Naming the No. 1 Rival for All 32 NFL Teams

In trying to come up with the actual rivals for all 32 NFL teams, we came to realize there are actually two kinds of sports rivalries. The first is the actual rivalry, embraced by fans of both teams who truly despise one another and what the other franchise stands for. Then there are the imaginary rivalries when fans, who are sometimes delusional about this, believe that its hatred of one team is shared by fans of the other team when, in fact, the other team doesn’t care that much.

Though, in theory, a team should only have one rival and be the rival of just one other team, it doesn’t always work out that way. In college sports, Michigan is a good example. The Wolverines rival is indisputably Ohio State, but they still have a second-tier rivalry with Michigan State, which considers Michigan to be their main rival. That’s why, on this NFL rivalry list, teams such as Dallas and New England appear more than once. Both those teams have a main rivalry to themselves. Any other appearance as another team’s rival is relegated to lower-tier status. We had to be judicious: You can’t just have Dallas be the main rival of every team in the NFC East.

But enough chatter, here are the actual rivalries of all 32 NFL teams:

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

RIVAL: WASHINGTON REDSKINS

More than half the fanbases in the NFC probably consider Dallas to be a rival, namely because the Cowboys are the most hated (and loved) team in America. Every NFL win feels good but a victory over Dallas is sweeter for anyone. Still, it’s the team’s rivalry with the Redskins that stands as one of the best in pro sports, even if rivalries have died down in recent years for various reasons, with free agency being the biggest culprit. The teams have faced off in NFC championships and always play each other tough, no matter their records. When Dallas went 1-15 in Troy Aikman’s first season, the lone win came against the 10-6 ‘Skins. Last year, Washington went to Dallas and stunned the heavily favored Cowboys on Monday night, a win that made the stench of a 4-12 season a little easier to stomach in the District.

New York Giants

FANS’ IMAGINED RIVAL: DALLAS COWBOYS

ACTUAL RIVAL: NEW YORK JETS

Every Cowboys-Giants game is great and one to circle on your calendar. But since Dallas already has the ‘Skins and everyone wants to be rivals with Big D, we’ll say the Jets are the Giants’ real rival. Sure, they only play once every four years but the battle for the back pages of the Post and Daily News is a daily occurrence. (Sometimes that’s not always a good thing.)

Philadelphia Eagles

FANS’ IMAGINED RIVAL: DALLAS COWBOYS

ACTUAL RIVAL: ITSELF

Eagles fans like to think of the Cowboys as their biggest rivals, which makes this a good time to discuss the Maryland Corollary. The Terps spent years in the ACC convinced Duke was its rival while Duke couldn’t have given two licks about Maryland, as their rivalry with North Carolina is the best in all of college basketball. But Maryland fans believed this rivalry was real, particularly because when the Terps were great under Gary Williams, they had some classic games with Duke. But a few classics make not a rivalry. So while every NFC East game is big, especially depending on the year, the Eagles are maybe Dallas’s fourth-biggest rival (behind Washington, New York and maybe San Francisco) no matter what the citizens of Philadelphia like to believe. Philly loves to hate Dallas, Dallas is like “meh, I guess” with the Philly. So, with the Eagles fans constantly drawing as much attention to themselves as to their team (e.g. the intense booing and field-charging on Sunday), this is an inward battle.

Washington Redskins

RIVAL: DALLAS COWBOYS

Even with the Redskins being mediocre for almost every non-Joe Gibbs season for the past 35 years, “Dallas Week” is still a palpably exciting thing in the nation’s capital. There are too many great stories to tell about this rivalry (most involving George Allen and Joe Bugel) but this stadium-shaking video from 1983 sums it up best:

NFC North

Chicago Bears

RIVAL: GREEN BAY PACKERS

The Bears and the Packers have the longest rivalry in the NFL. It’s in its 94th year and has been played a record 189 games. Even more remarkable: Green Bay leads the series 92-91-6 but has been outscored by a single point — a single point over 94 years! That’s insane. (The cumulative score is currently 3,231 to 3,230, Chicago.)

