The 12 Biggest NFL Rivalries In the League's History

These are the matchups that football fans look forward to the most ever year!

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There are certain matchups that football fans circle on the calendar the second the annual NFL schedule is released, but what are the biggest rivalries in NFL history? These rivalries extend beyond the gridiron, ingrained in the fabric of American sports lore. Whether it's the historic clashes between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears or the perennial battles between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Football Team, these matchups are etched into the collective consciousness of football fans nationwide. Whether its dethroning a team in the Super Bowl or a divisional opponent that battle twice a year during the regular season, there are plenty of reasons to establish a bona fide rivalry in the NFL. From comebacks to blowouts, today we explore the 12 biggest rivalries in the NFL's history.

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12. Kansas City Chiefs vs. Las Vegas Raiders

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(Photo by Kirby Lee/Getty Images)
  • Head-To-Head Record: Chiefs lead 73-55-2
  • First Matchup: September 16, 1960

The Chiefs vs. Raiders matchup stands as one of the most storied and intense rivalries in NFL history. Rooted in decades of competition, both teams have historically battled for dominance within the AFC West division.

The intensity of the rivalry only deepened as both franchises achieved success in the 1970s. The Chiefs and Raiders regularly competed for division titles and playoff berths, with each victory carrying added significance beyond the standings. Memorable games, controversial plays, and dramatic finishes became hallmarks of their matchups, captivating fans and etching the rivalry into NFL history.

11. New England Patriots vs. New York Jets

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(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
  • Head-To-Head Record: Patriots lead 74-55-1
  • First Matchup: September 17, 1960

The Patriots vs. Jets rivalry is a classic AFC East showdown that has simmered with intensity over the years, marked by memorable games, key player matchups, and dramatic moments that have fueled the competitive fire between the two teams. What started as a simple division rivalry became a wild back-and-forth in the late 1990's, with the Jets signing former Patriots head coach Bill Parcells and his coaching staff (including Bill Belichick) in 1997, as well as star running back (and future Hall of Famer) Curtis Martin. The Patriots in turn stole Bill Belichick back in January of 2000, just hours after Bill Parcells retired and Belichick became the active Jets head coach, scribbling "I resign as HC of the NYJ" on a piece of paper on his way out the door.

The rivalry intensified further with the hiring of head coachRex Ryan for the Jets, whose outspoken personalities and strategic prowess added an extra layer of intrigue to their encounters, saying at his opening press conference that he wasn't brought there to "kiss Belichick's rings". Both teams engaged in a series of memorable battles, with each victory and defeat carrying added significance in the quest for divisional supremacy. In the 2010 playoffs, the Jets defeated the Patriots at Foxboro with Mark Sanchez under center, in what appeared to be a changing of the guard in the AFC East. However, the Patriots have dominated the rivalry ever since, with the Jets finally beating their hated rival the final week of the 2023 season for the first time in 15 games.

10. Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Commanders

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(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
  • Head-To-Head Record: Cowboys lead 78-48-2
  • First Meeting: October 9, 1960

Dating back to the early days of the NFL, the Cowboys-Commanders rivalry has been characterized by fierce competition, memorable games, and passionate fan bases on both sides. The rivalry has been fueled by the the historical significance of their matchups within the NFC East division, where every game carries added weight in the quest for divisional supremacy.

One of the defining features of the Cowboys-Commanders rivalry is the passionate fan bases that support each team. Cowboys fans, known as the "America's Team" faithful, and Commanders fans have created an electric atmosphere during their matchups, turning stadiums into cauldrons of excitement and anticipation.

9. Denver Broncos vs. Las Vegas Raiders

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  • Head-To-Head Record: Raiders lead 73-54-2
  • First Meeting: October 2, 1960

The Broncos vs. Raiders rivalry is a long-standing and fiercely contested matchup that has deep roots in the history of the NFL, particularly within the AFC West division. Dating back to the early days of the AFL, which eventually merged with the NFL, the rivalry between the Denver Broncos and the Las Vegas Raiders has been marked by intense competition, memorable games, and passionate fan bases.

Key moments in the rivalry include iconic matchups featuring legendary players and coaches from both teams. From the "Orange Crush" defense of the Broncos in the late 1970s to the Raiders' dominant teams of the 1980s and early 2000s, each era has seen memorable battles between these two storied franchises.

8. Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers

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  • Head-To-Head Record: 49ers lead 20-19-1
  • First Meeting: November 20, 1960

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the Cowboys and 49ers were perennial powerhouses in the NFC, dominating the conference and often meeting in high-stakes playoff matchups. Led by legendary coaches Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson for the Cowboys and Bill Walsh for the 49ers, as well as Hall of Fame quarterbacks such as Joe Montana, Steve Young and Troy Aikman, both teams engaged in epic clashes that captivated fans and defined an era of NFL football.

One of the defining moments of the Cowboys-49ers rivalry came in the 1992 NFC Championship Game, often referred to as the "Battle of the Bay," where the Cowboys emerged victorious in a hard-fought contest that showcased the intensity and drama of their rivalry. Subsequent playoff matchups, including the 1993 NFC Championship Game, further solidified the rivalry's place in NFL history.

7. Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
  • Head-To-Head Record: Steelers lead 70-39
  • First Meeting: November 2, 1970

The Bengals vs. Steelers rivalry is one of the most intense and hard-fought rivalries in the NFL. Rooted in their shared divisional alignment, the rivalry between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers has been fueled by a combination of factors, including geographic proximity, competitive parity, and a series of contentious games that have added fuel to the fire over the years.

While the dynamics of the rivalry have evolved over time, with changes in personnel and coaching staff, the Bengals vs. Steelers rivalry remains a cornerstone of AFC North football, embodying the spirit of competition, toughness, and tradition that define the NFL. As both franchises continue to compete in the modern NFL landscape, the matchups between the Bengals and Steelers serve as reminders of the rich history and legacy of professional football in the United States.

6. Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles

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  • Head-To-Head Record: Cowboys lead 74-56
  • First Meeting: September 9, 1960

Dating back to the early days of the NFL's NFC East division, the rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles has been marked by intense matchups, heated exchanges, and memorable moments that have captivated fans and defined the landscape of the division. The rivalry is fueled by the long-standing animosity between the two cities of Dallas and Philadelphia, as well as the historical success and competitiveness of both franchises.

Key moments in the rivalry's history include iconic games, memorable plays, and controversial calls that have added to the lore and intensity of the matchups. From late-game heroics to heated exchanges between players and coaches, the Cowboys vs. Eagles rivalry has produced no shortage of drama and excitement over the years.

5. New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles

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  • Head-To-Head Record: Eagles lead 93-88-2
  • First Meeting: October 15, 1933

The Giants vs. Eagles rivalry is one of the oldest and most heated rivalries in the NFL, deeply rooted in the history of the NFC East division. Dating back to the early days of the NFL and the formation of the NFC East, the rivalry between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles is one of the NFL's most heated.

Geographic proximity, as well as the historical success and competitiveness of both franchises, have contributed to the intensity of the rivalry. With each game carrying significant implications for divisional standings and playoff contention, matchups between the Giants and Eagles are always highly anticipated events on the NFL calendar.

4. New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts

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  • Head-To-Head Record: Patriots lead 53-31
  • First Meeting: October 4, 1970

The Patriots vs. Colts rivalry, often dubbed as the Brady-Manning rivalry due to the iconic quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning leading their respective teams, stands as one of the most compelling and memorable rivalries in NFL history. Throughout the 2000s and into the early 2010s, the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts consistently fielded championship contending teams, regularly clashing in high-stakes matchups that often determined playoff seeding, divisional titles, and even Super Bowl appearances.

While Brady and Manning eventually moved on from their respective teams and are now both retired, the dynamics of the rivalry have evolved. However, even with changes in personnel and coaching staff, the Patriots-Colts rivalry remains a cornerstone of NFL history, embodying the spirit of competition, excellence, and tradition that define the sport.

3. San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks

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(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
  • Head-To-Head Record: Seahawks lead 30-22
  • First Meeting: September 26, 1976

The 49ers vs. Seahawks rivalry emerged as one of the most intense and compelling rivalries in the NFL during the early 2010s, fueled by geographic proximity, competitive parity, and high-stakes matchups. The rivalry reached its zenith during the tenure of head coaches Jim Harbaugh for the 49ers and Pete Carroll for the Seahawks, with both teams fielding dominant rosters and competing for divisional titles, playoff berths, and ultimately, Super Bowl championships.

One of the defining aspects of the rivalry was the contrasting styles of play between the two teams, with the 49ers known for their physical defense and power running game, while the Seahawks relied on their aggressive defense and dynamic playmaking ability, particularly with quarterback Russell Wilson at the helm.

2. Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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  • Head-To-Head Record: Steelers lead 35-25
  • First Meeting: September 8, 1996

Dating back to the early 2000s when Baltimore was established as a franchise, the rivalry between the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers quickly emerged due to their geographic proximity, competitive rosters, and similar hard-nosed styles of play.

The rivalry is characterized by fierce defensive play, with both teams boasting some of the most dominant defenses in NFL history. Legendary players like Ray Lewis for the Ravens and Troy Polamalu for the Steelers have epitomized the physicality and intensity of the rivalry.

1. Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers

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  • Head-To-Head Record: Packers lead 107-95-6
  • First Meeting: November 11, 1921

The Bears vs. Packers rivalry is the oldest and most storied rivalries in the NFL, dating back to the early days of professional football and spanning over a century of competition, tradition, and regional pride. Founded in 1919, the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears are two of the NFL's oldest and most iconic franchises, sharing a rich history of success and legendary players and coaches.

At the heart of the rivalry are the passionate fan bases of both teams, with Bears supporters and Packers fans engaging in spirited debates, rivalries, and traditions that add to the intensity and excitement of the matchups. Whether in Chicago or Green Bay, games between the Bears and Packers routinely draw sold out crowds and national attention, with each contest serving as a showcase for the enduring legacy of professional football in the Midwest.

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