Popularity contest: NFC East teams rule

Puff out your chests, NFC East fans, because you have the most popular division in football. According to the first quarter 2012 ESPN Sports Poll of fans' favorite teams, three of the top nine play in the NFC East. Here are the top 15 teams in popularity according to the poll, sorted by percentage of respondents who identified that team as their favorite:

1. Dallas Cowboys: 8.8

2. Green Bay Packers: 7.2

3. New York Giants: 7.1

4. Pittsburgh Steelers: 7.1

5. New England Patriots: 6.8

6. Chicago Bears: 4.2

7. New Orleans Saints: 4.1

8. San Francisco 49ers: 4.0

9. Philadelphia Eagles: 3.9

10. Denver Broncos: 3.8

11. Indianapolis Colts: 2.8

12. Oakland Raiders: 2.5

13. Washington Redskins: 2.4

14. Minnesota Vikings: 2.2

15. Detroit Lions: 2.2

Some thoughts:

  • You wonder why we have an ESPNDallas.com and an ESPNNewYork.com? This is part of the reason why. The Cowboys remain the most popular team in the NFL in spite of two straight non-winning seasons, not having won the Super Bowl in 16 years and only having won two playoff games in that time. That star still means something to a lot of people.

  • The Giants play in the New York market, which is home to many millions of people, and so they're drawing from a vast reservoir. However, the Jets came in 19th in this poll, which tells you (a) that the Giants just won the Super Bowl, and (b) that the Giants are the No. 1 team in the market by a fair margin.

  • The Eagles also have a large and passionate fan base, but I believe a lot of their popularity is built on (a) consistently contending for and reaching the playoffs during the Andy Reid era, and (b) Michael Vick, who is one of the league's most popular players.

  • It might be a hopeful time for Redskins fans, but sheesh, look at the damage done by the Daniel Snyder era. There's no way, if you took this poll in the mid-1990s, that they wouldn't have been among the top teams in it. There are no fans anywhere as loyal and passionate as Redskins fans, but the mediocrity of the past decade and a half has really robbed them of their national following.

  • Note: ESPN Sports Polls contacts Americans year-round via land line and cell phones in English and Spanish, reaching 390,000 Americans since 1994.