NFL rivalries go beyond the typical team vs. team showdowns that take place every Sunday.
Sure, there are storied divisional rivalries that stand the test of time, but what about all the other feuds that make football so engaging?
Coaches that can't shake hands without a scuffle breaking out.
Players that throw punches when they line up across from each other.
Television networks that battle to win ratings wars week after week.
All of these variables combine to make up the NFL experience and all help contribute to the best 50 rivalries that are alive and well in the NFL today.
Try to keep an open mind (and maybe a slight sense of humor) as we break them all down.
The Carolina Panthers have featured the two-headed running back monster of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart since Stewart was drafted in 2008.
But which is the better back?
Their stats are eerily similar, with both hovering around five yards per carry over the course of their career.
Williams averages more touchdowns and carries, but Stewart is a more consistent presence on the depth chart.
The fact of the matter is that both are exceptional running backs that have dealt with less than stellar quarterback play for the majority of their careers.
Now, with Cam Newton helping to balance the offensive attack they can get down to settling the important debate: who is the better running back in this friendly teammate rivalry?
Can he keep his lead in this rivalry after the 2012 season?
Will he again lead the Chargers to a mediocre campaign and retain his job for another go-round?
Or will he finally take San Diego to the playoff heights its talented roster is capable of reaching?
Only time will tell, but this is a rivalry to keep an eye on in 2012 because it may reach an abrupt end.
The first of two brother coaching pairs on this countdown (surely you can guess the other) is the Ryan boys, Rob and Rex.
This rivalry has potential to rise up this list, but Rob has to become a head coach somewhere for that to happen.
As it stands this is a friendly rivalry between brothers to see who can outsmart the other on the defensive side of the football.
Both are in huge media markets in Dallas and New York and if it weren't for Rob's extensive amount of hair they could probably switch sidelines and no one would know.
CBS handles AFC games on Sunday afternoons while the FOX network handles the NFC's slate of games.
A rivalry was bound to break out between these two networks.
Local fan-bases are going to watch their respective team no matter what network they are on, but fighting over the attraction of a national audience keeps these two stations going every week.
With contracts locked up through 2022 this rivalry will continue for the next decade.
Longtime competitors in the AFC East and yet this rivalry seems to be hitting its apex in the midst of the Rex Ryan/Bill Belichick era (but more on that later).
The New England Patriots have been top dogs in the division for over a decade while the Jets have played the proverbial second fiddle over that time.
Every time these two get together emotions run high and a playoff-like atmosphere is readily apparent.
Would you expect 2012 to be any different?
Santonio Holmes cannot seem to shut up and just play football.
Holmes followed those offenses up by starting a media frenzy as he quit during an OTA this offseason.
He then capped off the trifecta by blaming the media for all the negativity surrounding the Jets organization.
We have not heard the last from this saga.
There was a time, only a few short years ago, when there was a heated competition between New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss and New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.
But then Moss left the division and later retired.
Now, after a year away from football Moss is back and his new team—the San Francisco 49ers—are set to play Revis' Jets in Week 4.
Is Moss capable of playing at a level that this rivalry demands?
If he is, then fans are in for one hell of a ride as these two combatants are a perfect physical match for one another.
Cleveland and Pittsburgh are only 135 miles apart so a rivalry between the Browns and Steelers was kind of inevitable.
It is the oldest rivalry in the AFC and also one of the most storied.
The problem in recent years has been the utter dominance by the Steelers as the Browns struggle to stay relevant in the AFC North.
The fact of the matter is they have largely been an afterthought throughout much of the millennium.
Still, games between these teams always defy logic.
History intertwined with interstate rivalry makes for intense contests.
Monday Night Football has the tradition factor on it's side.
Sunday Night Football often has better match-ups and flex scheduling in its corner.
The two programs battle for ratings dominance and bragging rights week in and week out.
Who is the real winner?
Both shows provide great reasons to watch football well past our usual bedtimes.
Brotherly love is apparent when you see the Harbaugh's together.
That is until you put a patch of green grass between them.
It seems Jim just cannot help but be in a wide assortment of rivalries.
From the violent, to the bitter, to downright friendly with a need to be the best.
This rivalry is new to NFL fans but has undoubtedly been going on for decades behind the scenes.
Now every meeting between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens will have a special meaning.
And the big question is which brother will win a Super Bowl first?
There are many people that can no longer stand to listen to Chris Berman's particular brand of hosting.
Those people probably watch the NFL Draft on the NFL Network.
ESPN clearly lags behind the NFL Network in terms of raw analysis and team-by-team breakdowns as the draft wears on.
