AFL teams for NFL fans: Who should you support?

The 2015-20 16 NFL season has, unfortunately for the millions of followers around the world, concluded.

Peyton Manning, the 39-year-old all-time great, enjoyed the perfect sendoff by winning Super Bowl 50 as a member of the Denver Broncos.

Super Bowl Sunday is generally the most watched sporting event globally every year and the NFL is the most heavily attended sport in the world. So where to for all these fans?

I'm an NFL tragic and wish it was played year-round - a feeling many diehard AFL fans would share about Australia's major code. As a player, I'm glad that's not the case, however having someone or something to follow in your 'off season' can speed up those lonely months and eventually evolve into a fully fledged obsession.

With that in mind I've attempted to devise the ultimate guide for code-hoppers hoping to identify a new team based on their current allegiances.

I have drawn on as many historical characteristics as possible, although I admit, in some cases I've just resorted to colours and mascots to make a link and ascertain which AFL team NFL fans should be cheering on from the other side of the world.


Birds of a feather flock together, so Baltimore Ravens fans should feel comfortable barracking for the Crows. Both teams came into their leagues in the 1990s and have won two titles each in their short histories. Baltimore was originally the Colts but became the Ravens in 1996, while Adelaide became the AFL's first South Australian-based team in 1991.


Supporters of the Indianapolis Colts need to look no further than the Brisbane Lions. Both clubs effectively represent two fan bases - the Colts used to be based in Baltimore before moving some 950km east in 1984. The Lions, meanwhile, are the result of a merger between Fitzroy and the Brisbane Bears. Thankfully for their loyal fans, both teams have won championships at their new homes.


The Blues have won the most AFL premierships in history, with 16, so the easiest thing would be to align them with Green Bay Packers, which is the most successful NFL team of all time. But Carlton are in an entirely different situation at the moment, going through an extensive rebuild. The Cleveland Browns are going through a lengthy rebuild of their own, so Browns fans can look to the Blues with some sympathy. Plus, they're the only two teams I know that are named after colours.


Collingwood's mirror image in the US is the Dallas Cowboys. Dubbed 'America's team', the Cowboys are arguably the most visible NFL franchise in the league, a position shared by the Magpies in the AFL. These two sides are the most heavily supported clubs in their respective countries but also the most hated. And both boast extremely colourful, high-profile off-field leaders, in Jerry Jones and Eddie McGuire.


San Fransisco 49ers fans should feel an affinity for the Bombers. They have both been ultra-successful throughout their histories, particularly in the 1980s-early 90s, when the Bombers played in five Grand Finals (winning three), and the 49ers won four Super Bowls. Both clubs have hit harder times since, but have new coaches and a raft of new players who will be hoping to lift their teams back to the top.


The Dockers are based in an isolated city on the west coast of the country, and have developed a reputation of being one of the most competitive, defensively-sound teams in the league. Ring a bell, Seattle Seahawks fans? Both sides boast an extremely passionate fanbase, and historically, visiting teams rarely enjoy success when travelling to either Fremantle or Seattle.


New York Giants supporters should look no further than the Cats. They are two of the oldest teams in their respective competitions, and both settled on their current names in the 1920s. The Cats and Giants have won nine and eight championships respectively. Remarkably, the two sides both claimed titles in 2007 and 2011.


This one is an easy one for Arizona Cardinals fans after their franchise drafted ex-Gold Coast player Joel Wilkinson. Wilkinson, one of the AFL's most explosive athletes, was signed as a cornerback hopeful in February.


While it's obvious to think New York Giants supporters would look to their namesakes on the other side of the world, I think LA Rams fans would feel more aligned to the GWS Giants. Both teams are their league's newest expansion franchises, having moved into a developing market. Their future is in front of them, rather than behind them.


There are so many similarities between the New England Patriots and Hawthorn Hawks it's spooky. They've both won four titles in recent times and both have a master coach at the helm in Bill Belichick and Alastair Clarkson. Of course, with success comes jealousy, and fans view the two powerful teams with borderline hatred. However, you can't help but respect what they stand for and what they've achieved in recent years.


Go back to the middle of last century and fans of the Detroit Lions and Melbourne Demons would have all been reveling a steady stream of success. The Lions won three championships in the 1950s, and Melbourne won four, but sadly for their supporters, neither has done much since. The similarities don't end there - they are two of the oldest clubs in their leagues and both have much-maligned former No.1 draft picks - Matthew Stafford, the first pick from the 2009 NFL draft, and Jack Watts, whose name was called out first in the 2008 AFL draft.


