Rivalries rule the world. Either in our music, or with West Coast vs. East Coast. Rivalry to define professional wrestling, through deep feuds like The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin. And in comic culture, DC vs. Marvel is a clash of biblical proportions.
The NFL is no different. Growing up, I remember that my father had an extra spring in his passage every time Chicago beat Green Bay. And while I can’t wait for the Bears to fight with those northern boys, today I wanted to take a moment to give you the 10 best rivalries Right now – that is, heading towards the 2020 campaign, rather than historically speaking.
Yes, some of the rivalries listed below appear to be classic conflicts, while others reflect recent developments such as coaching changes and / or staff shuffling. All they are very tempting.
Let’s go to this!
10) Carolina Panthers against Washington Redskins
What are these two teams fighting for, the first choice? Oh, it’s just rude. But there have been some big changes in Washington and Carolina, with one common denominator: Ron Rivera. The new trainer Redskins gives a franchise some authority and discipline that needs these things for quite some time. And he has a good defense to work with. The Panthers moved from Rivera to take Matt Rhule from college ranks. I don’t expect this showdown on FedExField to be a preview of the NFC championship game or something. But it could definitely be fun Thursday night of football matchup. (Especially if you have Christian McCaffrey on your fantasy team.)
9) Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last year has been quite interesting for the Steelers. I saw Le’Veon Bell walking in a free agency. Antonio Brown exchanged with the Marauders. (Days after almost swapping “Mr. Big Chest” with the Bills.) Lost Ben Roethlisberger for the season in week 2. And when it looked like they could end up with a top five pick, they swapped him with Miami for Minkah Fitzpatrick. Despite everything, Pittsburgh barely missed the playoffs thanks to its reborn defense. Unfortunately for the Steelers, they also had to watch the hated Ravens secure the best seed in the AFC playoffs. (Of course, Steelers fans obviously enjoyed seeing Baltimore go back and forth in the post season.) Now, going into the 2020 campaign, the poison in one of the best rivalries in the sport remains high – and I can’t wait. The Steelers seem to be returning to the top of the division, while the Ravens have somehow managed to further improve this offseason by adding Calais Campbell – which does not seem fair – as well as Michael Brockers. This annual home and home series will be a must see on TV.
8) Green Bay Packers against San Francisco 49ers
A classic NFL rivalry. You can close your eyes and imagine Pat Summerall and John Madden on the phone. It was good to see these teams face twice last season, including a clash in the NFC championship game. It was like seeing one of your favorite 90s bands get together for a variety of shows. Obviously, Green Bay played the role of the lead singer who let himself go, as the pack was not competitive in either match. But they were still out there singing the biggest hits! Well, the teams are lined up to fight once again this season at least once – in the Levi stadium – as the 49ers are one of the best teams in the NFC again. And the Packers will line up a team anyway.
7) Dallas Cowboys against New York Giants
Speaking of the Summerall-Madden games, this NFC East rivalry should be a surprise in 2020. Yes, I guess the division will likely go down to the Eagles and Cowboys, but I’m really looking forward to Dallas clashing with New York. Not only do I think Big Blue will be much more competitive next season, but they also added Jason Garrett to the technical staff as an offensive coordinator. And Garrett is looking for revenge as much as any coach who has been given a decade to lead one of the NFL franchises and has won two playoff games. OK, but seriously, though: it must be at least a little salty. And really, I just hope he instinctively applauds every time the Cowboys play a great game because some habits are hard to break.
6) Cleveland Browns against Pittsburgh Steelers
I was looking forward to doing it last year … and it has disappointed me worse than The Rise of Skywalker. But every time they make another one Star Wars Scroll down, I’ll be in line for this. Likewise, this year I will deal with Browns-Steelers. Both teams should be improved. The Browns began to face their biggest problem area – the offensive attack – with the signature of Jack Conklin, and they could have added another OT with the overall choice no. 10 next month. And the additions of FB Andy Janovich and TE Austin Hooper will improve the game of running (and offense, in general). The Steelers will be better off with Ben Roethlisberger back in the center, and free agent signer Eric Ebron supplies the quarterback with another offensive weapon. But let’s be real: I’m burying the lede here. Myles Garrett against the Steelers. It was a bad accident last November, but we all know as sports fans that we will think about it while these two teams will face off twice in 2020.
