually less a city and more like several subdivisions connected by golf courses and upscale outdoor malls. But still imagine the movie Cocoon because it’s a pretty good movie. 

You're damn lucky Chris Bianco decided to make pizza here.

23. Baltimore, MD

Baltimore Ravens
As Omar says -- just kidding, Omar is dead. Sorry, I should've said spoiler alert. But you know what isn't dead? The food/drink scene and the energy in Washington, DC's cooler, poorer, more Old Bay-encrusted cousin. 

Also, I once sleep (slept?)-walked out of my hotel room in Baltimore at 3am in just my boxers and ended up down at the front desk very confused, and no one in Baltimore seemed that fazed by it. RIP Omar. 

kansas city missouri
Henryk Sadura/Shutterstock

22. Kansas City, MO

Kansas City Chiefs
OK, let's just get this outta the way, KC -- setting up shop primarily in Missouri when your name's Kansas was a real dick move. But hey, it happened, let's move past it, and instead move directly into a slab of incredible ribs. Or burnt ends. Or both! But just focusing solely on BBQ is selling the city a bit short -- stroll around Westport and you'll find Beard Award winners and destination-worthy cocktail joints. However, you'll also find large stretches of the city that'll make you say, "Wait... are we in the Kansas part? No? Are you SURE?" So yeah, like the health of Jamaal Charles' knees, it's a bit up and down.

21. Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis Colts
A certain Chicagoan co-author of this article has a track record of poking fun at Indy from time to time. He may or may not have once referred to it as "like a big suburb that's really trying." However, he's also spent enough time there to know that the people are generally friendly as hell and great to drink with if you don't mind them awkwardly injecting praise for Peyton Manning into conversations where it isn't even close to relevant. But for real, you know Indy's on the rise when it's getting backhanded complimentary coverage from New York media -- that's supposed to be Chicago's gig! America's keeping an eye on you, Indy, and only averting it whenever Andrew Luck takes his helmet off.

20. Cleveland, OH

Cleveland Browns
It did it! It finally won something! But LeBron's heroics aside, Cleveland's reputation for flaming rivers, excruciating losses, and self-deprecating tourism videos has long betrayed a city that's better than its public perception. Its network of chef-driven restaurants extends far beyond the ones Michael Symon runs when he's not busy entertaining America's housewives with Mario Batali. Its beer scene has become so much more than Great Lakes (but also Great Lakes!). Its people are still recovering from what Earnest Byner and Jose Mesa and Art Modell did to them on some level, but are now more upbeat than ever. It's still Cleveland, but it's better than you probably thought.  

19. Detroit, MI

Detroit Lions
It'd be easy to throw a few tired jokes about urban decay and corruption at Detroit and call it a day, but that'd be doing a disservice to a great American city and promising revitalization story. Besides, Detroit has character, dammit. Many of the people who would bash it have never experienced the wonders of one of America's most underrated pizza styles, taken in the tranquil beauty of Belle Isle, or emerged as an improbable hero at a rap battle hosted by Mekhi Phifer. Indeed, Detroit is an underdog all of America can get behind. If only the same could be said for the Lions.   

18. Atlanta, GA

Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta's a complicated city that far too many experience only in the form of airport layovers and far too few experience in the form of a coveted Holeman and Finch burger, a pilgrimage to Clermont Lounge, and an inexplicable traffic jam that makes you question whether there's good in the universe. If you haven't made the trip, at least tune into this season of Atlanta. 

17. Miami, FL

Miami Dolphins
That one guy in your freshman dorm that wears excessive hair product, owns myriad button-down shirts in primary colors purchased online from European clothiers, and is weirdly good at Jet Skiing, but a city. 

16. Houston, TX

Houston Texans
If you're going to eat meat, be it steak or ribs or burgers or kolaches filled with sausage, there is nary a better city in this country to get down in. If you're going to sit in traffic in the worst humidity I've ever experienced outside of a rainforest (I went to a rainforest once, NBD) in a city that would give LA a run for its money in sprawl, Houston is also very good at that. Free DeAndre Hopkins!  

15. Dallas, TX

Dallas Cowboys
Everyone always makes fun of Dallas for being the mercenary Texas city, the place where northern and Midwestern expats come to do a few years of work before returning to their home bases in Chicago and Arlington, VA. Or they talk about the big hair and the fake boobs of the Texas natives. Or, if they're my mom, they talk about that show Dallas and who shot J.R. (spoiler alert: it was his sister-in-law Kristin, but J.R. didn't press charges because she said she was pregnant with his child!). Either way, Dallas is a perfectly respectable middle-of-the-road city, which is basically what the Cowboys are destined to be next season once the rookie magic has worn off Dak Prescott.

