Thanks to flex scheduling, just about every Sunday Night Football matchup can stake a claim to involving one of the best rivalries in the NFL. Another of those showdowns takes place Sunday, when the Patriots visit the despised New York Jets.
The Pats-Jets rivalry has always been heated, but it has raged into an inferno since Rex Ryan took over as Jets head coach in 2009. Since then, the run-up to game day has been nearly as entertaining as the game itself.
In the conversation of best rivalries in football, this game certainly belongs. But is it the best?
The Ravens and Steelers made another case last week for theirs currently being the most bitter rivalry. Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh emphasized that after his team posted a 23-20 comeback victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday night a week ago.
“This Steelers-Ravens game is a game for men,” Harbaugh said. “This is a game for big men. You’ve got to shine bright in this game if you want to win this game.”
The measure of a rivalry is how it stands the test of time, however. It’s taken 15 years for Baltimore to grow into Pittsburgh’s top rival; 10 years ago, the vaunted Jaguars were arguably a bigger rival of the Steelers than the Ravens. Who knows if the nation will still call this a “rivalry” in another decade?
The greatest rivalries may be the ones immortalized in the grainy NFL Films footage with John Facenda‘s voice intoned over dramatic music. The Packers and Bears are “real football” personified, with frosted, rock-hard turf and bloody knuckles required by law before the players are even allowed to take the field. The Vikings belonged in this category, too, until they began playing in a dome in 1982.
While the rest of the football world is in awe of the Packers this season, the Bears are surely cracking their knuckles and awaiting that Week 16 matchup at Lambeau Field. The forecast calls for freezing temperatures and pain.
Don’t tell anybody in the nation’s capital that there’s a bigger rivalry than Redskins-Cowboys, though. When these teams play, all talk of politics screeches to a halt in Washington, D.C., and folks in Dallas get even more unbearable than usual. Recent struggles also haven’t lessened the hatred between the Raiders and Broncos; somewhere in the afterlife, Al Davis is still cursing the Orange Crush.