Detroit Lions

RIVAL: WHOEVER THEY PLAY ON THANKSGIVING

When you’ve been as awful as the Lions (one playoff win since 1958, which was followed by a 41-10 loss in the 1991 NFC championship), rivalries don’t come easy. That’s why the team’s annual Thanksgiving game (which should always stay in Detroit, no matter how bad the team gets) provides the most reliable rival for the team from the Motor City.

Green Bay Packers

RIVAL: CHICAGO BEARS

A quick rundown of great moments in the rivalry: The Packers continually hitting the Bears late during their two games in Chicago’s 15-1 Super Bowl season, Charles Martin sacking Jim McMahon in 1986 while having a hit list on his towel and this ponytailed clown catching a ball during a Monday Night Football game and then giving his Al Bundy-esque football resume.

Minnesota Vikings

RIVAL (SECOND-TIER): GREEN BAY PACKERS

Brett Favre moving from the Packers to the Vikings made a fairly good rivalry great for at least one year (the year Favre was good in Minnesota).

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

RIVAL: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The NFC South is a division of expansion teams and cast-offs, so there’s no real history here. But Atlanta and New Orleans are the two best franchises, each play in a dome and they faced one another in that classic return to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. So let’s just say they’re rivals and move on.

Carolina Panthers

RIVAL (SECOND TIER): ATLANTA FALCONS

My friend Scott, born, raised and educated in North Carolina, weighs in when I asked him if Atlanta was the answer to this question: “I think you’re right about ATL, I bet that’s how most of the fanbase feels. I hear there’s been a large number of Panther fans in the Georgia Dome for those games. The Falcons used to beat up on the Panthers with Vick and Thomas Davis was drafted to follow Vick around, so I guess that’s a rivalry. But for me it’s still the Saints.”

New Orleans Saints

RIVAL: ATLANTA FALCONS

See above.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

FANS’ IMAGINED RIVAL: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

ACTUAL RIVAL: SCURVY

The imaginary rivalry is simply because New Orleans is the top team in the division. And maybe it’s the actual one too. But when you’re a buccaneer, out on a ship for weeks at a time and plundering anything in sight, the lack of attention to Vitamin C consumption can be a very-real battle.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

FANS’ IMAGINED RIVAL: DALLAS COWBOYS

ACTUAL RIVAL: WHOEVER TOPS THE NFC WEST

Not every team has a rival. It’s especially hard when you’ve changed cities (from St. Louis to Phoenix) and divisions (NFC East to NFC West) in the past 30 years. So Arizona’s rival becomes whichever team stands in the way of its rare playoff appearances.

St. Louis Rams

FANS’ IMAGINED RIVAL: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

ACTUAL RIVAL: ARIZONA CARDINALS

The Rams have been too awful over the past decade to have a real rival. They’ve played Seattle tough of late, but that’s just punching up. In reality, much like Arizona’s rival is whoever is keeping them from the playoffs, the St. Louis rival is whichever team keeps them out of the cellar.

San Francisco 49ers

RIVAL: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Back in the day, the rival would have clearly been Dallas, but it’s been years since the teams were duking it out in the NFC championship, so the team’s recent battles with Seattle take precedence.

Seattle Seahawks

RIVAL: SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

It’s a shame Jim Harbaugh left the City by the Bay because those games with Pete Carroll provided some of the best hype for NFL matchups in years.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

ACTUAL RIVAL (THIRD-TIER): NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

This would have been different 10 months ago, but now that Rex Ryan is in Buffalo, pretty much solely to beat the New England Patriots, we’ll give Bills fans some love and say they’re a low-tier rival with the Pats. But, who knows: With some good years under Rex, maybe this moves up in the chain.

Miami Dolphins

ACTUAL RIVAL: NEW YORK JETS

It’s hard to come up with rivals for every team, particularly when the team hasn’t been very good for a very long time. But I think back to those days with Dan Marino throwing balls to the Marks — Clayton and Duper — on windy, chilly days on the concrete turf of the Meadowlands. Plus, there’s this:

Ray Finkle finished a close second, by the way.

