The NFL season is upon us, and for many fans that means hate-watching rival teams as much as it means cheering for one’s own favorite squad. And for a large subset of that group, that specifically means hate-watching the New England Patriots.
It’s no secret that winning five Super Bowls, 25 playoff games and 196 regular season games in a span of 17 years — not to mention breaking some rules along the way — will earn you a few enemies. But has New England’s nearly two-decade reign of terror over the NFL made them as universally despised as it seems? Have they reached the New York Yankees’ Evil Empire status? We decided to put it to a test.
We commissioned SurveyMonkey Audience to conduct a poll of NFL fans in early September,1 tracking how many would classify each franchise among their three favorite — and least favorite — teams. The survey also asked respondents to assign a favorability rating to a randomly drawn subset of teams, which we used to further judge the admiration — and, more importantly, the vitriol — between fan bases.
It should be noted that the Patriots are among the most popular teams in our database (cough, bandwagon), with more than 16 percent of all NFL fans listing them among their favorite teams. That ranks third in the league, trailing only a pair of historic NFL bluebloods: the Green Bay Packers (23 percent) and Dallas Cowboys (19 percent). But they’re also one of the two teams — along with the Cowboys — who stand head and shoulders above the rest of the league in terms of hatred from other fanbases. More than 26 percent of fans polled listed New England as one their three least-favorite teams; only Dallas checked in higher at 31 percent. (No. 3 were the Baltimore Ravens at 13 percent.)
|FAVORITE TEAM||IN TOP 3||LEAST-FAVORITE TEAM||IN TOP 3|
|1||Green Bay Packers||23.0%||1||Dallas Cowboys||30.7%|
|2||Dallas Cowboys||19.1||2||New England Patriots||26.2|
|3||New England Patriots||16.4||3||Baltimore Ravens||13.2|
|4||Seattle Seahawks||15.1||4||Oakland Raiders||11.3|
|5||Pittsburgh Steelers||14.8||4||Pittsburgh Steelers||11.3|
|6||Denver Broncos||13.7||4||Washington Redskins||11.3|
|7||Chicago Bears||12.4||7||Cleveland Browns||11.2|
|8||New Orleans Saints||12.2||8||Green Bay Packers||10.6|
|9||San Francisco 49ers||11.1||9||New Orleans Saints||9.4|
|10||New York Giants||10.4||10||Buffalo Bills||9.3|
|23||Detroit Lions||5.8||23||Miami Dolphins||6.1|
|24||Kansas City Chiefs||5.7||24||Detroit Lions||5.9|
|25||Indianapolis Colts||5.3||25||Los Angeles Chargers||5.5|
|26||Cincinnati Bengals||4.6||26||Minnesota Vikings||5.5|
|27||Cleveland Browns||4.6||27||Jacksonville Jaguars||5.4|
|27||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4.6||28||Houston Texans||5.1|
|29||Los Angeles Rams||4.2||29||Indianapolis Colts||4.8|
|30||Buffalo Bills||4.0||30||Tennessee Titans||4.5|
|31||Tennessee Titans||3.9||31||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||3.9|
|32||Jacksonville Jaguars||1.8||32||Kansas City Chiefs||3.7|
Does this mean the Cowboys and all the Jerry World glitz are actually more disliked than the Patriots? Not necessarily. A good amount of the Cowboys hate is accounted for by deep-seated rivalries with their fellow NFC East teams. Patriots hatred is far more egalitarian.
For example, the fan groups who hate Dallas the most — Philadelphia and Washington — really, really hate them: A staggering 50 percent of fans who ranked either the Eagles or Redskins among their top three teams also ranked the Cowboys among their bottom three.
The Patriots, by contrast, racked up their high dislike rate without the benefit of such intense hatred from specific fan bases. No single group of fans even cracked 35 percent, in terms of the share who ranked New England among their bottom three teams. But the Pats also collected a good amount of hate from a diverse spread of some of the league’s largest fan bases, which nearly helped them catch the Cowboys as the league’s most disliked team.
Here’s the rundown of the fan bases who most frequently listed the Patriots among their three least favorite teams:
||SHARE OF FANS▲▼
||PUT PATS IN BOTTOM 3▲▼
|1||New York Giants||NFC East||3.8%||34.7%|
|2||Pittsburgh Steelers||AFC North||5.3||33.0|
|3||Carolina Panthers||NFC South||2.6||32.9|
|4||Indianapolis Colts||AFC South||1.9||32.0|
|5||Denver Broncos||AFC West||4.9||31.6|
|6||Seattle Seahawks||NFC West||5.4||31.6|
|7||Buffalo Bills||AFC East||1.4||30.4|
|8||Tennessee Titans||AFC South||1.4||30.0|
|9||Philadelphia Eagles||NFC East||2.9||29.9|
|10||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||NFC South||1.6||29.5|
|11||Jacksonville Jaguars||AFC South||0.6||29.3|
|12||Green Bay Packers||NFC North||8.3||29.1|
|13||Chicago Bears||NFC North||4.5||28.4|
|14||Miami Dolphins||AFC East||2.5||28.2|
|15||Atlanta Falcons||NFC South||3.0||28.2|
|16||Minnesota Vikings||NFC North||2.4||27.5|
|17||Baltimore Ravens||AFC North||2.4||27.3|
|18||Detroit Lions||NFC North||2.1||27.1|
|19||Cincinnati Bengals||AFC North||1.7||26.4|
|20||New York Jets||AFC East||2.4||26.3|
|21||Houston Texans||AFC South||2.5||26.3|
|22||New Orleans Saints||NFC South||4.4||25.8|
|23||Arizona Cardinals||NFC West||2.3||25.7|
|24||Oakland Raiders||AFC West||3.1||25.6|
|25||Kansas City Chiefs||AFC West||2.0||25.4|
|26||Dallas Cowboys||NFC East||6.9||25.3|
|27||Washington Redskins||NFC East||2.2||23.0|
|28||San Francisco 49ers||NFC West||4.0||22.4|
|29||Los Angeles Rams||NFC West||1.5||21.6|
|30||Cleveland Browns||AFC North||1.6||20.0|
|31||Los Angeles Chargers||AFC West||2.4||17.0|
|—||New England Patriots||AFC East||5.9||—|
Perhaps surprisingly, given that their favorite team beat the Pats in two Super Bowls over the last 10 years, fans of the New York Giants win the crown as the group that hates New England most, with 34.7 percent of them ranking the Pats among their bottom three teams. (Granted, the poll was conducted in the middle of a pennant race between the Red Sox and the Yankees — so there’s no telling what lingering Boston-New York resentment carried over.) Add in animosity from a handful of other huge fan bases — the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks (all of whom the Pats have beaten in the playoffs this decade) — plus leftover resentment from fans of the Carolina Panthers (who apparently have really long memories) and Indianapolis Colts (for whom it’s unclear how much hate is motivated by DeflateGate and how much by the Peyton Manning-Tom Brady rivalry), and there are very few corners of America where Patriots fans won’t be behind enemy lines.
But look on the bright side, Patriots fans: In order to be at the top of the “hate” list, you have to be successful. The top six teams on our list have combined for 24 Super Bowl wins. By comparison, the bottom of the list is filled with teams that are either relatively new or simply inoffensive because they haven’t won many playoff games. And the biggest congratulations are in order for the Kansas City Chiefs, who are currently No. 1 in FiveThirtyEight’s rankings and are also the least disliked team in America, according to the poll. What’s more, this poll was conducted before Kansas City knocked off the Patriots in the NFL season opener.
Check out our latest NFL predictions.