But the worldwide leader does have a great team at their disposal with plenty of knowledge.
This rivalry is less than a decade old, but it gets more intense as the NFL Network continues to improve its product.
Heading into this offseason the Detroit Lions were not known for issues with the law.
Now the organization can't go a week without a new arrest.
In fact, seven different arrests this offseason have taken away from the tremendous steps forward Detroit made on the field last season.
Seeing if the Lions can avoid jail cells and courtrooms over the course of 2012 will be an intriguing storyline.
Is this stretching the limits of a traditional rivalry?
Obviously, but I guarantee this is one battle the Lions coaching staff wants to win desperately.
Few people complain about the rules of overtime in collegiate football.
Both teams get the ball and equal chances to score.
While the NFL is making strides to improve it's unbalanced overtime system, it is slow to wholeheartedly remove the coin-toss mechanic.
Will the NFL ever give in and fully utilize the NCAA's overtime procedures?
The changes implemented this season are improvements, but border on complicated and messy.
The NFL has its work cut out for it in fully fixing the overtime problem.
Now this is what fans can get behind.
Who cares if you are a Washington Redskins fan or an Indianapolis Cots fan?
As long as you care about the NFL you will have a vested interest in the budding rivalry between top draft choices Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
Their styles are polarized opposites.
Luck was the No. 1 pick in the draft, but Griffin III has a shiny Heisman Trophy on his mantle.
They may not play every season, but when they do it will be something special.
Disagreeing with the calls of officials is a battle that will never cease to take place.
But now more than ever NFL fans will have greater access to the men in the striped shirts.
Ever see a game and wonder what views the referee is getting when he goes under that mystical black hood for a replay?
Well now fans inside the stadium will have access to the same replays.
Now arguing calls can have a little more substance to back it up.
James Harrison has made his feelings regarding NFL commissioner Roger Goodell rather clear.
His interview with Men's Journal says it all:
If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn't do it. I hate him and will never respect him.
Harrison continues to be fined and even suspended for on-field actions and yet continues to play football the same way.
Whether or not there is something wrong with his style of play is irrelevant to this discussion. What is relevant is the fact that Harrison's style and attitude should ensure this rivalry remains alive and well for the foreseeable future.
Will Goodell reach his breaking point and end Harrison's career?
Or continue to fine and suspend him to little or no consequence?
Let the battle continue in 2012.
Will the Jacksonville Jaguars relent and give Maurice Jones-Drew the new contract he so desperately craves?
Who knows, but this struggle for power has consumed the Jaguars offseason and will be a major story throughout 2012.
Would Jones-Drew dare actually hold out?
Most people seem to forget the large payday the Jags' invested in Jones-Drew before he was a proven commodity.
That show of faith should be enough reason for him to put on his cleats regardless of contract negotiations.
The New Orleans Saints are having a really rough 2012.
The "Bountygate" scandal has rocked the franchise and sent it into disarray.
Can interim coach Joe Vitt lead the team through the wreckage and salvage the season before it even starts?
Opposing fans will not be kind to the once league darling Saints, and the roster will have a tough time replacing a leader like Vilma.
Still, the Saints have plenty of talent and took care getting Brees back into the fold.
Now they just have to combat the league offices, shocked fans, and a tough schedule that starts in just a few short months.
In 2011 Kevin Kolb and John Skelton battled it out for the starting quarterback job in Arizona.
That feud continues into 2012 training camp.
Saying these two are on equal footing is an understatement, they are almost perfect parallels.
Both will likely see the field this season and then give us reason to continue this discussion into 2013.
It's Kolb and his monster free agent contract against the surprising ability of little known Skelton.
The winner gets to throw the ball to Larry Fitzgerald.
Quite the prize indeed.
Few rivalries in NFL history have been as downright nasty as the one between the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders.
Staples of the AFC since it's inception, these teams have never gotten along.
Quotes from former players sum the rivalry up best.
Those were my favorite games...I always likened them to a heavyweight fight. You knew you were going to get beat up, but it was fun. We needed the Chiefs. We wouldn't have been as good without them.—Ben Davidson.
It's something special. It's not just media hype...You can sense it with coaches and players. Then you get out into the community, and you realize what a huge game this is for both cities.--Will Shields
Only one word: Blood.—Harvey Williams
With a wide open AFC West race set to take place in 2012 this rivalry should have no problem staying fresh.
Running backs age differently than players at other positions.
They have decidedly shorter careers and take far more damage than everyone else.