5) Arizona Cardinals vs. San Francisco 49ers
It’s amazing how quickly things can change in the NFL. Just a year ago, everyone was looking for the next Sean McVay to lead their team. He is now the least interesting manager of the division. Especially with Kyle Shanahan and Kliff Kingsbury leading exciting teams. The 49ers are loaded for the bear, ready to return to the Super Bowl. Filling the void left by the DeForest Buckner trade will be difficult, but if that choice no. 13 a WR stallion like CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy lands in San Francisco, the Niners will be well equipped in attack. And speaking of receivers, the Cardinals benefited from Bill O’Brien’s apparent desperation to make people forget the 24-point advantage he blew up in the playoffs by swapping one of the best players on the planet. This team of cardinals, with DeAndre Hopkins joining second-year quarterback Kyler Murray, seems ready to make a leap to the reigning conference champions.
4) Denver Broncos vs. Los Angeles Chargers
AFC West has long had some of the league’s best rivalries. And with the Chiefs who are Super Bowl champions and the Raiders are basically the world’s rivals, those seem like automatic adaptations. But I really love the juice that has been added to Chargers-Broncos’ rivalry this low season. The Bronco Melvin Gordon recently coined reportedly had a more profitable opportunity to play elsewhere, but wanted to play his former team twice a year. Sure, Gordon somehow played from Los Angeles, but you have to respect the spite of staying in the division. And the chargers have also improved – at least in defense, where they added former Bronco Chris Harris Jr. to an already impressive secondary.
3) Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots
The Patriots seem extremely vulnerable right now, having lost a player whose shoes seem impossible to fill: Kyle Van Noy. Oh, right: Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton and that Tom Brady guy also lost. This seems like the most appropriate time to overthrow New England in two decades. Even if it is totally not it will surprise me when I see Brian Hoyer lift the seventh Lombardi Pats trophy. But until then, let’s look at some of the AFC East teams ready to fight the Pats and although you may favor the Bills (just out of the playoffs and freshman with the addition of Stefon Diggs), I really like what the Dolphins have done this season. In addition to getting Van Noy, they added Byron Jones and Shaq Lawson to their defense. The combination of Jones and Xavien Howard gives Brian Flores’ defense a patriotic appearance. And if you consider that it was Ryan Fitzpatrick who was as responsible as anyone for the Patriot stumbling block at the end of last season, this will be the rivalry to watch in AFC East.
2) New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The obvious headliner of this NFC South rivalry will be the showdown of two of the best quarterbacks who have ever done so: Tom Brady and Taysom Hill. Boy, Drew Brees. We are here for the epic episodes of Brady Vs. Brees, although the excitement is a little temperate, since the home and home series comes so late in the players’ career. Like when Sting went to WWE. We have wanted it for years. And it was fun when it happened, but it could have been better if it had happened before. And if I can delve a little deeper into the analogy of wrestling … If you look beyond the headliners, I love the undercard matchup of two of the best tandems they receive in the game: Michael Thomas and Manny Sanders against Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. Thomas claimed “BEST RECEIVER ON FOOTBALL” status last year, when he set the NFL’s one-season record with 149 receptions. Godwin broke out with 86 catches and I’m projecting that number to be even higher this year. And then you have two of the great offensive minds of Sean Payton and Bruce Arians. It won’t drive me crazy if these two division enemies play three times.
1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens
Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are already the next big rivalry of the AFC quarterback, following in the footsteps of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Some of you may think I’m jumping the gun here, but I’m not. Mahomes and Jackson have captured the last two NFL MVP awards. Mahomes went from winning the MVP championship in his first season as an appetizer to winning the Super Bowl MVP in his second. This is the NFL equivalent of putting out Star Wars and later with The empire strikes again. (My inner nerd is REALLY bright in this piece. I’m sorry I don’t apologize.) The next step for Jackson is to step up this season in the playoffs. And really, the only thing missing from this rivalry is an epic playoff showdown. But first, we’ll just have to settle for another regular season bout – this time in Baltimore. (Don’t forget: Mahomes and Co. defended Arrowhead Stadium and delivered one of two regular season losses to the Ravens in 2019.) Something tells me that Ravens Chiefs will get prime-time love from NFL programmers.
Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @adamrank.