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As with all sports leagues, there are a number of significant rivalries in the National Football League (NFL). Rivalries are occasionally created due to a particular event that causes bad blood between teams, players, coaches, or owners, but for the most part, they arise simply due to the frequency with which some teams play each other, and sometimes, rivalries exist for geographic reasons.
- 1 Background
- 2 American Football Conference
- 2.1 AFC East
- 2.2 AFC North
- 2.3 AFC West
- 2.4 Intraconference
- 3 National Football Conference
- 3.1 NFC East
- 3.2 NFC North
- 3.3 NFC South
- 3.4 NFC West
- 3.5 Inter-division
- 4 Interconference rivalries
- 4.1 Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
- 4.2 Governor's Cup rivalries
- 4.3 Other current in-state/regional AFC-NFC rivalries
- 4.4 Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Purely geographic rivalries are rare in the NFL, since cross-town rivals do not play each other nearly as often as in other leagues that have more games (and therefore more opportunities to play other teams). For example, Major League Baseball teams face every other league opponent at least 3 times during the regular season, and within a division as many as 19 times. In recent years, the NFL has changed its scheduling formula to ensure that every possible matchup will happen eventually, but many of those matchups will occur only once every 3 to 4 years. A main factor in the fact that crosstown rivals are almost always in opposing conferences is history: in all current markets (New York, the SF Bay Area, and the Washington, D.C. area) that have two NFL teams, each has one team (Jets in New York, Raiders in Oakland, and the Ravens in Baltimore) that was a member of the American Football League. And as part of the AFL-NFL merger, all AFL teams had to be retained, even if that meant multiple teams in one metropolitan area (the Baltimore area is the lone exception - their team in 1970, the Colts, had always been in the NFL, while their current team, the Ravens, were only enfranchised in 1996). The newly merged league opted not to go through an extensive geographical realignment, and instead, the AFL formed the basis of the AFC, and the old NFL formed the basis of the NFC; as a result, each team ended up in an opposite conference from their crosstown rival. This allowed the combined league to retain both existing television partnerships of each league - NBC for the AFL/AFC, and CBS for the NFL/NFC - instead of choosing one or the other (ABC also joined the mix in 1970 with Monday Night Football).
Games can be classified in 3 main categories:
- Intra-divisional: Games between opponents in the same NFL division. Since 2002, there are 32 teams in 8 divisions of 4 teams each. Each team plays each division opponent twice during the regular season (once at home, once away) for a total of 6 regular season games out of 16 total games. Thus, every NFL team, regardless of its age, could fairly be said to have at least 3 primary rivals. Occasionally, two teams will play 3 times in a year if they meet again in the playoffs.
- Inter-divisional: Games between opponents in different divisions but within the same conference. Teams do not play a given inter-divisional opponent more than once during the regular season, however they may meet again for a second time in the playoffs. The NFL schedules divisions to play against each other on a rotating basis, so that every team from one division will play every team from another division, for a total of 4 games per team. Each team will also play 1 team from each of the remaining 2 divisions within the conference that finished in the same divisional standing position in the prior year - for a grand total of 12 intra-conference games. Conference games are often important, as a team's record in common games, as well as its overall record against its conference, is sometimes used as a tiebreaker for playoff seeding at the end of the regular season. Also, many regular season opponents have met again in the playoffs, and the result of a regular season game can affect where the playoff game will be played.
- Inter-conference: Games between opponents in different conferences. Teams do not play a given inter-conference opponent more than once during the season unless they were to meet up in the Super Bowl. The NFL schedules inter-conference divisions to play each other on a rotating basis similar to the one described above.
The NFL, sportscasters, journalists, and fans typically use the terms "division rival" or "divisional rival" instead of "intra-divisional rival", and "conference rival" (also "NFC rival" or "AFC rival") instead of "inter-divisional rival." The use of a prefix such as "inter-" is reserved solely for games between opponents from different conferences.
