It is that time of year again, time for our fourth annual NFL Tortured Fan Base Rankings. These rankings fluctuate more each year than you might think: Here's 2014's edition, here's 2015's and here's 2016's. Every year is just another bit of history: It'd be difficult to argue that the Bengals haven't added to their misery index in the past few years, and the Broncos haven't subtracted from theirs.

Still, a year is a thin slicing; the rankings often remain dynamic out of readjustments and corrections than they do out of results. But those still count.

We do this list at the end of every MLB, NBA and NFL season. My colleague Joe DeLessio does it for the NHL as well. As a reminder, the parameters:

It's a ranking of every team's fan base, from most to least spoiled. I want to find out who deserves it the most: who you, as a disinterested party, should be cheering for next year. Many factors are involved here: fan loyalty, passion, historical success, particularly painful eras, near-miss title chances, current roster, any ineffable notion that just occurs to me while I'm putting this list together. I'm doing my best to give an honest accounting here. This ranking will get a lot better once all of you have had a chance to look at it and tell me what I got wrong.

You might not agree with this policy, but I've decided to ignore anything before January 1967 in these rankings. The NFL that existed before the Super Bowl era and the one after it are so dramatically different that they seem like two different leagues altogether, maybe even two different sports.

This list is subjective, and even its subjectivity is not perfect: There will surely be much wrong with it. Email me at leitch@sportsonearth.com with all revisions, or just leave 'em in the comments.

Let's get to it:

32. New England Patriots

Super Bowl appearances: 9
Super Bowl wins: 5
Last championship: 2017

An argument could be made that the Patriots could not win another game for 10 years and still be No. 32 on this list. This is the best of the titles, isn't it? It has to be, right?

31. Los Angeles Chargers

Super Bowl appearances: 1
Super Bowl wins: 0

To be clear: We are talking about Los Angeles Chargers fans, not the people of San Diego, who are obviously pretty miserable (and justifiably pissed) about how this all went down. The Los Angeles Chargers are a different and, in the purview of these rankings, entirely new organism. That theoretical Los Angeles Chargers fan -- who might not even exist just yet -- has nothing to be upset or tortured about: They just got a team! San Diego fans, though: Go ye forth and rage.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers 

Super Bowl appearances: 8
Super Bowl wins: 6
Last championship: 2009

Well, they'll always wonder what might have happened if Le'Veon Bell hadn't gone down at the beginning of that game against the Patriots; you don't get many opportunities like that one. That said, the bigger worry isn't that Big Ben is going to retire this year -- it's that such a scenario is coming soon, this offseason or not, and then the Steelers have to get back down in the quarterback muck with the rest of us.

29. Denver Broncos

Super Bowl appearances: 8
Super Bowl wins: 3
Last championship: 2016

This year fell apart a little bit down the stretch, and boy do they have a lot of things to figure out at quarterback. It's starting to look like the division might be passing them by, too.

28. Baltimore Ravens

Super Bowl appearances: 2
Super Bowl wins: 2
Last championship: 2013

Joe Flacco is only 32 years old, but his era as a seriously considered top-shelf quarterback has passed, if it ever existed in the first place. The AFC North is starting to look a little wobbly moving forward, isn't it?

27. Green Bay Packers

Super Bowl appearances: 5
Super Bowl wins: 4
Last title: 2011

Little worrisome that there's a real chance now that Aaron Rodgers ends up just winning one Super Bowl, isn't it? That's as many as Favre. He's gotta beat Favre, doesn't he?

26. New York Giants

Super Bowl appearances: 5
Super Bowl wins: 4
Last championship: 2012

The playoffs have been going on so long that it has almost been forgotten that the Giants were considered a sleeper Super Bowl pick when they began. But I dunno. Moving forward, this sort of looks like the oldest, most potentially creaky team in the division.

25. Seattle Seahawks

Super Bowl appearances: 3
Super Bowl wins: 1
Last championship: 2014

Their division is in quite a bit of turmoil right now: Two teams have completely bottomed out, and the Cardinals have one year left before they have to start over again themselves. That's probably the only thing giving this Seahawks team any legitimate hope that their window for that elusive second championship hasn't closed.

24. Indianapolis Colts

Super Bowl appearances: 4
Super Bowl wins: 2
Last championship: 2007

I mentioned this last year, but it bears repeating: This team went straight from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck, two future Hall of Famers, and it's very possible it will get them one (dull) championship between them. They seem further away from a title right now than they have in a long, long time.

23. New Orleans Saints

Super Bowl appearances: 1
Super Bowl wins: 1
Last championship: 2010

The highest team on the list that has won a championship in the past decade. Does Drew Brees have two years left, or one?

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Super Bowl appearances: 1
Super Bowl wins: 1
Last championship: 2003

Is the Buccaneers-over-Raiders the Super Bowl this century you remember the least, or is it the Ravens-Giants one?

21. Los Angeles Rams

Super Bowl appearances: 3
Super Bowl wins: 1
Last championship: 2000

They've now had a full year in L.A. to kick their fans in the face, so hey, welcome back, Rams. Now you can have your own history of pain, independent of what happened in St. Louis. So yeah, bully for you there.

20. Dallas Cowboys

Super Bowl appearances: 8
Super Bowl wins: 5
Last championship: 1996

The playoff game didn't go the way it was supposed to, but, well, let's see: The Cowboys got their starting quarterback, their starting running back and their starting OLB for the next 10 years in the same draft. The Cowboys are good again and surely will be for a long time. Not even Jerry Jones can step in this one and mess it up. Right?

