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NFL Rivalries: The Biggest Rivalries in the NFL

Written by: Michael Savio
Published September 1, 2023
15 min read

There are few rivalries greater than those that can be found in the NFL. The league has dominated the US sports landscape over the last two decades, and the fire behind those rivalries is one reason why. 

No matter how bad a team’s season is going, a win or two against a division rival can reignite a fanbase. Bragging rights over rival fans can be enough to salvage a season. That is especially true for the league’s biggest rivalries, of which there are ten that stand above the rest.

Below, we will be ranking the top ten biggest NFL rivalries. We will be considering factors such as the history, overall record, and their effect on the league as a whole. If you are wondering who the biggest NFL rivals are, we have you covered!

NFL Biggest Rivalries

#10 New York Jets vs New England Patriots

  • FIRST MATCHUP: 1960
  • OVERALL RECORD: Patriots lead 73-54-1
  • PLAYOFF MEETINGS:
  • 2022 RECORD: Patriots 2-0

We can’t have a rivalry list that doesn’t have a New York vs Boston matchup on it. These two towns are among the biggest rivals in the country across sports, and the NFL is no exception. The Jets' years of struggle and the post-Brady Patriots' play keep this one from being ranked higher, but there is too much history to leave it off the list. 

While there have been many battles over the years, the most recent peak came in the Mark Sanchez-Tom Brady era. The Jets finally found success under coach Rex Ryan, who led the team to an impressive 11 wins in 2010. While they lost to the Steelers in the AFC Championship game, they were able to pull off a massive upset by beating the 14-2 Patriots in the second round. 

The Jets could not maintain success for long, but the Eric Mangini era added some extra spice to this rivalry. The former Jets coach exposed the Patriots for taping opponent practices, which ended up costing them a first-round pick. Expect to see this rivalry in full effect this season with a vastly improved Jets team.

#9 Dallas Cowboys vs Washington Commanders

  • FIRST MATCHUP: 1960
  • OVERALL RECORD: Cowboys lead 76-48-2
  • PLAYOFF MEETINGS: 2
  • 2022 RECORD: Split 1-1

This is a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1958. Former Cowboys owner Clint Murchison Jr. was set to buy Washington’s team, but the team backed out of the deal. That led to an angry Murchison Jr, who went out and bought the rights to Washington’s fight song, “Hail to the Redskins”. That spark lit what would become one of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL. 

There was a time when this would have ranked far higher on our list, but neither team has seen much success over the last decade. The Commanders are 63-97 over their last ten seasons, while the Cowboys just managed to win a playoff game for the first time since 2018.

The good news is that this rivalry may once again heat up. The Commanders were 8-8 last season and could take another step forward in 2023. The Cowboys are expected to be a playoff team once again this season, which could lead to a thrilling late-season matchup between these rivals. 

#8 Cincinnati Bengals vs Cleveland Browns

  • FIRST MATCHUP: 1970 
  • OVERALL RECORD: Bengals lead 52-47
  • PLAYOFF MEETINGS: 0
  • 2022 RECORD: Split 1-1
NFL Rivalries Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals and Browns may not have the most exciting rivalry, but the Battle for Ohio is always the season highlight for these two teams and fanbases. Both franchises were started by Paul Brown, with these teams first playing each other for the first time in 1970. Football is the only sport where these two Ohio cities fall into the same division, making it the only outlet for this interstate rivalry.

This rivalry began to really pick up steam in the 1980s and 1990s when both teams were perennial playoff contenders. Things changed when the Browns stunned the league (and Cleveland) by moving to Baltimore. The team was brought back in 1999, though the Browns struggled to regain their former success.

While this rivalry has been more about bragging rights than titles, that looks to be changing. The Browns have their best team since re-starting in Cleveland, and the Bengals are among the top three Super Bowl favorites. With the Steelers and Ravens down a bit, it could be time for this rivalry to take center stage in the AFC North.

