One of the reasons that the National Football League (NFL) is considered the most popular team sport in the United States is because of its rabid fan base. With only sixteen games on their schedules, a few bad games can push a team out of the playoff chase early in the season. However, that team’s fans will consider the season a mild success if the team can manage to defeat its most-hated rival. Here is a look at some of the biggest rivalries in the NFL and a quick look at why those rivalries are so intense.
This is a rivalry based as much on the perceptions of the teams and their fans as it is on the actual on-field play. Oakland has history of being the “bad boys” of the NFL. The Raiders signed players who were known to party and play hard and their fans are known for being some of the rowdiest in the league. The Chiefs’ fans, on the other hand, are known for being every bit as vocal as the Oakland fans while maintaining their respectful, mid-western values. Both teams came to prominence in the 1970s, with each team winning Super Bowl championships. Their rivalry has been red-hot ever since.
The intensity in this matchup was born before there were even Super Bowls and has showed no sign of letting up. Green Bay, also known as “Title Town,” has a glorious history of winning, with the likes of Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Brett Favre and current golden-boy quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Chicago has no shortage of all-time greats, from George Halas to Mike Ditka, Dick Butkus, Walter Payton and current stars like Brian Urlacher. This is one of those rivalries where season standings are thrown out each time they play. The cold weather and windy conditions lead to knock down, drag out games where the winner may just be who can still stand at the end.
This rivalry has it all, from a history of closely contested games filled with great players to incredibly passionate fans to story lines that seemed right straight from Hollywood western-style movies. Both teams have won multiple Super Bowls, often having beaten each other on the way to glory. A great example of the level of hatred these teams share is how fondly Dallas Cowboy fans remember Troy Aikman’s first season with the team, in which the team struggled to a miserable 1-15 record. Dallas fans remember the season fondly because that one win came against the Redskins.
This is the hottest rivalry in the game today for one very simple reason: these are two of the best franchises in the league. The Steelers beat the Ravens in the 2011 playoffs on the way to the Super Bowl. The Ravens returned the favor in the 2012 playoffs and were one disputed call away from advancing to the Super Bowl themselves. Both teams play a hard-nosed, defensive-minded style and focus on the run game on offense. Games between these teams are almost close and always physical, and both teams’ fans like it that way.
There are a lot of great rivalries in the NFL. The fans really drive these rivalries through their passion for their favorite teams. As divisional opponents, each of these teams play each other twice a year. This consistency of opposition helps spike the hard feelings between these teams and their fans. The bad blood between shows no signs of subsiding in the coming seasons.