What are the biggest NFL rivalries in history?
To answer that question, you’ll discover that the NFL includes some of the world’s most intense sports rivalries ever.
Since its founding over a century ago, the National Football League (NFL) has progressed to become the most prestigious American football league on the planet and one of the world’s very best sports leagues.
During the decades it took the NFL to establish its name among the best sports leagues firmly, the league recorded several historical happenings.
Some of these happenings include the various expansion of the league to its current size of 32 teams, and notably the merger between the National Football League and rival, American Football League.
That merger can be said to be the beginning of good tiding for the NFL.
The merger led to the Super Bowl’s formation, which ranks as the most-watched yearly held sports event in the United States.
While all these certainly popularized the NFL and made it successful, NFL rivalries formed the basis of the NFL and AFL rival that saw its way into NFL teams, hence solidifying the league’s influence.
Like every other sport, the rivalries between NFL teams have created a sense of anticipation in fans, who eagerly watch on as rival teams meet clash horns in the Super Bowl every season.
The Most Intense & Biggest NFL Rivalries Of All Time
10. Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos
- Overall Series Lead: Broncos 68-52-1
- Playoff Series Lead: Broncos 1-0
- Longest Winning Streak: Broncos, 7 (1975–1978)
Right from their time in the American Football League (AFL), the Los Angeles Chargers have built their momentum. They became one of the best teams in the league and even went on to claim the 1963 AFL Championship.
Before the AFL-NFL merger, the Chargers reigned supreme over the Broncos. However, following the merger, the Broncos began to stir up momentum, especially in the 1970s. One memorable moment of the 1970s was the Broncos’ 1977 campaign, where they won 11 of their 12 games as they made it to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance.
However, in the 1980 and 1981 seasons, the chargers armed with quarterbacks John Jefferson, Charlie Joyner, Dan Fouts, and Kellen Winslow dominated the Broncos, as they appeared in successive AFC titles games. John Elway’s arrival in 1983 halted the Charger’s dominance.
For the 16 years he spent with the chargers, the Broncos claimed 22 victories while tasting defeat from the Chargers 10 times. In 2006, as Philip Rivers became the Charger’s starting quarterback, the Broncos’ dominance ceased. Between 2006 and 2011, both teams met 11 times, with the Chargers snatching nine wins.
In the 2012 off-season, a new hero for the Broncos came to light, in the person of Peyton Manning, who led the Broncos to 8 wins of 9 games against the Chargers. The rivalry is one of the most intense and entertaining. It is bound to get even more exciting as a new set of established players are set to play for both teams.
9. Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints
- Overall Series Lead: Falcons 53–49
- Longest Winning Streak: Falcons, 10 (1995–1999)
One of the least noticed rivalries in the NFL, the rivalry between the Falcons and the Saints, had been intense since it started in 1967. Though the Falcons are ahead by a 10-game winning streak, the Saints are still pushing to make a comeback since the manager, Sean Payton, came on board in 2006.
The addition of Drew Brees to the Saints squad established the team as a fierce competitor. In the last five games between the two sides, Brees have emerged victorious four times.
Though the Saints have dominated the Falcons in recent times, the Falcons have not been entirely defenseless. In 2016, as the Falcons made it to the Super Bowl, the Saints were one of the multiple teams they defeated along the way.
Though grossly underrated, this rivalry has witnessed a remarkable shift in dominance since the duo of Drew Brees and Sean Payton helped the Saints record their most remarkable run of success in their history.
For future clashes, we can only remain hopeful that the two sides bring their fires to the pitch and catapult the national spotlight’s rivalry.
8. Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins
- Overall Series Lead: Dolphins 61-50-1
- Playoff Series Lead: Bills, 3-1
- Longest Winning Streak: Dolphins, 20 (1970 – 1979)
This is one of the biggest NFL rivalries in history, which dates back to the American Football League. After the merger, the Buffalo Bills defeated the Dolphins five times of their eight matchups. However, with Don Shula’s arrival, known as the winningest coach in NFL history, the Dolphins dominated the rivalry.
Between 1970 and 1979, the Dolphins claimed every game in their matchup against the Bills. The Miami Dolphins did not just dominate the rivalry during that period; they went on to win three AFC championships and claim two Super Bowl titles.
