1. Omaha, Nebraska; Population: 408,958. This wouldn’t just draw Omaha, but also Lincoln, Bellevue, Fremont and Council Bluffs, Iowa. Tuscaloosa, Alabama may be the only city that is even close to tapping into a big college football area like Omaha would and – unlike Tuscaloosa -, it’s not the same city as the state’s college football king and, thus, not competing for the same entertainment dollars. Given that there is no NFL team even near Omaha, and given that they’ve even drawn good crowds for their UFL Nighthawks, this seems like a no-brainer.
2. Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Population: 2,503,281. The Toronto Argonauts are very popular, but with that size of population, and the chance to expand to another country, it would be very alluring for Roger Goodell.
3. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Population: 579,999. The area has packed Chesapeake Energy Arena where the Oklahoma City Thunder play, and the closest NFL team is the Cowboys, 3 hours and 25 minutes away.
4. San Antonio, Texas; Population: 1,327,407. If there’s a state with at least two football teams, that could afford another one, I think it would be Texas with San Antonio. That said, Cowboys apathy isn’t going to lead to defectors. It would be a challenge, possibly built around an advertising campaign promoting the idea of rooting for both (with maybe San Antonio playing in the AFC) and maybe even with them taking as many ex-Cowboys and ex-Longhorns as possible in free agency, college draft, and expansion draft. They finally got a Division I football team recently and why not let that be the catalyst to getting an NFL team?
5. Portland, Oregon; Population: 583,776. The Oregon Ducks from Eugene have had a surging fan base for the last decade, thanks to the stylish uniforms and the galactic scoring. It’s a two-hour drive to Portland from Eugene, one hour drive for those in Salem. Like most cities, though, Portland is struggling. In November, their unemployment numbers were twice what they were when the recession began.
Honorable mentions: Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Boise, Idaho; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Salt Lake City, Utah; Las Vegas, Nevada.
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