The Denver Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls on the back of their superstar quarterback John Elway in the 1990s. That journey mirrored that of North Melbourne, who won two AFL premierships in that decade with a certain Wayne Carey at the peak of his powers. Both teams have been highly relevant in recent years - but can the Kangaroos take the next step like the Broncos did last season?


Oakland Raiders fans should feel an affinity with Port Adelaide. Both sides have incredibly passionate fan bases, and squads stacked with young talent. And while both teams have historic legacies, neither have always been in the main competition (the Raiders previously being based in LA, while Port Adelaide played in the South Australian National Football League, before gaining admittance to the AFL in 1997).


I asked my cousin (Richmond forward Jack Riewoldt) which NFL team most closely resembled the Tigers. His answer was the Cincinnati Bengals. Of course, the Bengal is a type of Tiger, but there's more to it than that. Richmond and Cincinnati have both been regular playoff teams in the past few years but have failed to take the next step. They have talented squads and should be closing in on silverware in the near future.


The New Orleans Saints joined the NFL in 1967 - the year after St Kilda won our one and only premiership. Both have only won one championship each, but have loud and passionate fan bases. Of course, they obviously share the same nicknames, too.


The Buffallo Bills lost four Super Bowls in the 1990s, which has shaped their identity in a way. The Sydney Swans also endured decades in the wilderness before finally breaking their painful 72-year drought in 2005. Since then, the Swans have become one of the most consistent clubs in the AFL. Bills fans will be hoping their team can turn it around like the Swans have. The Bills and Swans also have two of the most respected coaches in their leagues - Rex Ryan and John Longmire.


The Bulldogs have endured plenty of down years but they now boast an extremely strong up-and-coming squad that looks set to compete for premierships for years to come. The same could be said about the Carolina Panthers, who came out of nowhere to make it to the Super Bowl last season. My big question is, who will become the Bulldogs' Cam Newton? Marcus Bontempelli, Tom Boyd, Jake Stringer, or another one of their talented young pups?


West Coast surprised a lot of us last year in reaching the Grand Final on the back of their brilliant defensive system nicknamed the Eagles' Web; could that eventually become as famous as the Pittsburgh Steelers' Iron Curtain? We'll have to wait and see, but fans of the Steelers would be well served following the Eagles. The Steelers have won the most titles in the Super Bowl era (six) and while West Coast can't quite boast to the same level, they have been extremely successful in the AFL era - winning three titles in 1992, 1994 and 2006.

Of course, it's impossible to squeeze 32 NFL franchises into 18 AFL clubs, so who should supporters of the other NFL clubs cheer on? Here's a quick guide.

New York Jets: An easy one - the Essendon Bombers, due to their mascots.

Philadelphia Eagles: From one Eagle to another, surely Philadelphia fans support the West Coast Eagles.

Minnesota Vikings: While the weather in Minnesota is vastly different to Fremantle's year-round sunshine, both teams share a striking purple uniform.

Chicago Bears: The Brisbane Lions were formerly known as the Bears, so Chicago supporters should feel a connection to Australia's most-northern AFL club.

Atlanta Falcons: Take your pick from any of the feathered AFL mascots - the Hawthorn Hawks, West Coast Eagles, Adelaide Crows, Collingwood Magpies or Sydney Swans.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Gold Coast Suns, much like the Buccaneers, revel in almost year-round coastal warmth. Both clubs have a lot of high-end talent coming through.

Washington Redskins: The Redskins are based in America's capital city, much like the GWS Giants, who play some home games in Canberra.

Houston Texans: The Texans are one of the newest franchises in the NFL and haven't enjoyed a great deal of success - much like the Gold Coast Suns. However, in J.J Watt, and Gary Ablett, these teams boast two of the best players in their competitions.

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers, and West Coast Eagles, are blessed with beautiful weather and fantastic coastal lifestyles. Both teams boast numerous champions and tragically some fallen idols in Junior Seau and Chris Mainwaring.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins were made famous by the legendary Dan Marino and then Ray Finkle of Ace Ventura fame. Miami, like Sydney has more to offer as a city than just football!

Kansas City Chiefs: Home to one of the most intimidating home-field advantages in the NFL, while current coach Andy Reid was involved in one of the biggest defections in the league - sounds a lot like Fremantle and Ross Lyon.

As for the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, they are both in AFC South - the same as my beloved Houston Texans. I don't want their fan bases to get any bigger, so supporters of those two teams can work it out for themselves!