Although no NFL players will admit to it, there are certain teams and players that they hate playing more than other ones.
For example, there is a huge difference between playing a team from another conference once every four years and playing your hated division rival with the division title on the line. The NFL is a very violent league and so some teams and players by their very nature elicit intense feelings of hatred.
As terrible as it sounds, hatred can be a good thing as it brings more emotion to the game. There is no better feeling than winning a big game against your most hated rival.
The Baltimore Ravens have more than their fair share of intense rivalries with other NFL teams. In fact, simply looking at most NFL rosters, it's easy to find at least one player that the Ravens and their fans hate to see.
Here are the players on all of the 31 other NFL teams who are hated the most by Ravens fans.
It's hard to hate a team that you only play once every four years. It's even harder when that team is the Arizona Cardinals, a team with such a terrible history that you can't help but root for them during the rare seasons that they are playing well.
So in light of this, the player Ravens fans most hate to see on the Cardinals is actually one they used to love. This would be Todd Heap, the beloved tight end who energized M&T Bank Stadium and caused fans to yell out "HEAP!" every time he caught the ball. The former franchise leader in receiving yards, Heap was tragically cut just prior to the 2011 season.
Although Heap was picked up by the Cardinals, it's practically impossible for fans to imagine him playing anywhere but Baltimore. It's a shame that he couldn't retire in Baltimore and is instead stuck playing as the second string tight end in Arizona behind Jeff King.
Ravens fans were spared from an awkward situation when Heap was inactive for the Ravens game against the Cardinals last season. Fans can only hope that by the time they next play the Cardinals, Heap will be retired so they won't have to play against him.
Because they were drafted during the same season, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan will inevitably always be compared to one another. It's something that really annoys Ravens fans as just about every expert seems to believe Ryan is the better quarterback.
Naturally, this gives Ravens fans a legitimate reason to hate a nice young quarterback from a team they only face once every four years.
Statistically, Flacco and Ryan are similar with Ryan having a slight edge in most categories. When it comes to the postseason, Ryan is a seasoned choke artist with zero wins in three playoff attempts. Flacco only has the record for most playoff wins in a quarterback's first four seasons with five.
The Flacco-Ryan debate for now really should be stopped until Ryan can win a playoff game. But instead, NFL experts talk about how Ryan is better and cause just about every Ravens fan to hate him.
It's a little difficult to hate on any Buffalo Bill player considering how terrible the franchise has been over the last decade. Therefore Ravens fans choose to be a little creative and hate on a player who only recently arrived in Buffalo via free agency.
This would be former Maryland Terrapin Shawn Merriman, a player known mostly for his famous "Lights Out" dance.
Merriman was formerly a rising star with the San Diego Chargers who had 39.5 sacks over his first four seasons. Merriman has been plagued by injury in recent years and only managed nine tackles in two seasons as a Bill, making him arguably one of the most overrated linebackers of the entire decade.
No longer a Pro Bowl player, Merriman seems destined to spend the rest of his career toiling in the obscurity that is Buffalo. Actually, toiling is probably a poor word considering how rare it is to see Merriman on the field these days.
The Carolina Panthers are one of the youngest teams in the league and they have many new players even since 2010—the last time the Ravens faced them. However one old and reliable player still lines up at wide receiver for Carolina and he is not a guy anyone wants to play against.
Steve Smith has been one of the NFL's great receivers for nearly an entire decade. In 2011 he experienced a career rebirth, getting 1,394 receiving yards from rookie quarterback Cam Newton. Smith returned to the Pro Bowl and showed the NFL that despite being 32, he is still one of the elite receivers in the game.
The Ravens know all too well how good Smith can play. Smith has played in two of the Panthers four games against the Ravens, including a huge showing during their 2006 upset over the Ravens. In that game, Smith had eight catches for 189 yards, including a rare 72-yard touchdown catch allowed by the Ravens usually strong secondary.
In Ray Lewis the Ravens have one of the greatest linebackers of all time and they certainly know it. However despite knowing this, many Ravens fans still find it frustrating when any other linebacker even gets considered to be on the same playing level as Lewis.