However, the Dolphin’s dominance came to a halt in the late 1980s. That was when coach Marc Levy teamed up with talents Andre Reed, Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, and Thurman Thomas. Between 1987 and 1995, both teams met 21 times, with the Bills dominating with 17 victories.
During the Bills’ dominance in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they claimed four AFC championships. They also prevented the Dolphins from reaching the Super Bowl. The rivalry between the two sides has been a bit balanced in the 21st century, with both sides trading wins. Since 2000, both sides have met 40 times, with the Bills dominating with a 22-18 win.
7. San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles Rams
- Overall Series Lead: 49ers, 71-67-3
- Playoff Series Lead: 49ers, 1-0
- Longest Winning Wtreak: 49ers, 17 (1990-1999)
The rivalry between the two teams seemed to cool off following the Los Angeles Rams move to St. Louis. However, the rivalry seems to be gaining national attention since the Rams moved back to Los Angeles in 2016.
In recent times, the Los Angeles Rams have been in form. The franchise won the NFC title and two divisional championships. The San Francisco 49ers have also been in terrific form.
They defeated the Los Angeles Rams in 2019 to become the NFC champion. Both teams have been one of the best in the NFL in recent years. In the early rivalry years, specifically the 1960s, the 49ers, armed with the “Fearsome Foursome,” traded wins with the Rams.
Beginning from the 1960s, the Rams began to dominate the rivalries. The Rams defeated the 49ers 23 times out of the 27 times they met between 1967 and 1980. The height of their dominance was between 1973 and 1980, where they won eight successive AFC titles and made it to the Super Bowl.
They put up an impressive performance, though they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 1980s saw a change in the rivalry, as Bill Walsh coached the 49ers squad to become one of the best in the league’s history.
Armed with talented stars like Joe Montana, Roger Craig, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott, the squad claimed four Super Bowl titles in nine years. During that period, the 49ers dominated 13-8 in their matchup against the Rams.
The dominance of the San Francisco 49ers entered the 1990s. They claimed 17 successive victories over the Rams and claimed the Super Bowl in 1994. However, that dominance ceased in 1999, with both teams holding no distinct superiority.
6. New York Jets vs. New England Patriots
- New York Jets vs New England Patriots
- Overall Series Lead: Patriots, 67-54-1
- Playoff Series Lead: Patriots, 2-1
- Longest Winning Streak: Jets, 9 (1966–70)
Since both teams became part of the AFL expansion franchises in 1960, the Patriots and Jets have been locking horns every year. In the early years of the rivalry, the Patriots proved to be the better side. But between 1966–1975, they got a record of 17 wins and one draw in 20 matchups against the Patriots.
During that period, the most memorable season remains the 1968 season. An unstoppable Jets defeated the Boston Patriots before overcoming the Baltimore Colts to emerge Super Bowl III champion. However, with the addition of cornerback Mike Haynes and linebacker John Hannah to the Patriots squad in the 1970s, the team began to dominate the rivalry.
Between 1976–80, the Patriots defeated the Next eight times in ten games. The 1980s saw both teams trading wins, with no apparent dominant team. That remained the case until billionaire owner Robert Kraft became the owner of the Patriots franchise in 1993.
In fact, that marked the Dawn of the Patriots’ dominance in the NFL. Since Robert Kraft assumed ownership of the franchise, the Patriots hold a 38–18 record over the Jets. Coach, Bill Bellichick, the man often regarded as the genius behind the franchise success, suffered three successive defeats after taking over the team in 2000.
Still, he has gone on to set a 31-11 record solidly. The Patriots have dominated the rivalry and NFL in recent years. However, the Jets have managed to add some bad blood to the rivalry — taking it off the pitch. In 2010, the Patriots suffered a surprising defeat in the 2010 playoffs to the Jets.
Also, the controversy surrounding Bill Bellichick’s move from the Jets to the Patriots has also intensified the rivalry.
5. Washington Football Team vs. New York Giants
- Overall Series Lead: Giants, 103-69-4
- Playoff Series Lead: Even at 1-1
- Longest Winning Streak: Redskins, 11 (1971-76)
The rivalry between the two teams ranks as one of the oldest NFL rivalries in history. It dates back to years before World War II, specifically 1932. In 1943, both teams faced off in the postseason for the first time ever. The Washington Football Team, led by the esteemed Hall of Fame quarterback Sammy Baugh, emerged victor before falling to the Chicago Bears in the NFL Championship.
