The names and faces change, but when it comes to a rivalry, you know it when you see it. Over the years, the New England Patriots have engendered more than their share of bad blood around the NFL. But there’s a fine line between simply disliking New England and creating a real legacy of antagonism.
From this perspective, a rivalry consists of a few basic elements: one, there’s a relatively level playing field when it comes to wins and losses on both sides. Two, signature/meaningful wins at home and on the road. And three, a certainly undefined irritability that can manifest itself in trash talk or postgame sour grapes with the media, or simply pushing and shoving after the whistle.
With that in mind, we decided to ask: Which teams can boast of being a true rival of the Patriots? Here’s our take on the current top 10:
These two teams have engaged in a really nice little blood feud over the last few seasons, and Denver is maybe the one team that can boast of getting over on Tom Brady in the postseason with any sort of consistency — three of Brady’s nine losses in the playoffs have come against the Broncos. Going forward, without Peyton Manning in the opposite corner, it’s not going to be the same. But you can guarantee that Denver certainly won’t let the Patriots forget what happened last year, especially in the run-up to this year’s game, set for Dec. 18 in Denver.
You could make a case that Baltimore had ascended to the role of chief pain-in-the-ass status around Foxboro by the end of the 2014 season for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the Ravens took plenty of glee in the fact that they forced through some rules changed aimed at limiting the New England offense. When you toss in the fact that they almost always played the Patriots tough and could boast of a couple of playoff wins in Foxboro, it’s easy to see how they’ve attained such lofty heights. Baltimore was weakened by injury last season and suffered through a down year, but if the Ravens are healthy this time around. That means the Monday, Dec. 18 game in Foxboro between the two teams should be another fun matchup.
Indy used to be right there with the Patriots — their semi-annual battles from 2003-2010 were some of the most compelling theatre in the recent history of the league. But things sort of dropped off after the departure of Peyton Manning, Bill Polian and Tony Dungy. However, Deflategate restarted the feud between the two franchises, one that again feels as fresh as lettuce. One interesting note — while they could theoretically meet in the playoffs, there will be no regular-season matchup between the Patriots and Colts this season. It’ll mark just the second time since Bill Belichick took over that the two teams won’t meet in the regular season.
“Jets Week” isn’t what it used to be around Gillette Stadium — not sure there was anything like the peak Rex years of 2009-2011, where everything was blown wildly out of proportion — but New York has a permanent spot in the Top 5 based on history alone.
Continued on the next page……