Aaron Rodgers Embarking on the 47th edition of the greatest spectacle in pro sports, the 2012 NFL season leaves us with its 12 finalists for the right to claim football’s brass ring, the Vince Lombardi Trophy. 

This also means 12 fan bases all saying respective prayers, analyzing the team from top to bottom to gauge its chances, and gathering in sports bars in each city to revel in past glory or dwell in lost opportunity.

But who really has the right to sulk over a draft beer and mutter the fateful words they have been repeating for what seems like eternity, “Will this FINALLY be the year?”

To compile this list, we must consider many factors. 

How old is the franchise? Are they regular visitors to Super Sunday or merely one- or two-hit wonders? Did they win championships before there ever was a Super Bowl? To what degree are the fans passionate and loyal? 

How hungry is this city to shut everything down, once and for all? To block off downtown and invite the entire population to line Main Street and cheer their football heroes in a grand Super Bowl parade? 

From No. 12 to No. 1, they are ranked here:


No. 12: Green Bay Packers 

Age: 92

Super Bowl appearances: 5

Super Bowl wins: 4

Total Championships: 13

Last Super Bowl appearance: 2010 season (win)

They don’t call Green Bay "Title Town" for nothing. Sorry Packer fans, of the 12 teams in this group, while the Packer franchise is synonymous with everything classy and reverent about the NFL, yours is the one that least deserves a title. 

Besides having the 2nd most SB wins in this group at four, there’s that thing about having 13 total NFL Championships in your back pocket. Additionally, Packer fans have suffered only one full NFL season without winning it all. 

Let’s not forget that the trophy for this game is named after a man who coached your team. You can walk any street in any NFL town with your head held high and tout all of your achievements, but on this list, you are last. 


No. 11: New England Patriots 

Age: 52

Super Bowl appearances: 7

Super Bowl wins: 3

Total Championships: 3

Last Super Bowl appearance: 2011 season

Last Super Bowl win: 2004 season

For the Patriots it’s not merely the fact that they have won three titles in the last 11 years, plus two losing appearances two of the last three years, it’s the fact that since 2001, the franchise has a composite regular-season record of 146 wins against 46 losses. Over this 12-year span, they have won less than 10 games in a season exactly once. 

There’s no wanting there.  Had this list been created in year 2000, the Patriots would rank much higher.  But since they hit the football lottery known as the tandem of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, Patriots fans have been living the life of Ricky Schroeder in the 80’s sitcom Silver Spoons. 

Just like when Clint Eastwood’s character in The Unforgiven is about to dispose of Gene Hackman, the villain looks up and says, “I don’t deserve to go out like this.” 

To that, Eastwood peers down with squinty eyes and says un-apologetically, “Deserving ain’t got nothing to do with it.” Indeed. And sorry to Bill and Tom, but deserving has really nothing to do with it. At least, not on our list.


No. 10: San Francisco 49ers

Age: 67

Super Bowl appearances: 5

Super Bowl wins: 5

Total Championships: 5

Last Super Bowl appearance: 1989 (win)

Yes it has been 23 years since they flashed the ‘Forty Niner Gold and Scarlet' on the grandest stage, but any team with five Super Bowl wins in five appearances isn’t what you’d call deserving. Before there was Belichick and Brady, there was Bill Walsh and Joe Montana. There is excellence and domination, and then there are the 49ers of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. 

Starting with ‘The Catch’ in the 1981 NFC Championship, and culminating with a Super Bowl blowout of the Chargers in 1994, the Niners consistently reigned supreme over NFL opponents. Jim Harbaugh has done an admirable job restoring the glory, but the word ‘restoring' implies that there was glory somewhere in the past. There was plenty of glory, 13 consecutive years and five rings worth, and that means 10th on this list of most deserving.


No. 9: Denver Broncos

Age: 43

Super Bowl appearances: 6

Super Bowl wins: 2

Total Championships: 2

Last Super Bowl appearance: 1998 Season (win)

With the Broncos, we have another franchise with multiple Super Bowl appearances and multiple wins. Not deserving. And further, the shiny free agent quarterback has two appearances and one win of his own. 

Like the Patriots before Brady, had this list been created before Denver finally found a running back to go with the golden arm of John Elway, leading to consecutive titles, they'd be much higher on this list. 

While it would be nice to see Peyton Manning score a big one for now Exec VP of Football Operations Elway, Broncos fans can’t feel that bad if things don’t quite work out. 