That victory was just one of the few the Washington Football Team recorded that Decade. But the Giants dominated the rivalry. Between 1949 and 1964, the Giants defeated Washington Football Team 25 times in 31 matchups, with just five defeats and a draw.
During that period, the Giants claimed their fourth NFL title to emerge as one of the best teams in the league. In 1971, the Washington Football Team, led by George Allen, defeated the Giants in 11 successive victories and appeared in their first-ever Super Bowl game. The rivalry between both teams reached its peak in the 1980s when Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells oversaw the football exploits of the Redskins and Giants.
The Giants dominated the rivalry during that period, with 11 wins to 6 defeats, including the Giants victory at the 1986 NFC Championship Game. After the Giants claimed their first-ever Super Bowl titles in 1986, the Redskins went on to defeat the Giants as they claimed the 1977 Lombardi Trophy.
The Redskins dominance over the Giants was short-lived. Parcells led the Giants to six victories over the Redskins, and two Super Bowl titles, before he stepped down.
On the other hand, Gibbs made his mark in the team with four NFC titles, and three Super Bowl wins. In the past 25 years, the Giants have been dominating with a 31-18-1, two Super Bowl, and three NFC titles.
On the other hand, the Washington Football Team Super Bowl drought continues. In 2020, both teams recruited new coaches and hoped their young talented quarterbacks could spark rivalry and more trophies.
4. Kansas City Chiefs vs. Las Vegas Raiders
- Overall Series Lead: Chiefs, 67-53-2
- Playoff Series Lead: Chiefs, 2-1
- Longest Winning Streak: Chiefs, 9 (2003-07)
Though the rivalry began following the break out of both teams in the AFL in 1960, both teams didn’t waste time in making it one of the toughest NFL rivalries of all time. In 1966, as the Super Bowl I was scheduled to hold, both teams found themselves tussling for the chance to appear in the maiden event of the Lombardi Trophy. The Raider eventually won but lost to the Green Bay Packers.
The following season, the Chiefs avenged their loss twice in the regular season before losing to the Packers in the Super Bowl. In 1969, Chiefs claimed the AFL Championship before the merger between the AFL-NFL.
Following the departure of notable members of the Chiefs, such as running back Mike Garrett, linebacker Willie Lanier, and a quarterback, Len Dawson, the Raiders took advantage of the loss in the Chiefs’ form.
They went on to build a formidable team. Between 1973–78, the Las Vegas Raiders defeated the Chiefs in 10 of 11 games, with just one loss. During that period, the Raiders claimed about 5 AFC titles and the Super Bowl XI.
The Raiders’ dominance reached its peak in the 1980s, where they won two Super Bowl titles. Thanks to Marcus Allen and Marty Schottenheimer, the rivalry shifted to the Chiefs. However, Schottenheimer didn’t win a Super Bowl while with the Chiefs; he certainly made the Chiefs better than they were before he took over as coach.
In recent years, the Raiders have had their moments. However, the Chiefs have been the better side, appearing in the Super Bowl twice in the last five years.
With quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have had an incredibly good outing, which we can only hope gets better.
3. Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
- Overall Series Record: Steelers, 28-24
- Playoff Series Record: Steelers, 3-1
- Longest Winning Streak: Steelers, 5 (1997–99 and 2001–03)
Though this rivalry is relatively young compared to most rivalries in the NFL, it ranks as one of the greatest, in fact, one of the greatest divisional rivalries in the league. The rivalry dates back to 1996 when the Ravens moved from Cleveland and became the biggest threat to the Steelers in the AFC Central Division.
The rivalry entered a new level in 2000 after the Ravens claimed their first-ever Super Bowl win. But the loss was avenged when the Steelers defeated the Ravens to win the Divisional title the next season. In 2006, Raven’s dominance over the Steelers began, but it was short-lived.
The 2007 season saw the Steelers defeat the Ravens in all games both teams met. Even with the threat of budding rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens still couldn’t get the upper hand.
The Steelers made their second appearance in the Super Bowl in four years. In 2014, Joe Flacco, who already guided the side to their second Super Bowl titles two years earlier, defeated the Steelers in the playoffs. In the past 10 times both teams have met, the Ravens dominates with six wins.
