Barcelona are Green Bay, Liverpool like the LA Rams, and the NFL's other European football equivalents

Matt Jones - Editor 12:23 21/09/2019
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If you’re a football (US not UK) enthusiast then you’ll know your time outs from your touchdowns and your NFC (National Football Conference) from your AFC (American Football Conference).

The road to Super Bowl LIV (54 to the layperson) has begun and, for the next five-and-a-half months, football (US) fanatics will be going crazy following their teams, attending tailgate parties and living and dying by each game week’s fantasy team decisions.

Thinking of getting into gridiron? Lucky for you, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide – well, more like an idiot’s guide – to how the more casual NFL fan might ease themselves into their first season.

Think of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as the Lionel Messi of American football – or the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). Wide receiver Antonio Brown, meanwhile, is the bad boy Neymar figure, having instigated a litany of off-field drama this summer.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick is like Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, a revolutionary and born winner, while the Arizona Cardinals are Huddersfield Town – the worst team in Europe’s top five leagues last season – of the 32 NFL franchises.

So if you’re a football fan looking for a team to support across the pond, here’s our ‘which team to support’ guide for the NFC.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Who they’re like: LEICESTER

Leicester-Ranieri

The Saints are one of the best teams in the NFL and have a Hall of Fame quarterback, but are most remembered for one fairytale triumph following tragedy – and their one and only trip to the Super Bowl, in 2009.

Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005 but Super Bowl XLIV four years later helped heal it. The Superdome, the Saints’ home, housed around 30,000 residents after the devastation, with the disaster fortifying an already strong bond between city and supporters.

There was no tragedy underpinning Leicester’s Premier League triumph in 2015/16 – just utter bewilderment. The Foxes were terrific under Tinkerman Claudio Ranieri’s tenure, a real triumph for team spirit and the collective over flashy individualism.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Who they’re like: LIVERPOOL

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final

Two current shining lights. But despite brimming with talent on both sides of the ball and led by charismatic coaches, the Reds and Rams still have to rise higher.

Liverpool claimed a stellar sixth European crown last season, having fallen in the final the previous year. But it’s been three decades since they lifted a top-flight domestic title and the Premier League crown is what they value highest of all.

Like the Rams, who were poor in Super Bowl defeat to the Patriots last season, anything other than the big one will be deemed a failure for Jurgen Klopp and Sean McVeigh this term.

CHICAGO BEARS

Who they’re like: TORINO

AndreaBelottiTorino (1)

For the points-shy Bears, see Torino – who had one of the best defences in Italy last year, but one of the worst attacks. The Bears conceded a league low 283 points in 2018 but just don’t inspire on the other side of the ball, while the stars of Mitch Trubisky and Andrea Belotti are falling as sharply as they rose.

Despite being the joint fourth most successful side in Serie A history (seven titles), Il Toro (The Bull) are tormented by the other team from Turin… Juventus.

A grizzly fact for the Bears – while they’re the only NFL team in Chicago, they share the city with the NBA’s Bulls, led by the legendary Michael Jordan during a dominant spell in the 90s.

DALLAS COWBOYS

Who they’re like: MANCHESTER UNITED

United

Two titans who still attract big names, make big headlines and generate big bucks, but are increasingly having to fall back on past successes as their empires crumble.

United’s fans are the new Liverpool in that all they have to harp on about is their glory days under Sir Alex Ferguson. United’s equivalent across the pond are the Cowboys, a huge team with a shimmering past – Dallas have dazzled in five Super Bowls, including winning three in four years during the early 90s.

It’s been 23 years since their last appearance though, while Red Devils disciples have suffered amid the dastardly rise of rivals.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Who they’re like: REAL MADRID

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks

The Patriots may be the flu others just can’t seem to shake, but the Seahawks have been among the best of the rest in recent years – lifting the Lombardi in 2014. They’ve slipped off the pace in recent seasons, having lost several star components of the their legendary ‘Legion of Boom’ defence that was so dominant during the team’s prime.

The likes of Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Malcolm Smith were Seattle, much like Cristiano Ronaldo was Real Madrid – chasing down records for fun and instrumental to their success – which included three successive Champions Leagues.

Still among the elite teams, but both have plenty to prove this season.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Who they’re like: WOLVES

SuperBowlEagles

Two teams on the up and who are suddenly in fashion to follow. The Eagles came from relatively nowhere to win Super Bowl LII. Second-year coach Doug Pederson’s play-calling was both gritty and glorious while unheralded second-string quarterback Nick Foles was instrumental as he won the MVP.

Wolves have not won a major trophy since the 1960 FA Cup but are on the rise under Nuno Espirito Santo and his Portuguese revolution. Having only climbed back into the Premier League last season they wowed in finishing seventh – their highest top-flight position in over 40 years – as well as reaching the FA Cup semis.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Who they’re like: ATLETICO MADRID

Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final

If you’re a Vikings or Atletico fan right now, you’re undoubtedly happy, right? Your team is among the best in the business. Atleti are more than just holding their own in battling the two superpowers of Spanish football, city rivals Real, and Barcelona. The Vikings made the NFC Championship two seasons ago.

And yet, despite possessing undoubtedly talented teams, loaded in defence and attack, they have a habit of choking on the big stage.

Los Rojiblancos lost two Champions League finals to Real in three seasons. The Vikings share a thoroughly wretched record with the Buffalo Bills of having appeared in and lost four Super Bowls.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Who they’re like: TOTTENHAM

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons

Does your team promise so much without delivering, or crumble when the pressure gets too intense? If so, avoid following the Falcons – the Tottenham of the NFL.