No. 8: Indianapolis Colts

Age: 60

Super Bowl Appearances: 4

Super Bowl Wins: 2

Total Championships: 4

Last Super Bowl Appearance: 2009 season

Last Super Bowl Win: 2006 season

The Colts are the feel-good story of the 2012 NFL season and possibly one of the more heart-warming stories the NFL has seen in a long time. With head coach Chuck Pagano battling acute promyelocytic leukemia all season long and unable to walk the sidelines until the final game of the season, his young team, led by No. 1 overall draft pick and  rookie sensation Andrew Luck, surprised everyone by posting an unbelievable 11-5 record. 

It is truly a great story, and if the Colts had not won the big game only six years ago, while losing one just three years ago, the might be higher on this list of teams who deserve to win one. Even when the team wasn’t playing in it, the city still got to experience the Super Bowl up close and personal last year when they were the host site. 

The Colts have a storied history and have won their share over the years. Additionally, with one of the brightest young stars playing the most important position on the field, future Super Bowl opportunities should not be that far on the horizon. Missing out on one this year won’t have many Colts fans asking the bartender to make it a triple and make it fast. 

No. 7: Baltimore Ravens

Age: 17

Super Bowl Appearances: 1

Super Bowl Wins: 1

Total Championships: 1

Last Super Bowl Appearance: 2000 season (win)

Here we have another team with a unique background (Browns fans, please stop reading to avoid even more dejection then you must already deal with). In 1996, owner Art Modell relocated his Cleveland Browns to Baltimore due to an impasse in new stadium negotiations. 

In their 50 years in Cleveland, the Browns won 8 NFL titles, but did not participate in a Super Bowl. It only took their team with a new identity 5 years to ramp up to not only making the grand game, but winning it all in 2000. 

Baltimore as a city must have mixed feelings about their team. They cheer for a team relocated from another city, while the true history of football in Baltimore is rooted in the success of a team that now plays in Indiana. Baltimore football fans have never gone long without enjoying Super success, so they can’t be classified as ultimately deserving here. 

Future Hall-of-Fame linebacker Ray Lewis recently indicated that he will retire after 17 great seasons, so all fans of football would be happy to see Ray go out on top. 

But the Ravens, and the football fans of Baltimore, have had too much past success and recent playoff achievement to feel very let down should things not work out in 2012.     


No. 6: Washington Redskins

Age: 81

Super Bowl Appearances: 5

Super Bowl Wins: 3

Total Championships: 5

Last Super Bowl Appearance: 1991 season (win)

At No. 6, we have yet another one of the great old guard football franchises. One might look at their long and proud history, multiple championships, and litany of Hall-of-Famers they have produced and ask why they are not lower on this list. 

Part of the consideration in determining this order is assessing how long the franchise has been void of even a sniff of a Super Bowl appearance. The Redskins last peaked as a franchise over 20 years ago, when a Mark Rypien led passing attack blew through league en route to a trouncing of Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVI. 

Since that season, the proud fans of the Skins have seen the team win 10 games in a season just three times, and that includes the 2012 campaign. This is what one would call a precipitous fall from glory. 

With the electric rookie Robert Griffin III quarterbacking them into the future and a two-time Super Bowl winning head coach stalking the sidelines, the Redskins appear to finally be returning to the state of success so many prior generations had enjoyed. Better days are ahead for Washington, but they just can’t rank any higher than 6 here.


No. 5: Houston Texans

Age: 12

Super Bowl Appearances: 0

Super Bowl Wins: 0

Total Championships: 0

Last Super Bowl Appearance: N/ A

No. 5 is reserved for the youngest franchise in the bunch. We must use the term ‘young’ carefully.  Our list of deserving teams also looks at the city itself, and has to take in all variables regarding what that fan base has been through over the years.

The Houston football fan is a lot like the Baltimore fan. The beloved Houston Oilers were the darling of the city from their inception in 1960 until, once again, in 1996, the owner uprooted the team and shuttled it to Nashville, Tennessee. 

It wasn’t until 2002 before the city fielded a new team, so those six long years of nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon puts the Texans higher on the list than a 12-year old franchise might be. 

However, with the Texans only around for a few years and such few shortcomings to draw from, No. 5 is as high as they can go.

No. 4: Seattle Seahawks

Age: 34

Super Bowl Appearances: 1

Super Bowl Wins: 0

Total Championships: 0                         

Last Super Bowl Appearance: 2005 season (loss)

From the city that brought us Starbucks and Pearl Jam comes a franchise born from expansion in 1976. In their three-plus decades of existence, the Seahawks have made the playoffs just 11 times, however 7 in the last 10 years. 

They might have a win in their only appearance in the Big Game, as any ‘hawk fan will assure you that they outplayed the Steelers in Super Bowl XL, but those darn referees stole with one terrible call after another. Seattle gets pushed a little higher on this list due to the highly intense and raucous fans that pack the home stadium week after week and year after year, many times in horrid weather conditions. 