Their loss to Steelers on Christmas Day in 2016 and in Week 14 of the 2017 season kept the side out of the playoffs.
2. Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
- Overall Series Lead: Cowboys, 69-53
- Playoff Series Record: Cowboys, 3-1
- Longest Winning Streak: Cowboys, 11 (1967–72)
In the NFL, the NFC East holds several of the league’s most notable rivalries. The rivalry between the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles ranks as one of the toughest in the NFL. At the outset of the rivalry, the Cowboys were defeated nine times; both teams faced each other the first ten times.
However, it didn’t take long before the Cowboys lost to the Eagles, and between 1967–78, they defeated the Eagles 21 times in 23 matchups. During that period, the Cowboys, armed with Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, Bob Lilly, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, and others, claimed five NFC titles and two Super Bowl titles.
At the height of this success, they earned there moniker, the “American Team.” In 1979, things began to turn around for the Eagles, who had struggled for years. An established and more powerful Eagle squad defeated the Cowboys to win the NFC title in 1980.
In the 1990s, the Cowboys had an impressive time, claiming three Super Bowl titles in four years, thanks to pass rushers Charles Haley, quarterback Troy Aikman, receiver Michael, and their formidable defense. Between 1992 and 1996, both teams met 10 times, with the Cowboys emerging victor 9 times.
For most of the 2000s, the Cowboys were at the receiving end, as the Eagles dominated. As the 2000s drew to an end, the Cowboys, now with Tony Romo as starting quarterback, defeated the Eagles three times in two months, as they made it to the playoffs in 14 years.
The 2010s saw the Philadelphia Eagles go back to their winning ways. They defeated the Cowboys in 12 of 20 matchups they had in the 2010s. The Philadelphia Eagles also won their first-ever Super Bowl titles in the 2010s.
1. Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears
- Overall Series Lead: Packers, 99-95-6
- Playoff Series Record: Series tied, 1-1
- Longest Winning Streak: Packers 10 (1994–98)
For most of the first decade of the rivalry, the Bears dominated. However, thanks to Hall of Fame player-turned-coach Curly Lambeau, the Packers defeated the Bears in 10 games en route to three NFL titles. The dominance also further resulted in NFL titles in 1936, 1939, and 1944. But this is not to say the Packer’s reign totally eclipsed the Bears.
They won NFL titles in 1933, 1940, 1941, and 1946. The Bears ruled the 1950s until Vince Lombardi’s arrival to the Packers in 1959. The Green Bay Packers dominated for most of the 1960s, emerging winner in 16 of 20 games against the Bears.
However, the Bears also put up a solid fight during this period, which led to their NFL title win in 1963. But compared to the Packer’s five NFL title wins between 1961 and 1967, the Bears struggled.
During that period, the Packers’ success can be credited to noteworthy players such as Dave Robinson, Willie Wood, Willie Davis, Ray Nitschke, Jim Taylor, and several others.
After the Bears coach’s departure, George Halas, from the squad, the Bears solidly dominated the rivalry from 1984 to 1988. Armed with players like Jimbo Covert, Jimmy McMahon, Walter Payton, Mike Singletary, and others, the Bears defeated the Packers nine times in 10 games. They also went on to win the Super Bowl XX.
However, the Packers still delivered some painful defeats, such as the defeat which caused the Bears to miss the 1986 playoffs. Brett Favre’s arrival to the Packers caused a change in the rivalry, as the Packers went on to defeat the Bears 20 times in 23 games between 1992 and 2002. The Packers were at that peak during that span between 1995 and 1997, where they won one Super Bowl and two NFC titles.
Aaron Rodgers‘s introduction to the Packers lineup halted the Bear’s short-lived dominance in the 2000s. Still, the Bears responded by signing agile quarterback Jay Cutler, and when both teams clashed in the 2010 NFC game, it was extremely tense, as the Packers narrowly scaled through.
Though Rodgers remains the Packers starting quarterback, they hope to get to the Super Bowl again, but to do that, they have to clash with their oldest rivals, who are out for another Lombardi Trophy. As of date, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears remains the biggest NFL rivals in history.
Like in every other sport, the biggest team and divisional rivalries in NFL create a sense of anticipation in supporters and fans who watch their favorite teams as they lock horns whenever they meet.
This, and many more reasons, makes American football the most popular sports in America. Please feel free to share your thoughts about this article in our comments section below.