14. Oakland, CA 

Oakland Raiders
Because this is not about Oakland Raider fans, we don't have to mention the Mad Max dystopian experience that is attempting to go to the bathroom, or walk to your seat, or just exist as an opposing fan in the Coliseum. Oakland itself is a city that's always had a great music and food culture, but it's now getting tons of hype, mainly because all the people priced out of SF are reacting to the city as if they've just discovered something that wasn't known to people over the Bay Bridge for infinity years. Bonus: looks like that move to Vegas isn't as much of a lock as everyone thought!

13. Philadelphia, PA 

Philadelphia Eagles
As a nation, we have a tendency to reduce Philadelphia to this caricature composed solely of cheesesteak- and Yuengling-scented WIP callers engaging in some casual afternoon drive-time racism before heading out to prepare for their nightly bar fights. This criminally overlooks the fact that Philly has a restaurant scene few cities can touch, an abundance of delicious and affordably priced pretzels, and a bunch of super-friendly people who will happily take your picture next to the ROCKY statue even though you're acting like a damn tourist. Only thing is, well, those aforementioned people still exist, too.

12. Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles Rams 
Good God, why does LA suddenly have two football teams? We can't say anything nice here out of respect for San Diego.

11. Minneapolis, MN

Minnesota Vikings
Any city simultaneously responsible for giving the world Prince and the Jucy Lucy is clearly doing some things right. If you've never experienced the perfection that is a summer in Minneapolis... well, you're basically out of time because autumn is coming and the Vikings are about to ruin everything. Damn you Teddy Bridgewater and your fragile knees! Where were we? Right, so anyway, soon enough Minneapolis inevitably finds itself plugging its cars in so their batteries don't freeze while exchanging terse pleasantries over rib-sticking servings of hot dish, but damn, when this city's good, it's really good. Hopefully one day that applies to the football team.

10. Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh gets a bad rap, possibly because the only thing that people outside of Pittsburgh know of PGH is the Yinzer expat population wearing their Bubby Brister jerseys to sports bars, and the gym, and court appearances. But the city itself is quite alluring -- with the large swaths of unexpected green, museums that look lovely from the outside, and a food/drink scene that has recently reached fire-emoji status. Just avoid the sports bars around 1pm on Sundays, and you'll have a great time, even if you don't stuff fries into pierogies. 

9. Washington, DC 

Washington Redskins
Put aside your feelings about our government and the people in charge of it for a moment. Or better yet, express them in the comments, where people of all political stripes are renowned for resolving differences with the utmost grace and dignity. While we're putting things aside, also ignore any feelings you might have about Dan Snyder and his crusade to preserve an objectively racist team name.

OK! Now the good stuff. Even the most hardened cynic can't help but feel at least a twinge of civic pride going about his or her day amidst so many iconic American sites as the sun (hopefully) shines down on the Potomac. But the real exciting stuff in DC is what's happening apart from the whole "being the nation's capital" thing. Excitement over its long-ascendant restaurant scene has reached a fever pitch. Legitimately cool neighborhoods are worthy of more than backhanded "it's like Brooklyn" comparisons. House of Cards is renewed for another season! If you can tolerate the guy who insists on networking even though it's 2am and you're trying to inhale your half smoke at Ben's Chili Bowl in peace, it can be a lovely place.

boston massachusettes
Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock

8. Boston, MA

New England Patriots
Have you ever walked through the Public Garden onto the cobblestone streets of Beacon Hill on a crisp fall day, and found a cannoli from Mike's that you didn't even realize you'd purchased hours before, and thought that you were in the greatest city in the world; the Hub, if you will, of the universe? 

And then did you get hit in the head by a Sam Adams bottle thrown by a 320lb liquored-up dude wearing a Marchand jersey over a Welker jersey over a Foulke jersey over a Scalabrine jersey, who'd just gotten so fired up rattling off Deflategate conspiracy theories that he missed the last Red Line train to the Quincy Adams station, and thought that you might not care if this city burned to the ground? Then congratulations, you truly understand the ups and downs of the Boston experience. 

7. San Francisco, CA

San Francisco 49ers
Though you can only permanently reside in the City by the Bay now if you've recently sold a farm-to-drone app to Facebook or have old Belarusian money you recently smuggled out of Minsk, the City of Cramped Calves is still undeniably beautiful and grand, even if the people hitting you with their Teslas as they work up programs to steal your dinner reservations are not. 