The oldest NFL rivalry, dating back to when the league was founded in 1920, consists of its two remaining charter members: the Decatur Staleys/Chicago Bears and the Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals. The longest consecutive game rivalry (at least one game played in each non-strike season) is between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. It dates back to 1921 and is currently approaching 180 games, with 48 Hall of Famers and 21 league championships between the two teams. In the AFC the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns have the longest rivalry with over 110 games, two in the playoffs, and 14 league titles between them. The "turnpike rivalry" as it is called is only separated by a two-hour drive and began during the 1950 NFL season. Both of these teams were NFL franchises predating the American Football League that formed the basis of the AFC, and were moved to the AFC when the leagues merged in 1970.
No team in the NFL has faced a team from another league since 1969 (1961 if American Football League teams are ignored), and as such, interleague rivals do not exist. Though certain teams from opposing leagues (e.g. the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' and Toronto Argonauts' enmity toward the Buffalo Bills over the Bills Toronto Series) have fostered a rivalry for fan base and popularity, under current rules, the NFL cannot, and will not, schedule an actual game (even an exhibition game) against a non-NFL opponent, making such a rivalry academic.
American Football Conference
Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins
This rivalry between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins franchises has the teams playing two games against one another per season. In the 90 regular season games between the teams in the series, the Dolphins hold a 53–36–1 head-to-head advantage as of December 2010. The teams have also met four times in the NFL playoffs. The Bills are 3–1 in the postseason contests, including a victory in the 1992 AFC Championship Game.
New York Jets vs. New England Patriots
The New York Jets–New England Patriots rivalry has these two teams playing two scheduled games each season. Games between the two teams have often played out the fierce rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in Major League Baseball, as the cities of New York City and Boston are approximately 3 1⁄2 hours apart by car. More recently, the Jets have tried to overcome the Patriots domination in the division and the conference, facing them in the playoffs.
Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets
The rivalry between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets has these two teams playing twice per year. They have often competed for divisional supremacy, and have played a number of classic, memorable games. Currently, the Jets hold the advantage in the all-time series with a record of 47-43-1, while the Dolphins have won the lone postseason meeting, defeating the Jets in the 1982 AFC Championship.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The rivalry between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers is one of the most intense in the National Football League. Both teams are members of the AFC North division, and play at least twice a year in what are often battles for divisional supremacy. Both teams are known for fielding tough, hard-hitting defensive squads, giving their games an extra element of physical intensity.
The two teams have met in the postseason three times, all resulting in Steelers wins. They are the only two teams in the AFC North to have won the Super Bowl, and possess a combined 7-2 record in the game (the Ravens won in their only appearance, all others came from the Steelers).
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns
The Battle of Ohio (also known as the Buckeye State Series) refers to games played between the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals. This rivalry has produced 2 of the 8 highest scoring games in NFL history. With their October 4, 2009 win in Cincinnati, the Bengals took the lead in the all-time series, 37-35.
Geography and a shared heritage add to this rivalry. Cleveland (Northeast) and Cincinnati (Southwest) are on opposite corners of the Buckeye state, and essentially split Ohio. Legendary Head Coach Paul Brown also started each franchise. The colors of each team are similar, since Paul Brown chose the exact shade of orange used by the Browns for the Bengals, and the Bengals original uniforms were identical to the Browns uniforms, excluding the word "Bengals" on the helmet.
The rivalry would later be fueled by sociocultural differences. Although Ohio is geographically part of the Midwest, Cleveland identifies more with the Northeast while Cincinnati identifies more with the South (and particularly Kentucky and Indiana) and is more socially conservative than the rest of the state. This has led to the Browns fans being more rowdy while the Bengals fans are more laid-back. This was exemplified in 1989 during a game between the Bengals and Seattle Seahawks at Riverfront Stadium that had debris thrown from the stands. Bengals coach Sam Wyche then grabbed a microphone and told the fans, "You don't live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati!"
The Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals first played in 1970. Previously, the Bengals were a part of the American Football League. After the AFL-NFL merger the Browns and Bengals were placed in the AFC Central Division. They have played twice a year since 1970, except in 1982 (Player's strike-shortened season) and the years 1996-1998 (Art Modell had moved the Browns staff and players to Baltimore to create the Baltimore Ravens). The Browns and Bengals have never met in the playoffs.
Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Browns-Steelers rivalry is one of the most storied rivalries in the American Football Conference (AFC) and the NFL. With 117 meetings and counting, it is the oldest rivalry and surpasses other AFC rivalries by at least 5 contests. The two divisional foes have a natural rivalry due to the commonalities between the cities, proximity, etc. It is sometimes called the Turnpike Rivalry because the majority of driving route between the two cities is connected via the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders
The Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders are considered to have one of professional football's most bitter rivalries. Since the American Football League was established in 1960, the Chiefs and Raiders have shared the same division, first being the AFL Western Conference, and since the AFL-NFL merger, the AFC West.
The Chiefs lead the regular season series 54–48–2 The Oakland Raiders won the most recent meeting in overtime 16–13 on December 24, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs are ahead in playoff match-ups with a record of 2-1. The Chiefs are one of two teams in the NFL with a winning record against the Raiders (with 10 or more contests).
Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots
The rivalry between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots is one of the NFL's most famed rivalries of the 2000s. The two teams combined for four Super Bowl victories (three by the Patriots) and six American Football Conference Championships since 2001, while both are noted for their organizational excellence.
The nature of this rivalry is somewhat ironic because while the Colts and Patriots were AFC East division rivals from 1970 to 2001 (dating back to the Colts' time in Baltimore), their intensified enmity wasn't prevalent until Indianapolis was moved into the newly-formed AFC South following the 2001 season as part of the NFL's realignment. The two teams did not meet in 2002 but have met every year 2003-11. From the first game of the rivalry's renewal (a 38-34 Patriots victory highlighted by a last-second goalline stand) the rivalry has been bitterly close: following New England's 31-28 win in 2010 the Patriots lead the series with six wins (two in the playoffs) versus five wins (one playoff) for the Colts, and the Patriots hold a slim lead in points scored, 288-281. The Colts and Patriots have met every year since 2003 as both teams often finished in the same position in their divisions. The other AFC East teams have only been able to play the Colts when the East and South divisions were scheduled to play a full interlocking schedule; they will do so again in 2012.
The modern matchup is often headlined as a contest between Pro Bowl quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, who together have won six NFL MVP awards in eight years (2003-2010; four of which by Manning). Tom Brady received his first start against the Colts after an injury to then-starter Drew Bledsoe, and proceeded to defeat the Colts in his first six games against them in the next years, including the 2003 AFC Championship game and a 2004 AFC Divisional playoff game. The Colts won the next three matches, notching two regular season victories and a win in the 2006 AFC Championship game on the way to their win in Super Bowl XLI. The Patriots 2007 quest for a perfect season included a comeback 24-20 victory in their final visit to the RCA Dome. The Colts won the next two matchups; in their 2009 Super Bowl season they triumphed 35-34 following a risky 4th and 2 call by Bill Belichick. The 2010 matchup was Indy's first trip to Gillette Stadium since 2006; a last-minute Manning interception ended a 31-28 Patriots win.
National Football Conference
Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles has been one of the higher profile rivalries in the NFL over the past three decades, characterized by bitterly contested games that are typical of the NFC East. The teams play each other twice a season as they are in the same division, and thus they contest for the division crown often.
New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys
The rivalry between the Giants and Cowboys is often regarded as one of the greatest rivalries in football.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins
The rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins was called the top NFL rivalry of all time and "one of the greatest in sports" by Sports Illustrated. The two franchises have won 31 combined division titles and ten NFL Championships, including eight combined Super Bowls. They are the two wealthiest franchises in the NFL. The rivalry started in 1960 when the Cowboys joined the league as an expansion team. During that year they were in separate conferences, but played once during the season. In 1961, Dallas was placed in the same division as the Redskins, and since then they have played two times each year.
New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The rivalry between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants dates back to 1933. However, the competition began to heat up when both teams came to relative prominence in the 1940s and 1950s. The rivalry is mainly based on the two teams being in the same division in the NFL since 1933 and the geographic New York – Philadelphia rivalry. It is ranked by Sports Illustrated as amongst the top ten NFL rivalries of all-time at #4. However, the geographic rivalry between the Eagles and Giants is well known in football circles, meriting mention on ESPN.com.