That is why few Ravens fan have little if any love for Brian Urlacher from the Chicago Bears. Begrudgingly, Ravens fans will admit he's one of the greatest linebackers in the game today. Perhaps it's a testament to his greatness that he's one of the few linebackers who could be considered in the same class as Lewis.
It doesn't help things that Urlacher is known for having a smart mouth off the field, even possibly talking trash about his quarterback. He clearly doesn't seem to care what people think as he just goes ahead and puts a hard hit on opposing offensive players.
That's why no Ravens fan wants to think about Urlacher hitting Ray Rice next time the Ravens face the Bears.
Although the Ravens swept the Cincinnati Bengals this season, both games were extremely close. And just like in most of the Bengals' other games this season, Andy Dalton was a major reason they almost beat the Ravens.
Dalton was most impressive in his rookie season, as he brought a formerly dysfunctional 4-12 team to 9-7 and a playoff berth. And since this was his rookie season with lots of practices being lost to the lockout, it seems safe to say that Dalton is going to be terrorizing the AFC North for years to come.
Already, Ravens fans feel uncomfortable seeing Dalton under center for the Bengals. That feeling of discomfort should only grow as Dalton continues to mature as a quarterback.
One of the most dangerous return men in NFL history, Joshua Cribbs is possibly the only real threat on an extremely lackluster Cleveland Browns offense. He now has eight return touchdowns, which gives him the current NFL record.
Two of Cribbs' return touchdowns have came against the Ravens. Both of those games were ultimately won by the Ravens, however, the return touchdowns really opened the door and made the games a lot closer than they should be.
Cribbs also played a vital role with his 245 return yards and 61 punt return yards in the Browns overtime victory over the Ravens in November 2007, the last time they beat them.
Since the Browns really don't scare anyone, that makes Cribbs all the more scary. He is the only Browns player who is definitely a threat to score every time he has the ball.
Although he has yet to face the Ravens, Dez Bryant is one of their more hated Dallas Cowboys. This is because he was drafted 24th overall by the Cowboys in 2010, just one pick before the Ravens were going to make a move for him.They had apparently fallen in love with Bryant's skill set to the point that they weren't scared of Bryant's so called "attitude problem."
Bryant has gone on to be a great receiver in both of his two NFL seasons so far. Although his success is enjoyable, one can only imagine how different the NFL would be if Bryant wasn't a Cowboy.
Over the years, the Denver Broncos have been a team that have been very hard to pass the ball on. Much of this is due to shutdown cornerback Champ Bailey, who is truly one of the best corners in the game today.
Amazingly, in 2011 Bailey only allowed one touchdown pass. This got him named to an 11th Pro Bowl which is a record for pro cornerbacks and makes Bailey one of six players to make 11 or more Pro Bowls.
Although the Ravens have dominated the Broncos the last two times they played, it's not because of Bailey playing bad at all. In fact, in both of the Broncos' wins against the Ravens since Bailey joined them, he has had one interception. He has also done a good job at taking the Ravens' top receiver out of the game and forcing them to change their game plan.
The Ravens have yet to play against the Detroit Lions team that went 10-6 and made the playoffs this season. This is obvious because the last time these teams met, the Ravens completely humiliated the Lions 48-3. There is no way it will be that easy that next time these teams meet.
One player from the Lions who has given the Ravens trouble is Kyle Vanden-Bosch. The defensive end spent several seasons on the Tennessee Titans, who are one of the Ravens' more hated rivals. Vanden-Bosch had several huge games against the Ravens, including a monster game in 2005 where he sacked Anthony Wright three times.
In general, Vanden-Bosch is an extremely intimidating NFL player. He also is known for wearing red contact lenses while playing football, which has got to make him look terrifying to opposing offensive players.
Since John Harbaugh took over as head coach, the Ravens have rarely looked completely overmatched by the opposing team.
One of the only exceptions to this rule was on Monday Night Football in 2009 when the Green Bay Packers easily defeated the Ravens 27-14. And of course a key player in that victory was Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers who threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns.
Rodgers is regarded by many people as the best quarterback in football today. Thankfully he is in the NFC, so the Ravens rarely have to worry about playing against them. His danger comes more from the fact that he raises the standard by which quarterbacks are judged.
