Bitter and hard fought, there’s nothing like an NFL rivalry to get the excitement going towards the end of the year. Over time, enmities grow between teams and the NFL made sure to keep as many of these juicy matchups in the same division even with 2002’s realignment, notable former divisional rivals include Arizona and Dallas and the Battle of the Bays between the Buccaneers and the Packers although neither of these found their way onto this list – this has come down to those twice a year, divisional contests that make our mouths water whenever we first see the schedules.
5. Raiders – Broncos
This one earns its place on the list by being one of the nastiest rivalries from the pre merger AFL. Although in recent years the Raiders haven’t exactly been at their best, these are two teams with storied history and the two most successful in today’s AFC West. The Raiders now find themselves on the upswing and this is one rivalry that we are likely to see heat up in the coming years, especially with Derek Carr coming through for the Silver and Black and uncertain times in Denver at the quarterback position – What does Paxton Lynch hold for them? Is one of Sanchez or Siemian the answer? The two key positions in today’s NFL are Quarterback and Pass Rush. The Raiders are set at both. It remains to be seen if this is the case in Denver.
4. Ravens – Steelers
Dating back to the rivalry between the Browns and the Steelers, this is one of the biggest, baddest rivalries the AFC has to offer. Neutrals watch in anticipation of two teams playing harder football than at any other point of the season. There’s almost always a playoff implication when these two meet, and it’s likely that the entire AFC North is going to be a battleground next year. This takes its place on the list rather than the reactivated Browns thanks to the fact that since coming back into the league, Cleveland have been so mediocre. This matchup also features two of the league’s prime quarterbacks and between them the two teams have, since 2000, represented the AFC in the Super Bowl five times, winning three between them.
3. Patriots – Jets
There aren’t many rivalries that are as full of hatred as that between New York and Boston sports in general, and that extends through to the AFC East matchup between the Jets and the Patriots. Somehow, the Jets always seem to raise their game against the Pats, and some of the most memorable moments, for better or worse, have come in prime time matchups between these two teams. I’ll just leave this here…
Another one dating back to the AFL days, the Jets have seen the Patriots win four Super Bowl titles in the past 15 years whilst making two AFC Championship Game appearances themselves in 2009 and 2010.
2. The Whole NFC East
Looking for trouble? The NFC East is the right place. There isn’t one team in the NFC East who isn’t universally hated by the other three. The Cowboys only came to be because the owner bought the rights to Washington’s fight song, for instance, and in one of the NFL’s most exciting divisions, anything can happen – Last year’s Cowboys were clear favourites for the division title, and yet went from first to worst after a string of injuries and controversies marred their season, and Washington managed to get into the playoffs in spite of the fact that they had their own issues with former No. 2 overall pick Robert Griffin III being a healthy scratch all year. As for the Giants and the Eagles, the hatred there is strong too, but there’s nothing like following fans of each team on social media to see truly the contempt for one another that these teams have. You won’t always see the best game in an NFC East matchup – See the Cowboys Eagles game which was one of the worst of the entire 2015 season – but you will see the most bitter enmity the NFL has to offer.
1. Bears – Packers
The daddy of them all. The NFL’s oldest rivalry. The NFC North is known as the Black and Blue division, and the black and bluest of all of them are those magical nights at Lambeau or Soldier field when these two historical juggernauts go head to head. Yes, the Packers have, in recent history, had the better of the rivalry. Yes, they’ve had two Hall of Fame Caliber quarterbacks back to back whilst Chicago’s best is probably Jay Cutler, but none of that seems to matter. Last year’s Thanksgiving game between the two ended in a 17 – 13 win for Chicago in what was a poor run for Green Bay. Next season should be no different. Expect to see two teams duke out two games next year which will not always be an offensive showcase, but will be guaranteed to entertain, be close and be unpredictable as ever.