New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins
The Giants and Redskins have an old and storied rivalry. While this rivalry is more lopsided in the Giants favor, there have been great periods of competition between the two teams. Most notably during the 1980's where they clashed for division titles and super bowl championships. Between 1982 and 1991 they combined for 8 division titles and 5 super bowl championships, 2 by the Giants(1986,1990) and 3 by the Redskins(1982,1987,1991). The rivalry was put to sleep due to the Redskins recent struggles, but the rivalry was re-awoken in the 2011 season when the Redskins managed to beat the New York Giants twice in the regular season.
Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
The rivalry between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers began in 1921 and is the league's longest rivalry, with 182 regular-season and post-season games. Chicago currently leads the all-time series, 92–85–6.
Note that the strike-shortened 1982 NFL season did not include a Bears-Packers game. Because of this, the Bears-Packers rivalry is not the longest continuous (played every year) rivalry. That title goes to the Packers-Lions, who have played at least once each season since 1932.
The rivalry has led to the Chicago–Milwaukee rivalry being seen in other sports, as seen between the Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers in Major League Baseball and the Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks in the National Basketball Association.
Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Bears-Vikings rivalry began when the Minnesota Vikings entered the league as an expansion team in 1961. The first time these two teams met, the Vikings stunned the Bears 37-13. The rivalry has generally seen the home team win and has recently been the sight of thriller games with huge swings. For example, the Vikings saw a 14 point lead erased in less than 2 minutes but then rallied for a last second field goal in 2007. Similarly, the Bears, huge underdogs in the 2009 matchup versus the Vikings, saw a 17 point and later 7 point lead erased, as the Vikings scored with 16 seconds left to tie. But the Bears would too survive, winning on a Devin Aromashodu touchdown in overtime. The rivalry has also been home to seemingly improbable plays, like two special team disasters for the Vikings, which costed them 14 points in a 2008 48-41 loss to the Bears. Another crazy sequence of plays was the 4th and goal defensive stand by the Vikings, followed by a 99-yard touchdown pass to the former Bear Bernard Berrian on the next play, enroute to a 34-14 Vikings win in 2008.
Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Packers-Vikings rivalry began in 1961, when the Minnesota Vikings entered the league as an expansion team. The rivalry is known for being very close, both in the all-time series and in each game. It is also considered to be one of the most intense rivalries in the National Football League, due these close games, the fact that both teams have often fought for the NFC North title, and the fact that the two states in which these teams reside (Minnesota and Wisconsin) have a rivalry in many sports, seen between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Big Ten rivals, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota. Events such as Randy Moss mooning the Green Bay crowd in the only playoff game between these two teams (won by the Vikings), and former Packer great Brett Favre's move to the Vikings have created more resentment between these teams.
Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
The Packers-Lions rivalry began in 1934 when the Portsmouth Spartans moved to Detroit. It is the longest consecutively running NFL rivalry ever. (The Bears-Packers rivalry is the longest running but there was not a Bears-Packers game in the strike-shortened 1987 season. In the last 3 meetings, two have gone to the Packers.
Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints
The Falcons–Saints rivalry is a divisional rivalry in the NFC South. At 85 games played, the series is by far the oldest and most established rivalry in the division. Born one year apart, the Saints and Falcons were the first two NFL franchises in the Deep South (Dallas being arguably southern but not in the traditional Deep South). They have shared many of the same players, such as Morten Andersen (the leading scorer in both franchises' histories), Bobby Hebert (who quarterbacked for both teams in the 1990s), and Joe Horn (the Pro Bowl Saints receiver who left for the Falcons in 2007). They have also drawn coaches from the same families, and even shared a head coach: recent Falcons coach Jim L. Mora is the son of longtime Saints coach Jim E. Mora, and former Falcons and Saints coach Wade Phillips is the son of former Saints coach Bum Phillips. Although rarely noted by the national media - no doubt due to both teams' long stretches of futility until the opening decade of the 21st century - games between the Falcons and Saints have riveted their respective regions for more than 40 years. Fans of both teams consider the other their most important and hated opponent.
ESPN.com writer Len Pasquarelli has cited the rivalry as one of the best in all of sports: "Every year, bus caravans loaded with rowdy (and usually very inebriated) fans make the seven-hour trip between the two cities. Unless you've attended a Falcons-Saints debauchery-filled afternoon, you'll just have to take my word for how much fun it really can be."