Spurs haven’t won a top-flight English league title in almost 60 years while Atlanta have never tasted Super Bowl success.

The 2015/16 Premier League title was Tottenham’s for the taking, with only the Foxes in the fight. But they fluffed their lines, eventually even north London rivals Arsenal pipped them to second.

The Falcons were flying in Super Bowl LI, pummelling the Pats 28-3. But they froze and fell to earth, surrendering their 25-point lead before Brady did his thing and New England won in overtime.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Who they’re like: SAINT ETIENNE

New York Giants v Washington Redskins

Today they’re owners of a moniker drastically out of touch with a rapidly changing, multi-cultural world. The Redskins name sadly appears here to stay, and the team were a mainstay of the Super Bowl for a decade in the 80s and 90s – appearing in four and winning three.

They’ve had just eight winning seasons in the ensuing 27 years though and last won a playoff game in 2005.

Historically, Saint Etienne are one of the most successful clubs in French football. Les Verts have lifted a joint-record 10 Ligue 1 titles alongside Marseille, but their last triumph was 39 years ago. PSG didn’t win their first until five years later.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Who they’re like: PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-NIMES-PSG

Plenty of similarities, including coming from nowhere in recent years and being unable get it done on the big stage despite having stellar players in their stable.

Carolina have lost two Super Bowls since being created in 1995. Cam Newton is one of the best quarterbacks of the modern era yet hasn’t won the big one. The Panthers also couldn’t pounce when they possessed Steve Smith – with the eighth most receiving yards in NFL history – in their ranks.

PSG have pulverised their domestic rivals since Middle East investment arrived. And yet despite buying Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani they haven’t even made the last four of the Champions League.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Who they’re like: BARCELONA

Lionel Messi

If you want entertainment in the NFL, a cold corner of Wisconsin is where you have found it in recent years.

Aaron Rodgers – the best quarterback in the NFL for the last decade – led the Pack to a fourth Super Bowl in 2010 and with the likes of Jordy Nelson and Devante Adams to sling the ball to in recent years, ‘Cheeseheads’ have had little reason to feel cheesed off.

Then Rodgers missed nine games in 2017 and Green Bay posted their first losing season in nine years. With Lambeau Field as iconic an arena as the Camp Nou, Rodgers as mercurial as Lionel Messi and the Packers the great entertainers, the comparison to Barcelona is easy.

Both teams are elite yet seem unable to perform without their main man on song.

DETROIT LIONS

Who they’re like: BURNLEY

Chicago Bears v Detroit Lions

With Burnley closely linked to manufacturing and aerospace and Detroit known as the centre of the US automobile industry, you’d expect both teams to be at the cutting edge of their sports too.

Sean Dyche’s Clarets are about as unfashionable a team as there is in the Premier League, the same goes for the Lions – one of only four teams never to reach the Super Bowl.

The Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers, meanwhile, have all reached the pinnacle of ice hockey, basketball and baseball. Burnley too are in the shadow of neighbours, with Manchester duo United and City, Liverpool and even Blackburn and Bolton more revered in Lancashire.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Who they’re like: MONACO

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants

One of American football’s most colossal and storied franchises, the Giants have claimed four Super Bowls. But they definitely punched above their weight with two surprise wins in 2007 and 2011 over the Patriots.

The 2007 win is considered one of the showpiece’s biggest shocks with the 16-0 Pats the first team to complete a perfect regular season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

Monaco can relate, having made a shock Champions League final appearance in 2004, while their 2016/17 Ligue 1 triumph was a triumph for David over Goliath (PSG).

Both now dwell in the doldrums – Monaco narrowly avoided relegation last season – with star players like Kylian Mbappe and Odell Beckham Jr departing.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Who they’re like: AJAX

Ajax

Ajax’s vibrant young stars wowed Europe last season and looked like they might emulate the exciting young class of 95’ that beat AC Milan in the Champions League final. Frenkie de Jong, Mathijs de Ligt and Co fell short and have since scarpered.

The Buccaneers, who found found Super Bowl treasure in 2002, have seen many players mutinied this summer, too.

Just like the Dutch giants they have been asset stripped. Linebacker Kwon Alexander set sail for San Francisco, slot receiver Adam Humphries traded Tampa for Tennessee, DeSean Jackson flew back to the Philadelphia Eagles and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick jumped ship and swam to the Miami Dolphins.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Who they’re like: AC MILAN

GianluigiDonnarummaMilanNapoli (1)

History is all this duo have lived off recently with both falling on hard times.

The 49ers – named after the prospectors who flooded northern California during the Gold Rush – are steeped in rich Super Bowl success, having claimed the game’s most valuable prize five times. Only Real Madrid (13) have won more European Cups than Milan’s seven and only Juventus hold more Serie A titles (35-18).

Both are slowly returning to prominence by putting faith in youth, with Niner Nation dreaming of a maiden winning season in six years. In the Rossoneri’s 1-0 win over Brescia this term, nine of Marco Giampaolo’s starting XI were 25 or under.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Who they’re like: WEST HAM

Divisional Round - Green Bay Packers v Arizona Cardinals

Far from the worst team in the league – as the bequeathing of the No1 spot in this year’s NFL Draft would suggest the Cardinals are – but not too much is expected either.

Arizona are significantly weaker than their NFC West rivals the Rams – who made the Super Bowl – the ever dangerous Seahawks and rapidly improving 49ers.

In much the same way, West Ham are small fry compared to their big fish London rivals Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea.

The Cards have the Heisman Trophy-winning Kyler Murray under centre and some comparisons may also be drawn to fledgling England star Declan Rice – both should have bright futures ahead of them.

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