Six Tips for an Awesome Tailgate Season

You already take your tailgating seriously. It’s not like you’re someone who would show up on game day with a bag of chips and a six pack of beer and think you’re prepared. But there is a difference between holding a good tailgate that has the basics covered and hosting the tailgate people are still talking about after the game.

All great tailgates excel in three main areas: food, drinks and setup. Check out these six tips for taking all aspects of your party to the next level — and get ready for a winning tailgate season.

The Food

A great tailgate takes typical game day food and turns it up a few notches. You don’t need a five-star tasting menu. Nope, just add some flair to the normal hamburger and chip-dip selection.

1. Make Your Food Portable.

Your tailgate guests don’t want to be stuck hovering over the food table, so set them free by making most of your food easy to hold with one hand. Think wax paper sleeves for your burgers (in team colors, of course) as well as kettle corn and other snacks already packaged in mini-brown paper bags. Oh, and don’t forget a cupcake tier of bite-sized desserts.

2. Pick Out a Themed Recipe.

Make one item on your spread themed to your team. Are you a Bills fan? Then you’ll need some Buffalo chicken bites. Baltimore Ravens tailgaters will love your Edgar Allen Poe-boy sliders. The more creative, the better.

The Drinks

Like your food, you don’t need to have a fully stocked bar to throw a great party (although we’re not stopping you). In addition to a variety of beer, wine, water and soda on ice, offer at least one fun drink option to help your tailgate stand out.

3. Create a Bloody Mary Bar.

For early morning tailgates, a decked out Bloody Mary bar can serve as both drink and food. Load mason jars with pickled vegetables, cheese cubes, bacon, olives and lemon wedges, and let your guests make their own skewers. Provide pitchers of your favorite Bloody Marys (spicy and non-spicy), along with celery salt-rimmed glasses.

4. Strongly Consider Ice Pops.

Frozen drinks become essential for proper hydration and enjoyment, especially for those early season games. The night before the game, add sangria, screwdriver or cosmo mix into Popsicle molds and break out your boozy treats when the sun starts beating down the next day. Just be sure not to go too heavy on the alcohol or your ice pops will be too slushy to freeze.

The Setup

Any seasoned tailgater will tell you that people will stay for your food and drinks, but they’re initially attracted to the party you’ve set up. In addition to ample seating, a few party games and shade, invest in one big thing that will make your setup stand above the rest.

5. Go Big on Your Ride.

The bigger you can go, the better. What other kind of party gives you an excuse to trick out your vehicle? If you have a truck, bump up your tire size and outfit your rims. If you have an RV, get that custom team paint job you have always been dreaming about.

6. Throw in Some Tech.

Bring a mobile Wi-Fi hub and a few external batteries to use as mobile charging stations and your guests will hail you as a genius (particularly when it’s time to go to the game and their phone has 5 percent battery life).

Three NFL Teams With Awesome 2016 Drafts!

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are usually on the losers of the draft, but not this year. They traded away the 2nd overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles and got lots of picks including a first rounder in next year’s draft. They then traded the 8th pick to the Titans and got even more picks while drafting speedy WR Corey Coleman later in the first round. They also got two great pass rushers in Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib, along with a nice addition to the OL in Shon Coleman. They then got QB Cody Kessler to add more competition with Robert Griffin lll. The Browns had a solid draft, but since it is the so often incompetent Cleveland Browns, they definetely had a great draft by their standards and should show improvement.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders struck gold by drafting the best safety in the draft in Karl Joseph, who has solid coverage skills but specializes in coming into the box and unloading on RBs and WRs. The Raiders needed defensive help, and they got it with pass rushers Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun. Ward is raw but has a ton of upside if he can develop and Calhoun has some of the best technique of any DE in this class. They also drafted a solid backup to QB Derek Carr in Connor Cook, who was widely considered to be the 3rd or 4th best QB in the draft. The Raiders have a young nucleus of talent on offense with Carr, WR Amari Cooper and RB Latavius Murray, so the defensive additions should help the Raiders win more games this year.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars had the best draft by far in my opinion, they were able to land two top 5 players in this draft. CB Jalen Ramsey was the best player in this class to me because of his versatility, size and elite athleticism. They also got a steal in LB Myles Jack at the top of the second round. Jack fell so far because of a knee injury he suffered in college that ended his season. Before that injury, he would have been a top 5 selection. The Jaguars also essentially have another 1st round player coming in this year as their top pick last year DE Dante Fowler suffered a season-ending injury in minicamp. With a healthy Ramsey, Jack and Fowler the Jaguars defense should be much improved and will help out the offense. The Jaguars are young but extremely talented on both sides of the ball and can compete in the AFC South this year.

[Analysis by NFL expert Preston Rowe]