It's an unfair part of the game. As good as Joe Flacco is, likely Rodgers is always going to be at least a little bit better. In a quarterback driven league, that can lead to jealously for Ravens fans.
The Houston Texans are the only franchise in the entire NFL to have never beaten the Ravens. Therefore it makes it difficult to come up with any players for Ravens fans to hate on this team.
Judging by the developments of this season, the player who Ravens fans should most hate to see would be Matt Schaub. Schaub is regarded as a good quarterback and had been responsible to getting the Texans off to a good start in 2011. Then he suffered an ankle injury and missed the rest of the season, forcing rookie TJ Yates under center.
That may have been what killed the Texans' Super Bowl aspirations. They were a sneaky good team the entire 2011 season and were arguably as balanced as any team in the NFL. If Schaub can recover from his injury, the Texans could have an extremely intimidating passing attack the next time they face the Ravens.
Not the player you would be expecting for here right? It has been well documented that Peyton Manning is essentially the Ravens' kryptonite and knows every possible way to beat them. However, given the fact that Manning will likely be playing elsewhere in 2012, I decided to focus on the Indianapolis Colts' underrated defense.
By underrated defense, I mean their defense during the Manning era. The Colts 2011 defense was a joke that ranked near the bottom in nearly every statistical category. This shows just how dependent the Colts were on Manning and how Manning's leadership helped players like Dwight Freeney step up.
Between 2001 and 2009, the Ravens lost nine straight games to the Colts with two of them being postseason games.
Surprisingly, Manning struggled in some of these games—meaning that Freeney and the defense had to bail him out. They did that in every instance against the Ravens, most notably during the 2006 playoffs where the Colts won 15-6 with five Adam Vinatieri field goals.
In the battle for the NFL's rushing title, only Maurice Jones-Drew finished ahead of Ray Rice. The Jacksonville Jaguars running back captured the rushing title with 1606 yards and was literally the only positive offensive story for his team.
Jones-Drew also played a crucial role in the Jags upset victory over the Ravens on Monday Night Football this season. He had 105 rushing yards on 30 attempts and although he had three fumbles, he only lost one of them. Essentially, Jones-Drew carried the offense and took a lot of pressure off of rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Both Jones-Drew and Rice are similar players. They are smaller running backs who are more known for speed yet also have a deceptively strong amount of power. With both running backs in the prime of their careers, it's likely there will be more years where they are dueling for the league's rushing title.
When the Ravens faced the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2010 playoffs, it was an ugly game. Although the Ravens won easily with a score of 30-7, early in the game there was a time where there was actually some fear. This was because of Jamaal Charles, who showed a frightening amount of speed as he rushed for 72 yards on only 10 attempts.
Charles particularly looked unstoppable on some early runs. Ravens fans everywhere felt greatly relieved when Charles was stuffed on a fourth down attempt early on. It was a turning point, and from then on the Ravens adjusted to contain Charles.
When healthy, Charles is one of the most dangerous players in the NFL. Of course now coming of ACL surgery, there's some uncertainty as to whether or not he'll ever play at the level he used to play at.
For the most part, the Miami Dolphins are kind of difficult to hate. They range from mediocre to average just about every year and have a terribly unloyal fan base. One of the only real annoying players on the team is Brandon Marshall.
Marshall must have been the one people had in mind when they described receivers as divas. He had a terrible attitude his final season in Denver, where he spent most of his time complaining and demanding a trade. Even in Miami, he's done questionable things like say he wants to get ejected for fighting against the New York Jets.
But for all the craziness, no one can deny that Marshall is extremely physically gifted. He can make almost any catch and he's strong enough to push through defenders. Any team would love to have a player with the physical traits, just not the mental ones.
Most people would agree that Jared Allen is one of the most hated players on the Minnesota Vikings. Part of it is because he's one of the best defensive linemen in the league and defensive linemen don't ever really get a large amount of love.
He also gets some flack for having fun with the game, by doing things like loudly celebrate after getting sacks. Regardless of how people feel about him, they have to agree that he's an intimidating player that strikes fear into the opposition's hearts.
