The Five Most Under the Radar Rivalries in the NFL Today
Rivalries make the NFL go 'round.
Let's face it, every year as fans we watch game after game with a 1:32 chance of winning a championship.
No one likes those odds. No one wants those odds.
And the second place award is a trip to heartbreak city with a month of pain for dinner following a Super Bowl loss.
Being an NFL fan or a sports fan in general is really not that good of a deal.
That is why we have to make do with the little things that make football an amazing sport; like watching our rivalry games.
I find nothing more rewarding on Sundays than seeing my Denver Broncos sneak one in over the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, or Kansas City Chiefs (and for that matter, nothing is worse than watching us lose to one of those teams).
We're lucky enough to get at least six rivalry games a season, just because of division mathematics, and often we'll inflate the importance of other games just because we hate that particular team.
Without rivalries the NFL would just be a 31:32 chance of failure for every fan.
So holding back on further introduction, allow me to present you with the five most under the radar rivalries in the NFL today.
Do not miss these games next year...
Honorable Mention: Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints
This is on the list as an honorable mention because it just happens to be one of those "too good to be true" rivalries.
The Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints seem to bring out the best in each other when they play.
Unfortunately for football, that isn't every year, but if it was, they probably would be way up on this list.
Last year, the Cowboys were the first team to stop the undefeated (and eventually NFL champion) New Orleans Saints.
These two teams feature some explosive offensive weapons (and the addition of Dez Bryant only adds to it that) which allows for their games to get out of control.
Last year, the Cowboys were the victors in the Louisiana Superdome.
In a very memorable 2006 game, the Saints thrashed the Cowboys in Dallas 42-17.
I don't know if it is just Sean Payton's history as the former assistant head coach for the Cowboys that makes the play calling in these games so entertaining, but someone needs to figure out a way to make these guys play ever year.
*Also receiving honorable mention consideration: Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers or Minnesota Vikings.
5. Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers
As recently as the 2008-2009 seasons, both of these teams were in the playoffs.
The New Orleans Saints managed to commandeer the NFC South division last year, but don't expect these two teams to stay silent for long.
The Carolina Panthers made some exciting off season moves, sending Jake Delhomme packing and bringing in the draft-day disrespected Jimmy Clausen.
Add Steve Smith and two ferocious running backs to the team the Panthers could be enjoying a truly explosive offense.
The Atlanta Falcons have a parallel squad, with the young Matt Ryan, exciting Michael Turner, "Rowdy" Roddy White, and Kansas City immigrant, Tony Gonzalez.
Both of these teams have the opportunity to be extremely exciting this season and going forward; being divisional rivals makes their games that much sweeter.
4. Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, and Seattle Seahawks
With the departure of Anquan Boldin and the retirement of Kurt Warner, the lowly NFC West is a wide open race.
While I think the St. Louis Rams have some work to do before throwing their names in the hat, Matt Leinart doesn't seem poised to keep the Arizona Cardinals at the very top.
At least, I wouldn't say he makes it a sure thing.
You could call this the USC division, as Seattle brought in Pete Carroll in an effort to restore their former dominance, and the 49ers brought in Taylor Mays in an effort to add vicious hits to their underrated defense.
All of these teams have a great shot at winning this up-in-the-air division next season, making any game where two of these squads face off a game to watch.
I'm going out on a limb and saying I have my money on the San Francisco 49ers, at least for next year, because they just quietly put together one heck of an offseason (Ted Ginn Jr. can be successful).
There was so much movement on this side of the Mississippi that most people aren't going to realize the NFC West is a completely different division. However, with the loud statement play I am expecting, the whole country should know by the halfway mark of the season.
3. New York Jets and Miami Dolphins
Oh...the battle for the New England Patriots' crown continues.
The Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets are playing with completely different rosters; I, for one, love it.
Most people forget that in the regular season last year, these two teams looked about equal.
In fact, without a "gimme" win from the Indianapolis Colts, the Jets likely wouldn't have been a playoff team (the Dolphins could have used that spot).
No team has added as many big names (or traded away as many) as the New York Jets, and the expectations on this season for them are lofty to say the least.
Most people have them down as the division favorite.
However, their biggest threat won't be coming from New England; it will be coming from Brandon "The Beast" Marshall and Chad Henne down in Miami.
I can't think of the last time Dolphins fans saw a receiver as good as Marshall (who edged out Randy Moss for the Pro Bowl last year). He is immediately the best receiver in a receiver heavy division.
Watching Brandon Marshall and Darrelle Revis do the cha-cha should be euphoric.
The Jets are going to have a definite edge on this with their defense, but I expect the Dolphins to win at least one of these matchups.
2. Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens
Chad “Oucho”-Cinco (see what I did there? It fits with the picture) doesn't talk too much before he goes up against Ed Reed and the Baltimore Ravens; because when they hit it really, really hurts.
The Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens were both playoff teams with high hopes last year out of a division that has been recently ruled by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After a tumultuous off season in Pittsburgh, it appears that these are the two teams fighting it out for the AFC North crown.
These games were characterized by continuous personal fouls for the Ravens last year that gave Cincinnati an edge, but I am expecting more offense this year.
With another season under the belt for Jose, can Flacco and the additions of Anquan Boldin in Baltimore and Jermaine Gresham in Cincinnati, these two teams should be a bit pass happy.
But I wouldn't count out Ray Rice or back-from-the-dead Cedric Benson, either.
I'm going to have to give the Baltimore Ravens the division edge, but I still like the Bengals' chances.
1. Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans
I was one of the crazy analysts walking around last year saying that the Houston Texans had an outside shot at making the Super Bowl.
Perhaps I was a little bit enthralled with what the Arizona Cardinals had just done, but I was only a Steve Slaton Pro Bowl performance away from being wrong.
I'm not sure this rivalry is truly under the radar anymore, but it has been for long enough that I had to put it on top.
Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne and the Indianapolis Colts have owned their division for the last half decade because frankly, they haven't had a lot of competition.
The Houston Texans are still a very young franchise, the Jacksonville Jaguars can't sell tickets and despite some impressive plays from Chris Johnson and Co., the Tennessee Titans can't seem to figure out how to use a quarterback (at least after the great Steve McNair, God bless him).
The team most likely to give the Colts fits this year is still the Houston Texans, who after adding Ben Tate, seem to be hoping their running game is figured out.
I'm giving the Texans a big thumbs up for a deep playoff run this year, again, even though it goes against all logic.
When you take a look at the talent on these rosters, and factor in that this rivalry has the greatest quarterback in the sport along with the two best wide receivers in the NFL right now, it is amazing that their games don't get more national respect.
The Texans should have won at least once (if not twice last year) and I see them finally getting things together this year.
Do not miss out on these rivals facing off, as it should create some of the biggest sparks in the NFL.
Thanks for reading!
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