CenturyLink Field is consistently one of the loudest venues in the NFL, providing what looks more like a college environment and experience. These fans are loyal, and only recently has the team enjoyed any repetitive success. 

There is indeed a lot to be excited about with the impressive rookie Russell Wilson at quarterback. The city and team are clearly ready for a shot at the title, and as teams on our list go, if they win it all it would be indeed well-deserved.


No. 3: Cincinnati Bengals 

Age: 45

Super Bowl Appearances: 2

Super Bowl Wins: 0

Total Championships: 0

Last Super Bowl Appearance: 1988 season (Loss)

Of these 2012 NFL playoff teams, the final three are truly worthy of the distinction “very deserving”. As in, it is about time, now. One of the original AFL franchises, the Bengals are a curious study in temporary greatness overshadowed by extensive periods of sheer futility. While there have been the sporadic winning season here and there, Cincinnati faithful have also endured long stretches of dreadful football. 

Their two finest seasons of 1981 and 1988 saw them post franchise-best records of 12-4, and both campaigns resulted in Super Bowl appearances.  Unfortunately for fans of the striped helmets, someone by the name of Joe Montana got in the way of victory both times. 

Bengals fans have to be considered fairly deserving of finally getting the deal done.  And, with a team sporting 6 titles residing just 300 miles to the east, fans of this team are probably starting to wonder if their day will ever come.  

There is hope on the horizon, however. They have a budding young star quarterback in Andy Dalton, and young highlight-reel worthy wideout in A.J. Green. And 2012 may not be the year, but Cincinnati fans should feel considerably better about their future than in years past.


No. 2: Atlanta Falcons

Age: 47

Super Bowl Appearances: 1

Super Bowl Wins: 0

Total Championships: 0                         

Last Super Bowl Appearance: 1998 season (loss)

Ah, here we have America’s ultimate heartbreak city. Atlanta, GA holds the dubious distinction of being one of the largest cities in pro sports but can only claim one professional sports title to its credit. Around the country, Atlanta sports fans are known as low-key and subdued, members of a transient city who -only come to life once their teams have begun to exhibit a pattern of winning behavior. 

Similar to the other pro teams residing in Atlanta, the Falcons have developed a pattern of failing to match post season performances to that of the regular season play that got them into the playoffs.  The fan base has also had to put up with a great lack of consistency over the years. 

Atlanta had not benefited from consecutive winning seasons until 2008-09, a mere 42 years after the first season. That kind of ongoing futility gets them close to the top of our list. There have also been bouts of epic failure. 

The 1980 season saw them achieve a record of 12-4 and the No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoffs.  Hosting the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round, the Falcons coughed up a 2-score lead late in the game only to watch it slip away. 

In 1998, the Elway-led Broncos dashed any hopes of a title by dismantling the Falcons in the ‘Birds only appearance on Super Sunday. They have been knocking at the door recently, however the current cast of characters have been unable to win a single playoff game in this current five-year run. 

Of these 12 playoff teams, the fans of the Falcons have been around long enough and have had more than their team snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. With the 2012 team holding the No. 1 seed yet again, the timing couldn’t be better for a Dirty Bird celebration and parade on Peachtree Street come late January.


No. 1: Minnesota Vikings

Age: 52

Super Bowl Appearances: 4

Super Bowl Wins: 0

Total Championships: 0                         

Last Super Bowl Appearance: 1976 season (loss)

Of the 12 teams who have made the 2012 NFL postseason, no fan base has more coming to them then our purple friends from the North Star state. Before the Buffalo Bills, losers of four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990’s, there were the Vikings of the 1970’s.  

At least Bills fans only had to deal with four years of Super Bowl torture. The 70’s Vikings appeared in four Super Bowls over a 7-year period, failing to win a single one. And we are now going on 36 years since they last appeared in the Big Game. 

But it wasn’t supposed to be this way.  Just ask a Vikings’ fan who lived through the disaster that was the 1998 NFC Title game. The 15-1 Vikings, led by a resurgent quarterback Randall Cunningham and freakishly talented rookie wideout named Randy Moss, shattered most team offensive yardage records, barnstorming through the regular season, in position to finally grab the team’s first Lombardi trophy. 

However, the team that currently resides at No. 2 on this list spoiled the moment. The Falcons visited the Metrodome for the right to go to Miami to play the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII. It came down to a kick for the Vikings to tie the game and send it into overtime. 

Kicker Gary Anderson, a 17-year vet who had yet to miss a field goal all season, missed the kick, and the Vikings failed to advance. 

With everything taken into consideration, from age of the franchise, to the high number of close calls, to the span of time since they last appeared, the Minnesota Vikings hold the No. 1 spot and, of these 12 playoff teams, hold the highest honor here as the single most deserving team left playing for ultimate glory in 2012.