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The Biggest Individual Rivalries in the NFL

Matt SteinCorrespondent IIJanuary 5, 2017

The Biggest Individual Rivalries in the NFL

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    There is nothing as exciting as a rivalry in the NFL. While team rivalries are certainly wonderful, nothing quite sets the stage like two players squaring off to prove who is the absolute best at that moment in time.

    Seeing Peyton Manning drive his team down the field for the go-ahead score only to have Tom Brady bring his team right back down the field to retake the lead. It is the individual rivalries that take NFL games to the next level.

    Today we are going to dissect the 10 biggest individual rivalries in the NFL.

10. Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III

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    Back in 1998, two college quarterbacks were taken No. 1 and No. 2 overall. They were supposed to battle each other year after year for Pro Bowls, All-Pros and Super Bowls. Their names were Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf and clearly that rivalry never was.

    Now the NFL has the 2012 version of Manning-Leaf in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, and these two don't look like they'll disappoint. For the rest of their long, and likely successful careers, Luck and Griffin will forever be compared to each other.

    While their rivalry may not appear to be very intense right now, the second that these two talented players step on the field against each other in a meaningful game, the rivalry will reach epic heights. Look for Luck-Griffin to be everything we hoped for in 1998 with Manning and Leaf.

9. Jim Schwartz vs. Jim Harbaugh

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    After the San Francisco 49ers beat the Detroit Lions last year in Week 6, head coaches Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh went to shake hands at the 50-yard line. Words were exchanged, fists were nearly thrown and Harbaugh and Schwartz needed to be separated by players.

    The reason that this heated exchange ranks so low is because the exchange between the two was so brief, it is hard to tell just how intensely these two really dislike one another. We should get a better idea on just how much these two dislike each other when they meet in Week 2 in San Francisco this year.

    One thing we can be certain of right now is that birthday invitations won't be exchanged anytime soon between these two.

8. James Harrison vs. Roger Goodell

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    In an article for Men's Journal, James Harrison said this to Paul Solotaroff about Roger Goodell:

    But up until last year, there was no word of me being dirty – till Roger Goodell, who's a crook and a puppet, said I was the dirtiest player in the league. 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.

    While Harrison eventually issued an apology for his words, it is easy to see why these two individuals dislike each other so much. Harrison is one of the most physical players in the league and Goodell seems persistent to make the NFL a softer place.

    These two were practically made for each other to become mortal enemies and their rivalry won't likely end anytime soon.

7. LeSean McCoy vs. Osi Umenyiora

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    In today's current technological age, individual rivalries can happen in other places than just the football field. The perfect example of this is LeSean McCoy and Osi Umenyiora and their continuous twitter feud.

    It all started when McCoy went on Twitter and decided to call out Umenyiora as overrated and soft. Umenyiora was clearly upset about the comments and came back during an interview with Mark Viera of The New York Times and called McCoy a "Chihuahua" and "Lady Gaga."

    This rivalry reached the pinnacle of its intensity when Umenyiora went on Twitter to wish McCoy a Happy Mother's Day. Considering that these two players see each other a minimum of two times a year, you can guarantee that off-field issues have caused them to constantly be on the lookout when on the field.

6. Eli Manning vs. Peyton Manning

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    Even though Eli Manning and Peyton Manning have yet to meet in a truly important game, there is no doubting that there is an intense rivalry between the two. For starters, there is this whole thing that the two are related. If you don't have any brothers or sisters, you wouldn't understand that a sibling rivalry is embedded into every fiber of your being at birth.

    On top of that, both Mannings have been extremely successful throughout their careers. While Peyton has the better statistics, Eli has more Super Bowl rings. I'm sure knowing that his younger brother has one more ring doesn't sit too well with Peyton.

    With both brothers looking to continue their success into the 2012 season, you can guarantee that they'll both be looking for bragging rights for Thanksgiving dinner.

5. Chad Johnson vs. Terrell Owens

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    When the Cincinnati Bengals signed Terrell Owens before the 2010 season, no player was more excited than Chad Johnson. However, it didn't take long before a friendship turned into a rivalry between the two outspoken players.

    After struggling throughout the 2010 season, Johnson went to Twitter to proclaim his disappointment in Owens. What followed was an extremely intense exchange between the two players.

    The fact that Owens was unable to find a team last year while Johnson participated in the Super Bowl probably didn't sit well with Owens. Now the tables have turned since Owens finds himself on a roster while Johnson just got released by the Miami Dolphins.

    Until both players retire for good there will likely continue to be bad blood between the two.

4. Terrell Suggs vs. Tom Brady

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    Playing for two of the best teams over the past decade has certainly not helped the relationship between Terrell Suggs and Tom Brady. Considering the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots usually meet in a tense playoff game doesn't help either.

    This rivalry all started when Suggs called Brady's three Super Bowl rings "tainted." While the notion is completely ridiculous that Brady didn't earn those three rings, Suggs felt inclined to give his point of view regarding all the supposed scandals surrounding the Patriots. The problem is that Suggs has yet to even have a chance to win a Super Bowl ring.

    While Brady didn't really respond to Suggs' comments, you can imagine he was smiling the next time he was polishing his rings while thinking about Suggs. 

3. Andre Johnson vs. Cortland Finnegan

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    The reason that this individual rivalry ranks so high is because it is the only rivalry to actually come to punches.  

    Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan lined up opposite each other twice a year for six years. That type of constant battling would make any two people hostile towards one another, especially two of the better players in the game.

    The relationship finally climaxed during their Week 12 matchup when Johnson and Finnegan went after one another following a play. Both players were thrown out of the game and fined $25,000.

    Due to Finnegan no longer playing for the Tennessee Titans, we won't be able to see this rivalry as often. However, prolonged time away from such a rivalry can often bottle up emotions. Look for their next matchup to be quite the battle with plenty of pushing, shoving and trash talking.

2. Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady

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    When you've spent your entire career battling another player for supremacy at your position, you are guaranteed to have an extremely intense rivalry.

    Both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have to be considered two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. They've combined for four Super Bowls, three Super Bowl MVPs, 18 Pro Bowls and 11 All-Pro Teams. They've also combined to throw for over 94,000 yards and nearly 700 touchdown passes.

    Whenever these two get together, they always bring out of the best of each other. Not only is this one of the best and most intense rivalries currently in the NFL, it is one of the greatest individual rivalries of all time. 

1. Roger Goodell vs. Jonathan Vilma

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    There are rivalries that take place on the field and there are rivalries that take place off the field. Jonathan Vilma's rivalry with Roger Goodell started on the field, but it has since become even more serious off the field.

    After Vilma was suspended for the entire 2012 season by Goodell for "bountygate," Vilma decided to raise the stakes off the field. He decided to sue Goodell for personal slander making his rivalry the most intense in the league.

    It is one thing to get into fights on the field or despise an opponent on the field, but bringing in the legal system proves just how much these two truly dislike each other. While some rivalries will eventually blow over and become less intense, Vilma vs. Goodell has absolutely no chance of doing that.

    These two will hate each other for the rest of their careers.

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