Because of that the age of 30 has become the impromptu cliff for tailbacks to fall over and become "washed-up."
Can players buck that trend?
LaDanian Tomlinson was productive past the age of 30 with the Jets and Ricky Williams found great success in his early 30's.
But, by and large, the stigma fits.
What happened to Shaun Alexander after 30?
How will Willis McGahee do now that he has hit that wall?
While they don't like to admit it, running backs are usually on the wrong side of this rivalry.
Mark Sanchez is the starting quarterback for the New York Jets.
That is not an opinion, but fact.
Still, everyone has to keep their eyes on media-darling Tim Tebow and his campaign to take that job now that he is on the Jets depth chart.
Remember Tebow chose to go to New York instead of his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason.
A place where he had a much better opportunity to start right away.
A rivalry needs competition in order to actually be a rivalry. That's what makes this so intriguing.
What happens when Sanchez struggles and the Tebow chants start?
Will he buckle or thrive under that pressure?
It's always interesting in New York...
LeSean McCoy and Osi Umenyiora play for bitter NFC East rivals, so one could be forgiven for assuming their feud takes place on the football field.
The truth however is that this is a Twitter war.
McCoy started it last year when he tweeted the following about Umenyiora:"Overrated n soft 3rd best d-line on his team honestly."
Umenyiora's chose Mother's Day was the time for a proper response: "Happy Mothers Day LeSean Mccoy! Enjoy your special day!!"
These two will obviously have a chance to settle this silly feud between the lines once the season gets underway, but for now we can all enjoy their verbal spat through social media.
Alex Smith was supposed to be the guy.
He was the first overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft and he was going to the franchise made famous by Joe Montana and Steve Young.
Oh how the tables have turned.
Rodgers is the poster-boy for success in today's NFL while Smith has struggled to hold onto his starting job with the San Francisco 49ers.
He may not admit it, but there is no way Aaron Rodgers doesn't feel a chip on his shoulder every time he steps on the field with Smith.
And now that the 49ers are atop the NFC like the Packers this rivalry should reach great heights.
The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions have always been rivals.
But it is hard for a rivalry to stay relevant when one of those franchises (you can guess which) is always struggling to be any good.
Well now the (spoiler) Lions are serious playoff contenders.
Last season this rivalry found a home on Monday Night Football and showed the football world just how much potential these match-ups have.
Both teams are expected to fight for at least Wild Card berths this season and an argument can be made on both sides for which team is superior to the other.
The classic match-up of Chicago vs. Detroit.
It doesn't get much better.
Stanford and USC are Pac-10 and California rivals.
The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers are bitter division rivals.
By their very nature Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll have to be hated adversaries.
Harbaugh seems to be the common denominator in multiple coaching feuds, but for now let's stick to the Seahawks and 49ers.
Harbaugh's in-your-face style is a stark contrast to the calm and laid-back approach employed by Carroll.
They have fought for recruits, bowl games and conference championships before.
Why not add divisional championships into the mix?
The NFL's love-hate relationship with social media is an ever-changing affair with no real direction to speak of.
Players have been banned from "tweeting" before, during, or after games.
Yet the league encourages such action during the Pro Bowl and encourages use of social media when it's not game-day.
Some teams have tweeted to fans during the NFL Draft while others ban such actions during team activities.
Social media is a a frontier that keeps evolving and as such, the league has to take a reactionary approach to regulating it instead of a proactive one.
That's all well and good, but social media is just beginning it's ascent. This rivalry has only just begun.
Cross-town rivals are special in every sport.
The Cubs and the White Sox, the Lakers and Clippers, the Mets and Yankees, the Rangers and Islanders, and of course, the Giants and the Jets.
They do not play every year, but when these two New York squads get together it is always a big occasion.
Even after winning the Super Bowl, the Giants have been overshadowed in the media this offseason by their AFC counterparts.
And the Jets, amidst all their high profile roster moves and trash talk of coach Rex Ryan are yet to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
This rivalry is as heated as ever.
Rivalries between teammates are usually friendly affairs.
While that may ring true between New England Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, both men surely want to lay claim to the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.
Gronkowski distanced himself from Hernandez and most every other tight end in the league in 2011, but Hernandez was no slouch.
His 910 receiving yards and seven touchdowns were a great step in his sophomore season and should ensure that he remains a favorite target of Tom Brady.
Gronkowski is the man, but don't forget about Hernandez in 2012.
Roger Goodell has considered getting rid of the Pro Bowl.
Fans don't care to watch the game and players don't seem to care for trying once they actually take the field in it.
So how does it stay relevant?