6. New York, NY

New York Jets and New York Giants 
New York is the city equivalent of one of those claw-crane machine hand games -- it has all these plush and fancy-looking things that look like they're available to everyone, and so you spend your money to go there and then you come to find out that ALL OF THE NICE STUFF IS ESSENTIALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO GET UNLESS YOU ARE ONE OF THE PEOPLE WHO ALREADY OWNS A CLAW-CRANE MACHINE BUSINESS. But you come so damn close to winning those prizes and they seem so attainable that you just keep pumping money into it. This usually goes on for people's entire 20s and early 30s, until they give up playing the machine and move to Jersey to eat tomato pies in peace.

But in all seriousness, there's a feeling that goes along with being in New York that just isn't replicable anywhere else. It's almost like a country unto itself, which makes comparing it to other places extremely difficult. Kind of like safely handling fireworks. Sorry, JPP.  

5. Chicago, IL

Chicago Bears
Driving (or biking or walking, if you're not in an Italian beef coma) down Lakeshore Dr, with the majestic skyline on one side and Lake Michigan extending all the way to the horizon on the other, is one of the finest damn sights you'll experience anywhere. Culinarily, Chicago measures itself against the world's restaurant capitals, which makes it all the more laughable when someone from New York turns out another condescending "guess what, Chicago actually has good places to eat that aren't steakhouses!" article. Also, literally every single famous funny person you know went to Chicago to learn how to be funnier.

Look! Got through that whole damn thing without mentioning deep dish once. Whoops. Shit. Well, you knew it was coming. Kind of like a Jay Cutler interception at a critical moment in the fourth quarter.

4. Denver, CO

Denver Broncos
Ah, Denver! Breathe in that fresh mountain air with just a hint of cannabis and green chile. Drink in the hoppy splendor of a craft beer scene that was bustling back when everyone still called them "microbreweries." Tolerate the alarmingly in-shape bro who stuck around after four years at Boulder to work as a part-time ski instructor and won't stop talking to you about fourteeners. Denver often gets championed for all the fantastic stuff to do right outside the city, what with the skiing and the hiking and the Red Rocks, but that does a disservice to all the good times to be had in Denver proper. The fact that said times can be had with herbal enhancement with nary a legal concern is just a bonus.

seattle
kan_khampanya/Shutterstock

3. Seattle, WA

Seattle Seahawks
If Seattle just had, like, six more weeks of nice weather, it would be the most desirable city to live in in quite possibly the world. But alas, Seattle does not have those extra weeks, and so you're left with a choice: do I make my home in a city that is going to give me the best seafood, and teriyaki, and cool ferry rides to islands, or do I never go to Seattle outside of the summer because too much time in a depressing perpetual light drizzle will give me seasonal affective disorder and force me to start listening to Stone Temple Pilots albums backwards looking for clues to the meaning of life? 

Well, judging by the real estate prices and businesses piling into the hometown of Meredith Grey (RIP?), I'd say more people than not are opting for the STP route. 

2. Nashville, TN

Tennessee Titans
Guys! Did you hear?! Hot chicken is SO hot right now. Spicy poultry aside, it genuinely does feel like Nashville's been having something of a moment the last couple of years (OK fine, a bit more than a "moment"), thanks to everyone's third-favorite friend throwing her bachelorette party there (didn't the dresses cost ENOUGH, Becca?) and also Aziz Ansari. But it's also because Nashville's a damn fine place to be, what with the music and the fantastic barbecue (no, it's not just Memphis) and the just-right amount of country. It's simultaneously small town and thriving city in the best possible way. It's going to be crushed when Marcus Mariota doesn't live up to the hype, but not THAT crushed because everyone cares way more about college, anyway.

1. New Orleans, LA

New Orleans Saints
Most cities are lucky to have one or two iconic dishes they can point to and say "we created this and it's amazing and you MUST try it when you're here." New Orleans has too many to count. On the one hand, it feels trite to laud the nonstop party vibe here, on the other hand, any city that so thoroughly champions legally imbibing outdoors without restrictions and flouts the notion of "last call" deserves as much praise as possible. Without minimizing the seriousness of the havoc Mother Nature has wreaked on it, New Orleans is so much bigger than the obstacles that've fallen in its path. Quite simply, if you haven't been there, you haven't had a complete American experience, and few cities can say that. If people from New Orleans say that to you, it'll be hard to understand, but at least their tone will be real friendly-like.

 

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Matt Lynch is Thrillist's executive editor and didn't know that Omar dies in The Wire. Follow along as he angrily DMs Kevin @MLynchChi