Steelers Ravens rivalry the best in NFL?

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Fantasy football may be the NFL’s main engine of growth, but star players and rivalries will always be at the core of why we tune in every Sunday. Let’s take a look around the league and examine some of the best (and most bitter) rivals.

In my mind, there are five that stand out among the rest right now. Let’s count them down.

5. The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers

This one goes back a long, long, long way. The antipathy between the two teams is so strong that even if the NFL went into an extended work stoppage chances are Bears and Packers fans would still be more than happy to brawl in the streets.

Going back all the way to 1921 the Bears lead the series 93 to 91, with six ties.

So, in the grand scheme of things it’s been a remarkably even matchup However, in recent years the Packers have dominated the Bears. Chicago has only won once in the last five years, and in that game Aaron Rodgers was taken out early thanks to a shoulder injury.

Until the Bears get their act together this rivalry simply won’t have the same punch that it used to.

4. The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles

When most people think of NFC East rivalries, their mind goes to the Cowboys and Redskins or the Eagles and Giants. For my money, the Eagles and Cowboys have a much more intense and interesting rivalry than those other two.

Dallas leads Philadelphia in the all-time series 63 to 49 and they have several Super Bowl rings to their credit while the Eagles have none.

Still, over the last couple of years we’ve seen this rivalry heat up in a major way. This offseason kicked it into overdrive as Chip Kelly stole away Dallas’ star running back DeMarco Murray. On top of that, he also added former Cowboys receiver Miles Austin.

There’s also a great debate raging over who has the best offensive line in the NFL – if it’s not the Cowboys then it’s definitely the Eagles.

Add it all up and you have one of the most competitive and hateful rivalries in all of sports.

3. The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers

This is a relatively new rivalry and it certainly doesn’t have the kind of history that the Packers or Bears have, but that doesn’t make watching these two go at it any less entertaining.

Seattle has won 18 games to San Francisco’s 15. However, for sheer entertainment value there’s nothing like the animosity they share for eachother.

Richard Sherman‘s rant about Michael Crabtree after the NFC Championship will go down as one of the most legendary NFL rivalry moments we have ever witnessed. (It wasn’t a bad game either, come to think of it.) The Seahawks and Niners bring some fire to the west coast, which hasn’t seen a real rivalry in a long time.

The Seahawks have won five of the last six games though and Sherman got to enjoy a turkey dinner at midfield at the Niners’ expense last year.

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It will be interesting to see if the new-look 49ers can hang with their most hated division rivals in 2015.

2. The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots

This one might as well read Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady because everyone seems to ignore the other 104 players involved whenever these two face off.

When it comes to rings there’s no longer any debate here. Brady has four to Manning’s one. He’s also been in far more conference championships.

Then again we have to consider the larger picture. Manning has had plenty of wide receiver talent to work with over the years but Brady has generally had the benefit of playing on more complete teams from top to bottom. Since Manning came to Denver he hasn’t had much success against the Patriots. The Broncos have only won one of four matchups and promptly followed that up with an embarrasing showing in the Super Bowl.

That doesn’t make watching these guys go at it any less compelling television. Whenever the NFL slates them for a prime-time matchup, we may complain but we will tune in like dutiful dogs anyway.

1. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens

Now we’re talking.

Not only do the Steelers and Ravens share a heated division rivalry, but it might be the single most physically intense one in football.

Every time Baltimore and Pittsburgh meet on the field it’s like watching an old-school 1970’s style slug-fest. If you want to see big fantasy football numbers, highlights and high scores this isn’t the rivalry for you.

It’s more than just the knock-down, drag-out, bar room brawl style that makes this matchup so interesting, though. It seems like every single game comes down to a nail-biting final drive.

All time the Steelers lead the series 24 to 18 but from 2011 to 2014 these two played five consecutive games that were decided by three points or less.

Unlike the other rivalries on the list, there are no missing parts. Nobody is dominating the rivalry – there’s no insane mismatch at quarterback like Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers. There’s no wild winning streak by one team at the expense of the other.

Also, the Steelers and Ravens share something that no other two teams can claim: they’re the only division rivals in the NFL that can both claim to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

They will meet next on Thursday, October 1st. I for one can’t wait.

Next: Steelers tweak secondary before opener

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