Well to be honest it really isn't relevant at the moment.
And that is a shame because other sports have found ways to make their All-Star weekends fun for fans and players alike.
Drastic changes are needed to resurrect the Pro Bowl before it falls by the wayside.
Mark Brunell has been in the NFL longer than the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers have been actual franchises.
Sure, other players have been around longer, but they are not quarterbacks.
And it is not like Brunell is relevant. He is a free agent with no interested parties and has spent the last few years doing little other than holding a clipboard.
Retirement is calling you Mr. Brunell.
Pick up the phone.
Who is the best receiver in the NFL?
This three-horse race between Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson may have taken a turn for "Megatron" last season as he was the only one of the three to really sizzle.
Still, the athletic ability and talent of Fitzgerald and A. Johnson cannot be understated and assuming all three stay healthy in 2012 this race should heat back up.
Plus that Madden Curse is lingering out there, waiting to claim another victim...
There is an ongoing battle between the NFL and combating serious head injuries to its players.
A lot of the rivalries on this list are both tongue-in-cheek and humorous, but nothing about this battle elicits any laughter.
Concussions and injuries of greater severity continue to cause problems for NFL athletes, and long term issues are of serious concern.
The recent death of Junior Seau shone a bright light on this issue.
One that is going to be tough to burn out.
Tailgating is a right of passage for NFL fans and every team has their own traditions and techniques for the affair.
But two teams fans stand out from the rest of the pack as the elite of the elite: the Packers and the Chiefs.
The sea of red outside Arrowhead Stadium is a true sight to behold, as is the backyard nature of a tailgate at Lambeau Field.
As restrictions and regulations try to hamper tailgating around the league these two cities continue an important NFL tradition.
Let's hope this battle for supremacy never ends.
Detroit has the longest standing tradition of playing football on Thanksgiving Day.
Dallas has the distinction of actually holding competitive games on Turkey Day over the past couple decades.
Now, with the Lions relevant the battle for November bragging rights can finally return to the heights of the Barry Sanders/Emmitt Smith era.
Do these teams ever play each other on Thanksgiving?
Is the NFL trying to water the tradition down by adding more games?
However, Detroit and Dallas are the two cities that matter on Thanksgiving.
After Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland accidentally kinda-sorta asked if Dez Bryant's mom was a prostitute before 2010 it seemed that the focus for Bryant could finally and permanently shift to football.
That hasn't worked out.
Now Bryant is accused of assaulting his mother and faces a charge of family violence, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Will the problems between Dez Bryant and his mother ever end?
And more importantly, will he ever live up to the hype after his stellar collegiate career at Oklahoma State?
Bryant is really in a rivalry with himself right now and is clearly losing.
Quarterbacks take center stage 99.9 percent of the time in the NFL.
As the Bears and Lions rise to the top of the NFC crop this budding competition should be a great rivalry for the next decade.
Both have star receivers to throw to in Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson.
And both have cannons attached to their shoulder blades.
Watching these two sling it across the field and compete in the NFC North will be a great treat if they can fight off the injury bug that has hit them both in recent years.
The Dallas Cowboys have always been known as "America's Team."
That was until a recent poll discovered that the Green Bay Packers are twice as popular across the country as their Dallas counterparts.
In fact, the Cowboys received the most votes as fans least-favorite team in the poll.
Both are storied franchises with tremendous fan bases across the country.
But, it seems the Cowboys have some work to do to get back the moniker they made famous.
Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick simply don't like each other.
Maybe it is because they coach opposing AFC East rivals.
Maybe it is because they have such drastically different teaching methods.
Maybe it is because of the constant verbal war between the players on their respective teams.
However you want to look at it, Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick are the fiercest of rivals.
And until Ryan starts winning some rings it is clear who the leader of this battle is.
There is a reason this year's match-up between the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions was put in prime-time.
It's not because these are two contending playoff teams from a season ago.
And it is not because of the great game they played early in the 2011 season.
It is because of the aftermath of that contest. The handshake that shocked the world and started a surprising rivalry between coaches Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh.
Will fireworks fly between them again in 2012?
Probably not, but we will all be watching to find out.
Rob Gronkowski is a 23-year old living out his dream of playing in the NFL and has already played in the Super Bowl.
Why wouldn't he want to enjoy himself?
Patriots management seems to think he is having a little too much fun.
In fact, he was told by the team to "tone down his image."
This after posing nude for ESPN the Magazine, partying after the Super Bowl, and co-hosting "Access Hollywood."
