The Biggest Team Rivalries in the NFL
There are few things in sports as incredible as the top team rivalries in the NFL. These action-packed battles extend so much further than just the football field.
NFL rivalries are why you'll never see a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers marry a fan of the Baltimore Ravens. They're why fathers and sons sit in different rooms to watch the same game and why neighbors never speak to each other.
They are the pinnacle of sports competition. While every team and fanbase have their own rivals, only a handful can be considered the best in the NFL.
Today, we'll take an in-depth look at the 10 biggest team rivalries in the NFL.
10. Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns
These two cities reside in the same state and are separated by a mere 250 miles. However, it is the differences between inhabitants of these cities that truly make this a great rivalry.
While Cleveland is situated on Lake Erie and consists of mostly blue-collar workers, Cincinnati is better known for housing corporations like Proctor & Gamble, Macy's, Inc. and other well-established businesses. This distinction between populations have made games between the two cities extremely heated.
Of course, it doesn't help when your two owners—Paul Brown and Art Modell—greatly dislike each other and fuel the rivalry off the field. They've been pushing this rivalry since Modell brought the team to the AFC for the purpose of clashing with the Bengals.
The Bengals currently have a 41-36 edge in the series, and considering that they have a much better roster than the Browns, that advantage should increase in the upcoming years.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots
The Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots have been two of the most successful NFL teams of the 21st century. The two teams have combined to win five Super Bowls and have participated in three more.
This massive amount of success has caused the teams to run into each other during the playoffs on more than one occasion. The rivalry actually started back in 1996, when the Patriots beat the Steelers, 28-3, on their way to making the Super Bowl. The following playoffs would see the Steelers settle the score with the Patriots and knock them out in the divisional round.
Recent playoff success has belonged to the Patriots, who have beaten the Steelers twice in the AFC Championship Game. Those are the freshest major victories for the Patriots and the ones I'm sure the Steelers think about whenever these two teams meet.
With both teams still looking like two of the premier teams in the AFC, it's likely that this playoff rivalry won't be ending anytime soon.
8. Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints
The rivalry between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints is one of the newer rivalries in the NFL. Despite lacking the history of other rivalries, it is still one of the best in the league right now.
In the past few seasons, the Saints and Falcons have been two of the better teams in the NFC. Offenses that include players like Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham have dominated their matchups.
While the Saints have gotten the better of the Falcons recently, Atlanta leads the all-time series, 45-40. With the rest of the NFC South starting to catch up to Atlanta and New Orleans, we could see other rivalries developing soon.
However, until one of those teams surpasses the Saints or Falcons atop the division, this rivalry will continue to be the best.
7. New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys
When the first game you ever play against each other ends in a tie (31-31 in 1960), you know it is going to be the start of something beautiful. That is what happened between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, and since that day, both teams have been bitter enemies.
With that said, the true inception of this rivalry starts with the betrayal of Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry. Landry was drafted by the Giants, played successfully for the Giants and eventually coached for the Giants. When the Cowboys started their franchise in 1960, Landry left New York to become the head coach in Dallas.
He'd go on to coach for 29 seasons, winning five NFC championships and two Super Bowls during that time. His record against the Giants was a very successful 35-17-2.
New York has started to gain some momentum against Dallas in recent years, as the Giants have gone 16-9 against the Cowboys since the start of the 21st century. Oh yeah, they've also won two Super Bowls in that time, while Dallas hasn't even gotten to the big dance.
Both teams look built for success in the future, so any chances of this rivalry dying down are rather slim.
6. Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers
What makes the rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings so great is that the rivalry has spread throughout other sports from these two states. Sports teams in Wisconsin simply can't stand sports teams in Minnesota, and I'm sure Minnesotans feel the same way about Wisconsinites.
The greatest rivalry between these two states will always reside in the NFL. Both the Packers and Vikings have seen great success throughout the history of their franchises. They've combined to play in nine Super Bowls, winning four of those games.
Of course, none of those Super Bowl wins have come from the Vikings, which only adds to the hatred between these two teams. While the Packers look poised for years NFL dominance, the Vikings are currently in rebuilding mode.