The all-time series is currently led by Atlanta at 45-40 (44-40 regular season, 1-0 playoffs). From 2006 onward the two teams have ecome consistent playoff threats; the Saints won two division titles (2006 and in their 2009 Super Bowl season) while the Falcons won the division title in 2010 and made the playoffs in 2008. Both the Saints and the Falcons have been to the Super Bowl (the Saints won it in Super Bowl XLIV over the Indianapolis Colts by 31-17, while the Falcons lost Super Bowl XXXIII to the Denver Broncos 34-19).
San Francisco 49ers vs. St. Louis Rams
The rivalry between the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams began in 1950. The rivalry became one of the most intense in the NFL in the 1970s as the two California based teams (the Rams then played their home games in Southern California) regularly competed for the NFL's NFC West Division title. After the Rams move to St. Louis in 1995 the rivalry lost its geographical lore, though games are still intense no matter what the standings indicate. The cultural differences between the West Coast (where the 49ers are based) and the Midwest (the home base for the Rams) also added to the intensity of the rivalry. Sports Illustrated considers their rivalry the 8th best of all time in the National Football League.
Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers
The Dallas Cowboys have been a major rival of the 49ers. San Francisco has played Dallas in seven postseason games. The Cowboys defeated the 49ers in the 1970 and 1971 NFC Championship games, and again in the 1972 Divisional Playoff Game. The 1981 NFC Championship Game in San Francisco, which saw the 49ers' Joe Montana complete a game-winning pass to Dwight Clark in the final minute (now known as "The Catch"), is one of the most famous games in NFL history.The rivalry became even more intense during the 1992-1994 seasons. San Francisco and Dallas faced each other in the NFC Championship Game three separate times. Dallas won the first two match-ups, and San Francisco won the third. In each of these pivotal match-ups, the game's victor went on to win the Super Bowl. Both the Cowboys and the 49ers are second all time in Super Bowl victories to the Pittsburgh Steelers with five each. The 49ers-Cowboys rivalry is also part of the larger cultural rivalry between California and Texas, or more specifically, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex.
New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers
The rivalry between the Giants and 49ers is rooted in the 1980s when both teams were on the rise. The Giants and 49ers have met in the playoffs 8 times in the last 25 years, with both teams having won 4 games. The Giants beat the Montana led 49ers 49–3 in the divisional round of the 1986 playoffs enrout to winning the first Super Bowl Championship in franchise history. They would again meet in the playoffs in the 1990 NFC Championship game. In one of the most physical football games ever played the Giants upset the 49ers 15–13, ruining their hopes of winning three Super Bowls in a row. The 49ers would exact revenge in 1993 when they would soundly defeat the Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs 44–3 in the last game of Lawrence Taylor’s and Phil Simms’ careers. The two met again in the 2002 playoffs in the closest-fought contest of the rivalry's history; the Giants raced to a 38-14 lead before the 49ers erupted with 25 unanswered points; a last-second field goal attempt by the Giants failed on a blown snap and a controversial throw to the end zone. Most recently, the 49ers and Giants met in the 2011 NFC Conference Championship game. The game was closely contested, with back and forth touchdowns and field goals, and headed into overtime with a tie score of 17-17. On a Giants' 3-and-out, Kyle Williams dropped the punt, allowing the Giants to recover and clinch the game with a 31 yard field goal. As of the 2011 season the regular-season series is tied 14-14 while the playoff series is tied at 4-4.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Cowboys–Steelers Rivalry is an interconference rivalry. As such, the two teams only meet during the regular season every four years when the AFC North play the NFC East, and aside from occasional preseason matchups the only other way the two teams would meet would be the Super Bowl. However for the first decade of the Cowboys existence Pittsburgh and Dallas were heated division rivals, in fact the first Dallas Cowboys NFL game was against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams also boast the most numerous Super Bowl matchup in history with three Dallas-Pittsburgh championships, more than any other Super Bowl pairing (Dallas-Buffalo, San Francisco-Cincinnati, Washington-Miami, and New York-New England having been played only twice).
The all-time series is currently tied at 15-15.
