Football sees hits, tackles and aggression in pretty much every play, so it isn’t surprising that the NFL would carry some pretty big rivalries. The best rivalries though, spill into the stands as much as they exist on the field.
These rivalries are some of the NFL’s strongest and have some of the most passionate fans to help drive the rivalry towards even more success. These rivalries have seen the most passionate hostility of any NFL rivalry.
Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers
The Raiders and Steelers have a pretty bitter rivalry that picked up some traction in the early 70’s after Pittsburgh’s first playoff win over Oakland featuring, what would later be called, the Immaculate Reception.
This game pushes the Raiders and Steelers into a bitter rivalry, a battle of “what should have been” in the eyes of Raiders fans and what could only be jealousy in the eyes of Steelers fans.
It didn’t hurt that both of these teams were two of the best in the NFL through the ’70’s and that they both had soaring reputations regarding their competitive and physical play.
This rivalry has seen everything from borderline brutal play on the field to the inside of a courtroom following a slander lawsuit filed by Raider George Atkinson against Steelers’ then-coach Chuck Noll. The Steelers were also even a little suspicious about their own deflategate issue in ’73 when they loosely accused the Raiders of deflating footballs, though the NFL dismissed these claims.
This rivalry has seen a lot of heat and the bitterness isn’t over yet. Even when this rivalry may appear to sit back, that doesn’t mean it left. The battle for supremacy between these two teams won’t end, nor will their very passionate fans let this one die.
Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears
The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears fell into their rivalry from the first time they met in 1921. From game one, these two teams were rivals that wouldn’t quit.
One of the biggest starting points of this rivalry was when the Packers shut down the Bears in a 5-0 win in September 1924. This game was the Bears’ second in Green Bay and the Packers first win against the team therefore Packers fans were justifiably excited.
However, in 1975 the game was removed from NFL records because it had been taken place in what would now be a preseason match up. If the win was kept, the Packers would have the edge over the Bears instead of their current record tie (94-94-6).
The rivalry would promote countless pranks- the Packers even left horse manure in the Bears’ locker room in 1985, and their fans have certainly gotten in on the fun ever since.
The heated match-ups between these teams have led to everything from NFL rule book changes to competitive antics between fans on game days. This rivalry has seen the grittiest and the funniest aspects of a sports rivalry, and it won’t end anytime soon.
Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants
It isn’t a strange fact to anyone in the metropolitan area that Philadelphia and New York have a pretty steep rivalry. City rivalries aside, the Philly-New York rivalry takes a prominent role in sports, which is evident in the Phillies-Mets, Flyers-Rangers, and more importantly, the Eagles and the Giants rivalries.
This rivalry formed naturally when the Eagles joined the NFL in 1933, where the Giants gave them a not-so-friendly welcoming into the league with a 56-0 blowout win. The rivalry really grew later in the 50’s when these teams were both seen as rising successes.
These two teams would rise to the hostile occasion every time they met on the field and no game was an easy one. In fact, hostility took over in 1960 when Eagle Chuck Bednarik plowed Giant Frank Gifford in what is considered to be the NFL’s worst tackle.
Philly fans enjoyed the tackle a lot, there’s even a photo of Bednarik celebrating over Gifford’s motionless body, but Giants fans resented the moment that forced Gifford into a brief retirement.
These teams have seen countless wins and losses on both sides, but no game is any less important than any other game. These match-ups instantly earn playoff importance and see all the grit of a team fighting for their lives. It doesn’t hurt that both of these teams have a city of extremely passionate sports fans behind them.
Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins
The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins might seem like a random rivalry, but any NFL fan could tell you that this rivalry has been as strong and as bitter as possible for a long time coming.
It all began in 1960 when the Cowboys and the Redskins faced each other for the first time and grew to unbelievable heights. Some sports experts would consider the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry to be one of the best rivalries in sports and undoubtedly one of the top NFL rivalries.
The rivalry had a quiet beginning as a battle for supremacy but quickly grew into the heated opposition it is today. This rivalry has seen everything from hard competitive play to a push-and-pull of harmless pranks.
In fact, in 1961 a group of Cowboys fans snuck into the Redskins’ D.C. Stadium to scatter chicken feed through the field. The fans planned that, during the halftime show, they would release several dozen chickens onto the field. The plan was a go up until minutes before the halftime show when a Redskins’ rep (who would later turn out to be GM Dick McCann) would find the crates and stop the prank.
In the 80’s, Dallas coach Tom Landry was featured in several commercials in which he supported the continuously growing rivalry between the two teams. One commercial, for American Express, featured the Cowboys coach entering a saloon filled with ‘redskins,’ a blatant reference to the team. He would also later be featured in a Choice Hotels commercial where he would bash the Washington team, despite being previously fired by the Cowboys.
This rivalry runs deep and the only thing stronger than this rivalry is the fans’ loyalty to their respective team. This rivalry has been heated since the beginning and has seen too many events to keep track of.
Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens
Pittsburgh and Baltimore are huge sports cities, especially when it comes to football. The Steelers and the Ravens have come to be known as one of the NFL’s most intense rivalries, despite their shorter run, due to their high level of competition and hard play.
The Steelers and the Ravens met for the first time in 1996 when the Ravens joined the NFL. These teams instantly met with hard physical play and the competitive edge of two teams who wanted to prove themselves. Given the relative location of the two teams, the Steelers and the Ravens became instant rivals.
This rivalry doesn’t have any down time. Football season or not, Steelers fans and Ravens fans are always hating on each other. The proximity of these teams allows every city between Pittsburgh and Baltimore to lean towards one team, which adds to the teams’ opposition with a continuously growing fan base.
The Steelers have more accomplishments under their belt with their long history, including their league-leading six Super Bowl wins. The Ravens haven’t had as much time to notch as many accomplishments as their enemy, but that won’t stop them from playing as hard as possible and doing their best to top them anyway. After all, since joining the NFL, the Steelers and Ravens have tied with two Super Bowl wins each.
This rivalry has been hot since it started and it doesn’t seem like it’ll cool off soon. These two teams will always take the field like a playoff game and their fans won’t let their enemies live down every win their team notches.
BONUS: New England Patriots and Everyone
As a bonus, it is very hard to gather up some of the NFL’s best rivalries without having a mention of the New England Patriots. In fact, the Patriots take rivalry to an entirely new level because, let’s face it, everyone is pretty much a rival to the Patriots. Football fan or not, you either love or hate the New England Patriots, there’s hardly ever any middle ground.
Whether you point fingers at the Patriots because of the murmurs of rule-bending, breaking or cheating or because you can’t stand to see Tom Brady win another Super Bowl, every one has their reason.
The Patriots have shown a lot of dominance over other teams, evident in their many victories, which leads to every team having some hostility when they see ‘vs. Patriots’ on the calendar.
So, it is pretty fair to say, in a nutshell, that the Patriots have rivals in a variety of jerseys through the NFL, and probably among non-football fans. You either love them or hate them will always ring true for this team.