#7 Minnesota Vikings vs Green Bay Packers

  • FIRST MATCHUP: 1961
  • OVERALL RECORD: Packers lead 65-57-3
  • PLAYOFF MEETINGS: 2
  • 2022 RECORD: Split 1-1

This has been one of the most heated rivalries over the last two decades. While it doesn’t even rank as the Packer’s top rivalry, these teams have been fighting for the NFC North yearly. That includes a couple of exciting playoff battles, which have continued to add fuel to an already red-hot rivalry.

While there are plenty of reasons for these teams to dislike each other, the rivalry was kicked into high gear in 2005 when Randy Moss pretended to moon Packer fans after scoring a key touchdown en route to a playoff win. The rivalry got another big boost when Packers’ legend Brett Favre left the team to head to the Vikings for payback against the franchise. That defection is something that still causes bad blood between these two fanbases.

Green Bay leads the series 21-15-2 since that infamous 2005 Wildcard loss, including an upset 41-17 win to finish last season. While the Packers’s future without Rodgers is still unknown, you can expect this to continue to be one of the fiercest rivalries in all of sports. 

#6 New Orleans Saints vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • FIRST MATCHUP: 1977
  • OVERALL RECORD: Saints lead 39-24
  • PLAYOFF MEETINGS: 1
  • 2022 RECORD: Bucs 2-0

This is one of the newer rivalries on this list, but it has quickly become one of the most intense. Things took off in 2002 when the NFL added both teams to the new NFC South division. Both made Super Bowl appearances within the first eight years of the new division, causing this rivalry to heat up quickly.

While these two have only met once in the playoffs, it was a thriller. Tom Brady and the Bucs were able to beat Drew Brees and the Saints in the 2020-21 NFL Playoffs. That win sent Tampa on its way to their second Super Bowl win. That game also ended Brees’s run with the Saints, and the franchise has yet to recapture their previous success. 

The Bucs Super Bowl years are likely over as Brady is gone, and an uncertain future remains ahead. The Saints are in a similar situation, which will only add to this rivalry. While they may not be playoff teams, you can bet their matchups will still generate plenty of excitement in 2023.

#5 Arizona Cardinals vs Los Angeles Rams

  • FIRST MATCHUP: 1937
  • OVERALL RECORD: Rams lead 48-40-2
  • PLAYOFF MEETINGS: 2
  • 2022 RECORD: Split 1-1
NFL Rivalries Arizona Cardinals

While the Rams only recently moved back to the City of Angels, their rivalry with the Cardinals has not faded. Phoenix and Los Angeles are division rivals in the NBA, MLB, and NFL, which has led to many memorable clashes over the years. 

We saw these two rivals meet in the playoffs in the 2021-22 season, with the Rams blowing out the Cardinals en route to a Super Bowl victory. These teams have struggled since that fateful game, but that hasn’t stopped Rams and Cardinal fans from circling these games on their calendar. 

Last year was one of the worst for these two teams, with the Rams and Cardinals finishing in the bottom four of the league. However, both lost their starting quarterback for much of the season. Matthew Stafford will be back for the Rams this season, and Kyle Murray should return after the first month. Both are good enough to boost their teams’ records, which could again lead to this rivalry having playoff implications.

#4 Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals

  • FIRST MATCHUP: 1970
  • OVERALL RECORD: Steelers lead 68-39
  • PLAYOFF MEETINGS:
  • 2022 RECORD: Split 1-1

While these teams haven’t always been competitive in the same season, this is one of the most heated rivalries in all of sports. The two blue-collar cities have loyal fanbases that despise each other. That has continued on, even after a long stretch where the Bengals were the joke of the NFL. Now, they are a perennial Super Bowl contender and will be looking to get payback against their arch-rival over the next decade.

These two teams have played each other twice a season since 1970, but the rivalry exploded in 2005 when they met in the AFC Wild Card game in Cincinnati. The Steelers would injure Bengals’ star quarterback Carson Palmer early in the game and went on to win after a 24-0 run. Bengals fans pointed to dirty plays from the Steelers to intentionally injure Palmer, something they will still insist on to this day.