The Ravens have never beat the New England Patriots in the regular season and as a result there is a lot of bad feelings between the two teams. Particularly, Terrell Suggs and Tom Brady do not like each other, with Suggs having complained in the past about Brady getting special treatment from referees.
It hurts more that Brady always seems to beat the Ravens. With the exception of the postseason rout in 2009, he has always gotten the better of the Ravens and usually right at the last minute. The postseason defeat this year has only made Brady even more hated in Baltimore—if that's possible.
Another elite quarterback appearing on the hate list, Drew Brees is actually a very nice guy. It's a little hard to hate a guy who helped bring the New Orleans Saints back to relevance and won them their first Super Bowl ever. He's also a loyal player and one of the few who even measures up to Ray Lewis in terms of giving great pump-up speeches.
The Ravens have played against Brees twice, beating him both times. Both games were close though, and Brees still put up some good numbers. He's clearly among one of the NFL's top quarterbacks, which by default makes other quarterbacks jealous of him.
Brandon Jacobs is probably the most obvious player to hate on the New York Giants. I can think of few backup running backs who talk so much trash and still get not much playing time. From taunting Rex Ryan to actually telling Tom Brady's wife Gisele to shut up, Jacobs is not afraid to make his opinions be known.
What really makes him hard to stand is that he still carries himself as though he is a star. Jacobs has been a backup running back for several years and he is clearly behind Ahmed Bradshaw in the pecking order. Is it too much to ask for Jacobs to carry himself like a backup and not seek out extra media attention after every game?
Bart Scott is a former Ravens linebacker who was well loved when he played in Baltimore. Amazingly, only three years later his legacy has changed so much as a member of the New York Jets.
Scott is still playing some good football as a Jet even with no Pro Bowl nominations during that time. Still he has been somewhat antagonistic towards the Ravens during the two times they have faced each other since then. Now he wants out of New York after their horrible ending last season and he could be open to returning to Baltimore.
It's doubtful though that he would be welcomed back.
Just hearing the name of this first-round bust is enough to make some Ravens fans feel sick. Even though there have been a good number of bad quarterbacks in Baltimore, Boller is the most infamous and by far the most hated. As a rare Ravens first-round bust, he has received a great deal of the blame for being bad enough to prevent some of the Ravens great defenses from getting to the playoffs.
However, there is some justice in this world as Boller is clearly a backup with the Oakland Raiders. Since leaving the Ravens in 2009, Boller has rarely started for either the St. Louis Rams and the Raiders. When he has started though, he's shown the world that he can still throw his trademark interception that all Ravens fans know way too well.
Ravens fans hate to see him on the opposing sideline because it brings back bad memories. But I'm sure the defense would love to get the opportunity to play against Boller.
The Philadelphia Eagles are another difficult team to dislike since it's been four years since they last played the Ravens. And a lot has really changed with the Eagles in that time as they have had three different starting quarterbacks and acquired all sorts of talent on both sides of the ball.
In the dysfunctional mess that was their 2011 season, the only player who seemed to consistently play great and not make dumb mistakes was running back LeSean McCoy.
McCoy is a similar type of running back to what Ray Rice is. He also catches a lot of passes and especially during Michael Vick's injuries this season, McCoy showed he is absolutely crucial to his team's offensive success. He scored a touchdown in every game this season except three, ending with a total of 20 touchdowns.
As explosive as Vick and Desean Jackson are, there are no Eagles players who scare me as much as McCoy. Containing him will be a vital part of the Ravens game plan when they face the Eagles later this year.
There are so many players who I could have chosen for this team. The Pittsburgh Steelers are absolutely the most hated of all NFL teams to the Ravens. Any person who even plays for the Steelers pretty much will automatically be hated in Baltimore—the feeling going double for any player who plays well for the Steelers.
But I think that in my heart and in the heart of other Ravens fans, there's a special level of hatred reserved for James Harrison.
Although there's a begrudging respect for the intensity he brings to the game, Harrison's angry and violent personality make him easy to hate. The guy has outwardly professed his hatred for Roger Goodell and even throws his own teammates under the bus occasionally.