New England Patriots

RIVALS: THE 2015 NFL RULE BOOK

Legal battles are the ones that most often do in the Patriots, but don’t take that as a total diss: The Patriots are basically without rival, except when they face a Peyton Manning-led team (and even then, they usually win anyway).

New York Jets

RIVAL (SECOND-TIER): NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Now that Rex is gone, who knows? I’d like to think Todd Bowles will keep this rivalry going, particularly with his solid defense and both teams at 2-0 this season.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

RIVAL: PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Let’s have Terrell Suggs sum it up:

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Cincinnati Bengals

RIVAL: CLEVELAND BROWNS

The AFC North is the only division in which the rivalries match up perfectly. In this case, Cincinnati-Cleveland is hardly the stuff of legends, but bragging rights in Ohio is something, right? Plus the thought of Johnny Manziel beating Andy Dalton this year may cause Bengals fans to revolt, Les Miserables style.

Cleveland Browns

RIVAL: CINCINNATI BENGALS

We could have said John Elway here, as no matter how long it’s been since “The Fumble” and “The Drive,” Elway is still public enemy No. 1 in Cleveland. Well, him and LeBron James Craig Ehlo.

Pittsburgh Steelers

RIVAL: BALTIMORE RAVENS

Let’s have Mike Tomlin sum it up:

o-JACOBY-JONES-facebook

AFC South

Houston Texans

FANS’ IMAGINED RIVAL: DALLAS COWBOYS

ACTUAL RIVAL: QB1 ON THE DEPTH CHART

Houston is too new to have any real rivalries and though it’d be nice to have that Texas on Texas thing going, the way the NFL schedule is set up, once every four years isn’t going to do it. No, the Texans biggest rival is finding someone to play quarterback. It seems like it’s been this way every year since the team debuted in 2002.

Indianapolis Colts

RIVAL (SECOND-TIER): NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

When Peyton Manning was in Indy, this was a true rivalry with the Pats. Now that Andrew Luck (Peyton Manning Lite) is there, it’s one the Colts value far more than the Patriots. But when the Pats have to go through Indy to a Super Bowl, that merits some sort of acknowledgement. It also doesn’t hurt that the teams have played a game in every season since 2002.

Jacksonville Jaguars

FANS’ IMAGINED RIVAL: NONE

ACTUAL RIVAL: NONE

Jaguars fans aren’t delusional enough to believe that anyone cares enough about playing them.

Tennessee Titans

RIVAL (SECOND-TIER): INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Those Steve McNair years were great (as was that one Vince Young year). And if Tennessee is ever going to get back to the top of the South, it’s going to have to be over Luck and Indy.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

RIVAL: OAKLAND RAIDERS

One of the few great AFC rivalries. Sure, it’s been lessened in recent years because of Oakland’s awfulness, but when Al Davis fired Mike Shanahan and Shanahan went to Denver, those games were as must-watch as NFL games get.

Kansas City Chiefs

RIVAL: OAKLAND RAIDERS

No second-tier here. The Raiders are hated enough to have two true rivals that despise every ounce of their being. True, it’s hard to loathe a team that’s been so bad over the past 13 years, but there’s just something cathartic about beating the silver and black.

Oakland Raiders

RIVAL: DENVER BRONCOS

The Raiders are 10-25 in this rivalry since 1997, including a current seven-game losing streak (thanks, Peyton … and Tebow!) But Oakland still leads overall 59-48-2 thanks to a stretch from 1964-77 in which Denver only notched three wins.

San Diego Chargers

FANS’ IMAGINED RIVAL: DOES ANYONE IN SAN DIEGO REALLY CARE?

ACTUAL RIVAL: LOS ANGELES

A dispatch from San Diego: “For Chargers fans, it’s almost a matter of civic pride. Sure, there’d be plenty of things to do on NFL Sundays if the Chargers left town, but for LA? Who in their right mind would rather live in Los Angeles than San Diego?”

Full Article @ US Today