The Bengals are expected to contend for years to come with a young superstar quarterback at the helm. Joe Burrows is a generational talent that has already led them to an AFC Championship. The Steelers’ future is less certain, with second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett behind center. Regardless of who is at quarterback, you can always expect big hits and loud crowds when these teams meet.

#3 Pittsburgh Steelers vs Baltimore Ravens

  • FIRST MATCHUP: 1996
  • OVERALL RECORD: Steelers lead 33-25
  • PLAYOFF MEETINGS: 4
  • 2022 RECORD: Split 1-1

What this matchup lacks in history, it makes up for with playoff battles. These two are tied for the most postseason meetings of any rivalry on this list, with the Steelers winning three of the four games. The pair have dominated the AFC North for almost two decades, leading to a fierce rivalry that ranks among the league’s biggest.

While this rivalry has been going strong since the 90s, things really picked up in the Joe Flacco vs Ben Roethlisberger era. Both teams won a Super Bowl during that stretch, but 2008 was really when things took off. The Ravens and Steelers played three times during that season, including the AFC Championship game. While the Steelers won all three games, the margin of victory was small. Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl that season and set the Ravens on a path for revenge.

That era ended in 2018 when the Ravens traded Flacco in favor of Lamar Jackson. These two teams had a few more battles before Ben Roethlisberger retired after the 2021 season. The Ravens are still among the AFC’s top teams as the Steelers rebuild, but you can still throw away the records when these teams meet.

#2 Philadelphia Eagles vs Dallas Cowboys

  • FIRST MATCHUP: 1960
  • OVERALL RECORD: Cowboys lead 69-53
  • PLAYOFF MEETINGS: 4
  • 2022 RECORD: Split 1-1

Many fanbases consider the Cowboys their biggest rival, but that title truly belongs to the Eagles. These two teams have been fighting for division titles for decades, giving us many memorable moments. The Eagles and Cowboys have met in the playoffs four times, though those games are not among their most thrilling. 

We could highlight a million moments from this rivalry here, but this really comes down to the fanbases. The NFC East is unique in that it includes a non-regional team. Anyone who has visited Dallas and Philidelphia knows that these two cultures could not be further apart. That just adds to the rivalry lore, with the infamous Philly crowd crashing with the diehard fans from the heart of Texas.

Unlike many rivalries on this list, the Eagles and Cowboys are among the NFC’s best teams. That will make their division matchups carry a lot of weight, which will serve to ignite this rivalry further. It also could set up their fifth postseason meeting, adding more fuel to the fire between these two.

#1 Green Bay Packers vs Chicago Bears

  • FIRST MATCHUP: 1921
  • OVERALL RECORD: Packers lead 105-95-6
  • PLAYOFF MEETINGS: 2
  • 2022 RECORD: Packers 2-0
NFL Rivalries Green Bay Packers

When you look at all of the factors we reviewed when making this list, none can compare to this century-old rivalry. These teams have been division rivals since 1933, leading to their massive game total. They have combined to win 22 NFL Championships and have sent 67 players to the Hall of Fame. Chicago and Green Bay also have the two oldest stadiums, though Soldier Field will soon be gone.

There really isn’t a moment where this rivalry took off, at least not in football. Wisconsinites and Illinoisans have been rivals since The Great Water War of 1892 when Chicago illegally tapped into Wisconsin spring waters for their World’s Fair. That formed a rivalry far more significant than football, and residents now use the Packers-Bears rivalry to let off that steam.

While the Packers have dominated this rivalry for almost 30 years now, things may be changing. The Bears are hopeful Justin Fields will be the star quarterback they have desperately searched for. Conversely, the Packers will enter their first season without a Hall of Famer behind center since 1992. We won’t have to wait long to see how that changes this rivalry, as these two meet in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season. 

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AUTHOR

Michael Savio

412 Articles

Michael is an avid sports fan and a veteran bettor from Milwaukee. He learned the trade from his grandfather in Las Vegas as a kid and has turned that into a successful career. He cheers for all Wisconsin pro teams along with his Alma Mater Arizona State. He specializes in baseball betting, but has experience in football, basketball, and hockey as well. When he isn’t pouring over stats, he’s spending time with his two young children.

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