Governor's Cup rivalries
Texas: Dallas Cowboys vs. Houston Texans
The Texas Governor's Cup is the trophy awarded to the winner of the football game between the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans. The two teams usually meet in the pre-season in years they do not play in the regular season. However in 2010 the teams faced each other in the pre-season and in week three of the regular season. The Governors Cup history dates back to the days of the Houston Oilers. In 1991, after 13 straight games at Texas Stadium, the two teams went to a home-and-away format for the preseason. The two teams currently meet every fourth year in the regular season rotating home field advantage.
Missouri: St. Louis Rams vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Governor's cup for Missouri has been played annually (outside of a few seasons) by the Kansas City Chiefs and the St. Louis Rams since the Rams moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995. The teams have met 17 times, 12 preseason games and 5 regular season games. The Rams lead the preseason series 7-5 and the Chiefs have won all 5 regular season games. The rivalry originates from St. Louis Cardinals and Chiefs annual series before the Cardinals moved to Arizona, the Chiefs led that series as well 16-7-2, regular season and preseason included.
Other current in-state/regional AFC-NFC rivalries
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
These teams are two of the oldest in the league. Both were enfranchised in 1933, and played frequently prior to the AFL-NFL merger. The teams were division rivals from 1933-66, except for a two-year period during World War II in which the Steelers merged with other teams, the first year of which was a merger with the Eagles.
As hapless as the Eagles/Steelers were in their early years, the rivalry was pretty even in the first 24 meetings. Heading into their second 1947 meeting, the Eagles only had a 12-11-1 series lead. From there, the Eagles began to dominate the series, going 16-4 over the next 20 games, including the 1947 Eastern Division playoff, that remains their only playoff meeting to this day (any others have to come in Super Bowls).
In 1959, it was on October 11 at Philadelphia that commissioner Bert Bell died of a heart attack while watching these teams play. The Eagles scored the game-winning touchdown as Bell suffered his fatal heart attack. Few knew that he had planned to leave his post to regain ownership of the Eagles the next year.
From 1957-63, the rivalry was competitive again. The Steelers won 7 of 14 games, with both games in 1963 being ties. The Eagles won 5 of the last six in the divisional rivalry (which ended 38-23-3 in favor of the Eagles). In 1967, the teams were placed in separate divisions for the first time ever (the Eagles in the Capitol, the Steelers in the Century). They only met once each year from 1967-69, with the home team winning all three games (the Eagles twice, the Steelers once).
In 1970, the Eagles remained with most of the old NFL teams in the National Football Conference, but the Steelers were one of three teams to make the move to the American Football Conference, as part of the NFL-AFL merger. Meetings became much more infrequent, with only 10 meetings since the merger. They did not meet at all from 1980-87, though they were planned to meet in 1982 on Monday Night Football.
From 1988-2000, the teams met every three years, luckily enough despite the NFL scheduling formulas in place over those years. Philadelphia has continued to dominate the rivalry, which now is staged every four years (their next meeting after 2000 was in 2004, and will meet in every leap year barring a change to the formula).
The 2000 game was the first overtime game in the series. The Steelers had a 10-point fourth quarter lead at home (their final meeting at Three Rivers Stadium), but the Eagles stormed back and sent the game into overtime, where David Akers would kick the game-winning field goal.
2004 brought much more hype to the series. Both teams entered the game with the best records in their respective conferences. But the Steelers dominated that day, as then-rookie Ben Rothlisberger won his sixth consecutive start, 27-3; the game was also noteworthy for a heated sideline exchange between Eagles receiver Terrell Owens and quarterback Donovan McNabb. Both teams advanced to their respective conference championship games in 2004 (just as they did in 2001, the first time that happened), but only the Eagles would go on to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Patriots (in contrast, both lost in 2001, while in 2008, the Steelers would win against the team that beat the Eagles, the Cardinals).
Overall, the 2000s marked the first time in years that both teams were regularly competitive. At least one team has made the playoffs every year since 2000, and are a combined 2-2 in the Super Bowl (both championships won by Pittsburgh).