Harrison has had some big games against the Ravens, particularly in the 2008 season when the Steelers beat the Ravens three times. Crazily enough, Harrison was even a Raven briefly, though he ended up getting cut before the 2004 season.
Still, I think it's for the best that Harrison did not end up a Raven as his out-of-control violence would lead to trouble in the locker room.
The Ravens had ugly games in all four of their regular season losses last year, however, the one to the San Diego Chargers had to be the worst. It was a 34-14 route on national television that saw all units of the Ravens' game play terribly.
Maybe this shouldn't be so surprising though, considering that Philip Rivers has played well in all four of his starts against the Ravens. Two of his last three games against the Ravens saw the Chargers dominate and Rivers throw for over 240 yards. The one loss in there was a 31-26 shootout where Rivers threw for 436 yards.
Even with his slump early in 2011, I still feel that Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. If he can just cut down on the interception numbers, Rivers could take over as the AFC's top quarterback in a few years.
Under the leadership of Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers are in many ways like a West Coast version of the Ravens.
They also know the value of playing tough smash-mouth defense and they have a stout running game that mostly controls the offense. So considering the similarities and that the two coaches are literally brothers, there are very few things—if any—to hate about the 49ers.
Mostly, it comes down to respect and fear when thinking about the most hated player on the 49ers. There are so many to choose from on their defense, however I think that one of the top guys is defensive end Justin Smith. Smith's cause is helped out by the fact that he played for the Cincinnati Bengals for seven years so he knows the Ravens well.
Although he had zero sacks against the Ravens on Thanksgiving this year, he did make his presence known by combining for five tackles. Having made the Pro Bowl the last three years, Smith has become one of the NFL's premier defensive linemen and is not a player who any team relishes going against.
Marshawn Lynch is the one guy that deserves the most credit for the Seattle Seahawks' upset of the Ravens in 2011. He ran for 109 yards and a touchdown while also adding five catches for 58 yards during the game.
As anyone who follows the NFL knows, Lynch is really hard to bring down. It doesn't help that the Ravens had some bad tackling that day, but still Lynch is going to make most players look bad as he fights to get past them. And when he's in 'beast mode" like he was for much of 2011, there are very few people who can stop him.
It really feels terrible to hate on the St. Louis Rams considering how bad they were last season. Many of their players seemed to not be giving much of an effort as 2011 quickly became a lost cause for them. So it's with respect that I consider Steven Jackson as the most—and quite possibly the only—feared player on the Rams' roster right now.
Jackson has now put together seven consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons, which is a very rare feat in today's NFL. It's even more impressive when one considers that the Rams offensive line is in shambles and they have no receivers to take attention off of Jackson.
Through it all, Jackson has stayed professional about playing with the Rams, even as they have had three or less wins in four of the last five seasons.
I almost feel as though Jackson should be traded just so he can experience what it's like to actually win football games. Hopefully with Jeff Fisher as the head coach, the Rams can go on to actually be successful in 2012.
Kellen Winslow is more a member of this list in remembrance of his time with the Cleveland Browns. This time seemed so long ago as it was a time when the Browns actually had a valid receiving threat.
Winslow has not been nearly as threatening during his stint in Tampa Bay. Part of that has been due to the Buccaneers awful records in two of the last three seasons. In his one game against the Ravens as a Buccaneer, Winslow caught a touchdown, reminding the Ravens of what they had missed since he left Cleveland.
Chris Johnson used to be one of the most feared players in all of football. He's obviously one of the fastest guys in football, having set the record for a 40-yard dash with 4.2 seconds. Of course after his awful 2011 season, one could wonder where his speed went.
Like Jamaal Charles, Johnson also ran well against the Ravens during the playoffs. He ended up getting injured, which likely is one of the reasons the favored Tennessee Titans lost that game. Even with his disappointing 2011 season, no wants to line up with Johnson on the other side of the ball.
The Washington Redskins have been a terrible mess over the last several seasons. However, their defense has for the most part remained respectable thanks to players like DeAngelo Hall.
Hall is what you would call a feast or famine cornerback. This means that he's just as likely to score an interception touchdown as he is to allow a huge passing touchdown. He's a good player, but his inconsistency is maddening.