Of all the heated rivalries that the Patriots have had over their dynasty run it really is a tough call to decide on their biggest. There are many candidates; you of course have the perennial teams like the Colts, Chargers, and Jets. Going back a couple years the Steelers or Broncos would fit into this mix as well and maybe even the Raiders.
There's no denying that there is plenty of bad blood between the Patriots and all of these teams, so I'll give you my ranking and see what you guys think.
1. Colts Vs. Patriots
The bad blood between the Patriots and Colts is undeniable. It's to be expected when two great teams exist at the same time and in the same conference. They meet at least once a year every year either in the regular season or playoffs and sometimes both.
The Patriots had the Colts number for a long time and it wasn't until the 2005 season that Manning and his team punched back. They beat the Patriots 40-21 and officially started a new chapter in their rivalry, one in which they would have the upper hand.
The Colts ended the Patriots season one year later in 2006 in one of the best AFC Championship games ever played after beating them in the regular season as well.
2007 was another story obviously with the Patriots taking no prisoners during the regular season. The Colts three game winning streak over the Patriots was ended in a 24-20 thriller last season.
This is the best rivalry simply because each team is so good and it's a shame that they had to come along at the same time to ruin each other's success—unless you like rivalries.
2. Chargers Vs. Patriots
The year was 2005, the Patriots were riding a 21-game home winning streak dating back to the 2002 regular season. It was a classic beat down, the game ended with a loss for the Patriots at 41-17.
With this game in mind a year later the Patriots flew out to San Diego for the AFC Divisional Championship game. The Chargers had enjoyed a 14-2 season and were loaded with pro-bowlers. They had the first seed in the AFC and were favored to win. They didn’t.
In fact some would say the Patriots didn’t win either, but that the Chargers managed to lose it. Their first season that had shown some significant possibilities had ended at the hands of the Patriots 24-21 victory.
To make things worse the Patriots (who had in their own right suffered through Merriman’s antics throughout the game) celebrated their victory mimicking LB Shawn Merriman’s sack dance. Now each team had something huge stolen from them.
They would meet yet again in 2007, a game after Spygate. The Chargers were obliterated by the newly designed Patriots' super offense and it looked like their season was in shambles a few weeks later. They turned it around though and made it into the playoffs and took on guess who in the AFC Championship. The Patriots rolled on yet again winning 21-12 and further infuriated the Chargers and their fans.
This one isn’t done yet; the Patriots and Chargers meet week six next year in San Diego.
3. Jets Vs. Patriots
This rivalry is different from many others. It’s not based as much on the on field activities as much as it is on the off field activities. Spygate needs no explanation, that’s the largest sticking point that’ll keep the hatred between these two burning for awhile. The personnel issues are what got it going though.
You could say that the Patriots taking Belichick right out from under the Jets in 1999 set them up for the rivalry, but it was the Jets retaliation that really got it going. They signed the Patriots Defensive Coordinator Eric Mangini to their Head Coaching position. Mangini was said to be Belichick’s understudy and they were apparently very close.
The Mangini signing obviously set the Spygate scandal up for uncovering. The two teams have also swapped players for years. When the Patriots would cut a player the Jets would run right in to claim them. The Patriots grabbed Victor Hobson once he hit the FA market this year and the Jets also took the Patriots dream pick Vernon Gholston in this year’s draft forcing them to trade down.
They play at least twice a year and if the Jets can get competitive this rivalry won’t end for a long time.
4. Steelers Vs. Patriots
The rivalry between these two teams would be much more heated if it wasn’t such a one sided affair. The Steelers haven’t beaten the Patriots since week eight of the 2004 season. That win, however, ended the Patriots perfect season that they had going.
The Patriots ended the season at 14-2 and with revenge in mind they faced off with the Steelers later with a ticket to the Super Bowl on the line. They won and went on to defeat the Eagles to collect their third World Championship in four years.
The following year the Patriots got their second win in a row against Pittsburgh, but Roesthlisberger and his team had the last laugh when they went on to win the Super Bowl while the Patriots wondered how they could have let Denver beat them.
2007 rolled along and with a year long break you would think maybe the fire had died down, but rookie S Anthony Smith would make sure that wasn’t the case. In the days prior to their game with New England, the Steelers’ Smith made his now infamous guarantee that they would beat the then 12-0 Patriots. They didn’t, in fact Smith was responsible for 14 of the 34 points put up on his defense.
Next year the Steelers and Patriots will face off in week 13 and with the upgrades both of these teams have made it won’t be surprising if they play another game later that season.
5. Broncos Vs. Patriots
The Broncos get a coveted spot on this list because of one game that I am unable to let go of just yet. In 2005 the Patriots and Broncos were set to take each other on in Mile High Stadium for the AFC Divisional Championship game.
The Patriots were riding a 10 game winning streak, Brady was looking to improve his perfect playoff record to 11-0, and the organization was after its third straight Super Bowl title. All streaks and record ended that night, at least all of the good ones.
Instead the Patriots coughed up the ball five times, lost pivotal challenges, and all around failed. It was the worst game I’ve ever seen and by far the hardest to watch. The Patriots would show life and a chance until their next turnover ended all hope.
Old reliables like Troy Brown muffed a punt, Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal, and Tom Brady threw two picks. I won’t let this game go because of the way it was played and what was lost. In my mind when these two teams play in week seven next year for the first time since this playoff game, the Patriots will have in mind a dish best served cold.