19. Chicago Bears

Super Bowl appearances: 2
Super Bowl wins: 1
Last championship: 1986

Hey, you all got rid of Jay Cutler, finally. That's worth at least a couple smiles, isn't it? Though I did like when the Chicago Tribune called Cutler "a hood ornament for shattered hope." Never buy a car that represents shattered hope, people!

18. Oakland Raiders

Super Bowl appearances: 5
Super Bowl wins: 3
Last championship: 1984

Quite a busy year for the Raiders. They break through and make the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. But Derek Carr gets hurt, making it pointless. Then they're gonna move to Las Vegas … but now it looks like they might not be. This rating is going to fluctuate wildly in the next three years: lots of external factors going on here.

17. Houston Texans

Super Bowl appearances: 0

As mentioned last year, the Texans are a little too young of a franchise to have a ton of torture … though watching all the different quarterbacks that have piloted this team in the playoffs throughout their history is its own specific, unique type of torture. Heavens.

16. Tennessee Titans

Super Bowl appearances: 1
Super Bowl wins: 0

All told, this would have been an ideal year to make the playoffs, but the future actually looks a little bright in Nashville at this moment. Is this the 2017 preseason AFC South favorite?

15. Miami Dolphins

Super Bowl appearances: 5
Super Bowl wins: 2
Last championship: 1974

A nice little step forward for the Dolphins, and they look like they've got the right coach. Still: Not much rattling around here until Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are finally gone.

14. San Francisco 49ers

Super Bowl appearances: 6
Super Bowl wins: 5

Last championship: 1995

I know this is plenty high for a team with five championships … but what a pool of bile this franchise is right now. Joe Montana and Steve Young must feel like people who existed 250 years ago. Like they were actual 49ers, in the digging-for-gold sense.

13. Jacksonville Jaguars

Super Bowl appearances: 0

They make a huge leap up this list, from 22nd, if just because this was the culmination year for them … and they completely fell on their face. There are loyal Jaguars fans out there -- really, there are -- and this year they allowed themselves hope. That did not work out well for them. And it might all be downhill from here.

12. Carolina Panthers

Super Bowl appearances: 2
Super Bowl wins: 0

That did not go well this year! There's still a lot of hope here -- Cam Newton is only 27 years old, why wouldn't there be? -- but they can't afford any more years like this one.

11. Washington Football Team

Super Bowl appearances: 5
Super Bowl titles: 3
Last championship: 1992

Turns out they weren't the Super Bowl contender everyone was pretending they were. Still, Kirk Cousins looks like he's gonna be all right. But the young Cowboys are going to be a problem for these guys for a loooong time.

10. Kansas City Chiefs

Super Bowl appearances: 2
Super Bowl wins: 1
Last championship: 1970

So, everything fell just right for the Chiefs this year … and they still couldn't beat the Steelers at home in the playoffs. What happens when everything doesn't fall just right?

9. Arizona Cardinals

Super Bowl appearances: 1
Super Bowl wins: 0

This is a team that has a real chance to start shooting up this list. They went from preseason Super Bowl favorite to a lousy team that was nearly impossible to watch (outside of David Johnson) by the end of the year. They're gonna make one last run with Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald, but if that doesn't work out …  look out below.

8. Cincinnati Bengals

Super Bowl appearances: 2
Super Bowl wins: 0

Well, at least nobody got their hearts broken in the playoffs this year.

7. Philadelphia Eagles

Super Bowl appearances: 2
Super Bowl wins: 0

They've got a good, young quarterback, even if he ran out of gas by the end of the year, and might just have their heads on straight for the first time in a while. Which means the pain that's inevitably coming will just feel worse.

6. New York Jets

Super Bowl appearances: 1
Super Bowl wins: 1
Last championship: 1969

Todd Bowles is a smart guy, but this job has seemed sort of doomed since he took it, no?

5. Atlanta Falcons

Super Bowl appearances: 2
Super Bowl wins: 0

The Falcons go zooming up the list -- they were No. 10 last season -- and all it required was the single most brutal loss in Super Bowl history. I never thought any team could possibly crack the vaunted top four in these rankings. But the Falcons are perilously close. Seriously: Hug a Falcons fan today.

* * *

As with last year, we stop here to point out that the four most tortured franchises are all so tortured that they are virtually indistinguishable from each other. This is where the red line is drawn. They could be in any order from the rest of the way out.

4. Detroit Lions

Super Bowl appearances: 0

Which is worse: Missing the playoffs, or making the playoffs but not showing up at all? 

3. Minnesota Vikings

Super Bowl appearances: 4
Super Bowl wins: 0

They're going to miss that first round-pick they gave away for Sam Bradford, but they're not a terrible bet to maybe become the first team to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium next season. Though if that were their fifth Super Bowl loss, that would just be cruel.

2. Cleveland Browns

Super Bowl appearances: 0

They drop out of the top spot for two reasons:

  • They did not actually go winless this year.
  • They look like maybe they have actual intelligent people in charge and might be making some halfway decent moves for the long term.

When they go winless next year, those two bullets are going to look awfully silly. But for now, it keeps them out of the top spot.

1. Buffalo Bills

Super Bowl appearances: 4
Super Bowl wins: 0

We remind, as always: The Bills have the longest playoff drought in the NFL and once lost four straight Super Bowls. But now it looks like they're completely starting over again, with a new coach and (probably) a new quarterback. The horizon is far, far away.

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Email me at leitch@sportsonearth.com, follow me @williamfleitch or just shout out your window real loud, I'll hear you. Point is, let's talk.