These may not exactly be Patriot-like things to do in the offseason, but "Gronk" doesn't seem like one who will be too eager to "tone down his image."
At the very least this should be an entertaining story moving forward.
Like the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, this division rivalry is really starting to hit its stride.
The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints have battled for NFC South supremacy regularly in the last few years and their meetings are always worthwhile affairs.
The young gun Matt Ryan vs. the seasoned veteran Drew Brees.
Two established and imposing offenses creating an aerial assault that gives defenses fits.
The "Bountygate" scandal could de-rail the Saints and give the Falcons the edge they have lacked, but never count out the resilience of Drew Brees.
And with the talent both teams possess, this rivalry should be potent for quite some time.
The Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots will square off in Week 3 of the upcoming season.
Unfortunately, there is almost no way Terrell Suggs will return from his Achilles injury in time to suit up for that contest.
That really is a shame because his battles with Patriots QB Tom Brady are becoming increasingly intense.
It's not surprising for a rivalry to escalate when one player questions the Super Bowl victories of another.
Of course, Suggs himself has never won the big one, but that won't stop him from talking trash anytime soon.
Maybe this rivalry will have a chance to flourish in the postseason.
Sibling rivalries can often be just as, if not, more intense than feuds between the fiercest of enemies.
Such may be the case between the Manning brothers.
Peyton and Eli's rivalry seemed lopsided just a few years ago, but since Peyton spent a year on the shelf and Eli captured his second Super Bowl title this rivalry can't help but heat up.
Few people would question Peyton's supremacy purely as a leader and statistical quarterback.
However, Eli has more rings and the "clutch" gene that has been questioned throughout his brother's career.
They may not play this season, but this rivalry is not over just yet.
There is something about going to an NFL game and being inside of a stadium that the television broadcast cannot match.
At least for now.
NFL attendance was down again in 2011 and it is an issue that is not going away.
Fans can watch every game from home, stay up-to-date with their fantasy fix, and avoid the congestion and traffic associated with going to the stadium.
Oh, and it's a lot cheaper too.
As the NFL tries to combat faltering attendance numbers this "rivalry" should come to the forefront in the next few years.
Some rivalries define generations.
Robert Griffin and Andrew Luck may be the next great QB battle, but we are in the midst of one of the greatest sagas in NFL history: Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady.
Contrasting styles and well documented paths to the NFL, the story of Manning and Brady is one that has fascinated NFL fans for the better part of a decade.
Both have won the big one.
Both have individual records and MVP awards to their credit.
And both can make an argument for being the best quarterback ever to wear an NFL uniform.
What could make this even better?
They play again (at least once) in 2012.
There is no one rivalry that defines the NFC East.
You think the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys are the most bitter of rivals?
Well the guy next to you thinks it is the Cowboys and Washington Redskins.
And the guy next to him thinks it's the Eagles and New York Giants.
The rivalries never fade, and in 2012 they should all be good because all of the teams should be good.
The Giants are the defending champs, the Eagles and Cowboys have too much talent to underachieve yet again (they hope), and the Redskins have made plenty of offseason improvements.
The NFC East is tough every year.
Don't expect that to change in 2012.
As the twilight of Ed Reed's career quickly approaches, now is as good a time as any to appreciate the battle that has taken place in recent years between he and Troy Polamalu.
Deciding which one is the best safety in the NFL is no easy task, but they are clearly the two best players at what they do.
Great ball-skills? Check and check.
Not afraid to throw his body around? Check and check.
Always in the right place at the right time? Check and check.
Injuries have hampered both over the years, but watching Polamalu and Reed play chess during Steelers vs. Ravens has been an underrated spectacle.
It may not be the oldest rivalry in the NFL (that distinction goes to the Packers and Lions), but you would be hard-pressed to argue that the Bears and Packers don't have the most storied annual affair in all of football.
This is not just a meeting between NFC North foes, it is a matter of hatred between two fan-bases that love nothing more than beating each other up twice a year.
Even now as the Packers reign supreme in the division there is an inherent intense quality to this matchup.
With Chicago expected to be serious contenders in 2012, this rivalry should be just as fierce as ever.
There is no rivalry in the NFL today with the same kind of fire, passion, and hatred as that between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Do they respect each other?
Sure, but that only helps to set the table for the sheer spectacle that occurs every time the Ravens and Steelers step onto a football field together.
Pittsburgh has the recent Super Bowl rings on their fingers while Baltimore has not reached the summit in over a decade.
The games between these teams are always close (well, usually) and the defensive firepower is staggering.
Names like Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs have helped to ensure this rivalry continues to flourish.