However, no matter the state of the franchises, you can almost guarantee that when these two teams get together for their 103rd meeting in Week 13 this season, it will be another intense, hard-fought battle between two heated rivals.
5. New York Jets vs. New England Patriots
Much like the rivalry between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, the rivalry between the New England Patriots and New York Jets reached its most heated point because of a coach. That coach is none other than Bill Parcells.
Parcells left New England following a very successful 1996 season to take the head-coaching job of the Jets. It was a move that made Parcells public enemy No. 1 in the eyes of the Patriots and the Jets public enemy No. 2 for stealing their coach.
However, things got even more heated when Parcells protege Bill Belichick became the head coach of the Patriots in 2000. Taking "The Big Tuna's" old job brought this rivalry to a whole other level.
Things got even worse six years later when one of Belichick's proteges, Eric Mangini, became the head coach of the Jets. All of these new coaching allegiances have bred a type of hatred on the sidelines that has infiltrated players on the field.
Belichick's current rivalry with Jets head coach Rex Ryan is just another chapter in a long line of coaching rivalries for New England and New York. Until Belichick retires as coach of the Patriots, don't expect these two teams to be amicable anytime soon.
4. Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Few NFL franchises are as rich in history as the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. They've both been extremely successful throughout the years and have two of the best fanbases in all of football.
Due to this success and history, the rivalry between these two franchises has been as intense and bitter as any in the league. They've met a total of 106 times since the start of the American Football League in 1960, and the Chiefs currently hold a 55-47-2 lead in the series.
What really sets this rivalry apart from other rivalries is how loyal the fans are to their respective teams. Few people are as passionate about their football teams as those in Kansas City and Oakland, and whenever they meet in a stadium, it is like two freight trains colliding at full speed.
Until the fans of Oakland and Kansas City learn to take it down a notch—which is extremely unlikely—these two teams should continue to be entrenched in one of the best rivalries in the NFL.
3. New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The rivalry between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles began back in 1933. Their first meeting resulted in a 56-0 whooping by the Giants and officially started one of the greatest team rivalries in any sport.
The two teams have met a ridiculous 160 times in their storied history, with the Giants leading the series, 83-75-2. While this rivalry has always been entertaining, the past two decades have simply been incredible.
They're always fantastic games, and the overall series has been close, as the Eagles lead the series, 22-21, since 1990. There have also been plenty of jaw-dropping moments, most recently involving DeSean Jackson and a certain last-second punt return for a touchdown.
The proximity of these two teams—not to mention the cities’ rivalries in other major sports (Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets)—has only increased the animosity on the football field. If you don't enjoy watching these two teams play each other twice a year, I can't imagine anything in life that would make you happy.
2. Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears
No rivalry has the history or amount of games played as the Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers rivalry. They've met 184 times since their first game in 1921, with Chicago holding a six-game lead in the series with a record of 92-86-6.
These two teams are also two of the most successful franchises in NFL history. They've combined for 22 NFL championships, five of which were Super Bowls. They also have 48 players in the Hall of Fame, more than any other rivalry in the NFL.
We also can't forget about the fact that people from Wisconsin simply can't stand people from Illinois. Chicago is only a 30-minute drive from the Wisconsin border, which Chicago residents only remember when they want to make Wisconsin their personal vacation state.
Through all of the on-field and off-field rivalries, both the Packers and Bears have remained two of the best teams in the NFL. They'll continue that streak this year, and their two matchups will go a long way in deciding who wins the NFC North.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Though the rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens doesn't have anywhere near the history of the other great rivalries in the NFL, it is still the greatest in the game today.
These are two of the most intense and hard-hitting teams of the moment, and whenever they meet on the field, it seems like that intensity is increased exponentially. The overall series is rather close, with Pittsburgh holding a 21-14 lead all-time.
However, the big difference has taken place in the playoffs, where the Steelers are 3-0 against the Ravens. For all the success that Baltimore has had during the regular season, their inability to beat the Steelers when it really matters has made them even more intense when they play.
With both teams filled with physical players who love the game, it is hard to see this rivalry giving up its title as the best in the NFL anytime soon.
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