Battle of the Bay: Oakland Raiders VS. San Francisco 49ers
The Raiders and 49ers share a rivalry that dates back to the first season of the AFL. The Raiders, despite being named after Oakland, were forced to play their home games in San Francisco for the first two years - a situation that sat well with neither team, nor their fans. It was only in 1962 that the Raiders began playing in Oakland.
Both teams saw success in different periods. The Raiders won their first two Super Bowl championships while in Oakland (in a five-year span), while the 49ers won five titles between 1981-94 (during all but one year - 1981 - of this period, the Raiders were in Los Angeles). The Bay Area has a total of seven Super Bowl championships.
As a cross-town rivalry, it has been relatively evenly-matched. The Raiders won two of the first three games from 1970-79, while the 49ers have dominated the series since 1995, going 3-1. From 1979-2000, they met every 3 years (except in 1997). They are currently scheduled to meet in every season that shares a calender year with a Winter Olympics (for at least 16 weeks). In the meantime, the Raiders won 3 of 5 during the time they were in LA.
The 2002 meeting was noteworthy as the Niners faced their former receiver Jerry Rice for the first time since he was released by San Francisco after the 2000 season; taking place on November 3 at Network Associates Coliseum the Raiders rallied from a 20-13 gap in the fourth quarter, tying the game on a Charlie Garner touchdown run. The Niners drove to a field goal attempt but Jose Cortez missed badly. The game went to overtime and Jeff Garcia ran for a first down, then came a foot short on a third-down attempt, leading to a Fred Beasley sneak for the first-down conversion; a throw to Terrell Owens set up another Cortez FGA, this one a successful 23-yarder and a 23-20 Niners win. Rice was held to six catches for 74 yards while Owens, the receiver who replaced him as the Niners' #1 deep threat, had 12 catches for 191 yards.
The two teams were regular matchups on each others' preseason slate, but following two shootings at Candlestick Park on August 20, 2011 (following a 17-3 Niners win over the Raiders) came word that the preseason rivalry would be discontinued.
Battle of New York: Jets vs. Giants
Over the years, there have actually been several NFL teams playing in the New York City metropolitan area, but the Giants and the Jets are the only surviving teams.
The modern rivalry dates back to 1970, when the Giants beat the Jets 22-10 at Shea Stadium. The Jets won 4 of the next 6 meetings to take a 4-3 series lead heading into the 1996 meeting.
One of the more memorable contests was in 1974. The game went into overtime - 1974 was the first year of overtime in the regular season. The Jets and Giants played a back-and-forth game, with most of the time having either the score tied or the Giants in the lead. Entering overtime, the score was tied at 20, but the Jets would take the victory when Joe Namath threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Emerson Boozer. This is seen as some as the true beginning of the rivalry. Oddly enough, it was not played in New York, but rather the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut - the Giants' then-home, Yankee Stadium, was being renovated and thus unavailable for use (New Haven is today considered part of the extended NYC metro area).
The rivalry became more heated in the 1980s, when the Jets left Shea Stadium to take residence as tenants in Giants Stadium. The Jets had to pay dues to the Giants. This ended in 2010 when MetLife Stadium opened - it is a joint partnership between both teams. Most recently, in 2011, the Giants defeated the Jets in a heated Christmas Eve match that had major playoff implications. The convincing victory propelled the Giants to a playoff run and eliminated the Jets from postseason contention.
The teams will meet next in 2015, and every four years after that.
Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks
When the Seattle Seahawks were established in 1976, they were originally part of the National Football Conference, West Division. The next year, the Seahawks moved to the AFC West, and so the Seahawks would face the Denver Broncos twice a year, once at home and again on the road (they only met once in 1977).
The first meeting between the two teams, took place on October 2, 1977. The game was hosted at the Seattle Kingdome. The match resulted in a 24-13 Denver win. The Seahawks first win against the Denver Broncos took place on December 8, 1979 at the Seattle Kingdome. The final score was 28-23.
On December 24, 1983, the Seahawks hosted the Broncos in the AFC Wildcard playoff game. This was Elway's first playoff game. The Seahawks advanced with a huge 31-7 victory over the Denver Broncos.
During the John Elway era, The Broncos went 21-12 against the Seattle Seahawks, including the 1983 loss in the Wildcard playoffs.
Overall, the Broncos are 34-18 against the Seattle Seahawks
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