This offseason, Shutdown Corner's Frank Schwab and Eric Edholm will look into what is overrated and underrated in all aspects of the NFL. We fully expect your angry emails and comments that are sure to follow.
OVERRATED AND UNDERRATED: Team rivalry
Eric Edholm: Redskins vs. Cowboys
For such a historically significant rivalry, this one has lost a little steam in recent years.
Yes, they battled for the division in Week 17 of the 2012 season, and there was that whole London Fletcher stomping on the Cowboys’ midfield star in 2011.
But when was the last truly memorable game between the two teams? Where is the coaching or player rivalry?
I mean, what does it say when you have two of the most polarizing and controversial owners in all of professional sports running the two teams, and Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder … profess to be good buddies?
It’s kind of all blah to me, and not edgy at all.
The head-to-head battles mostly have been plagued by bad quarterbacking the past 20 years, basically since a few quality battles between Mark Rypien and Troy Aikman in the early 1990s.
The teams have been in the playoffs the same year exactly once since 1999 — and both teams lost their first game that postseason (2007). The Bill Parcells-Joe Gibbs reunion in the middle part of the last decade relit the fire a little, but that long has gone out.
The series began in 1960, and at one point this division rivalry was one of the best in the NFL. For some, it was only yesterday that Tom Landry was singing “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be Redskins,” and there was a time when hardly a season went by without them meeting on "Monday Night Football."
The two teams meet again on the Monday before Halloween this season, and they end the year with a head-to-head battle in Week 17. We sincerely hope that the rivalry can rekindle some of its old magic soon, but no breath-holding happening here.
Frank Schwab: Raiders vs. just about anybody
Living in Denver, I get a chuckle out of Broncos fans feeling obligated to call the Raiders a rival. They'll talk themselves into that being a big rivalry game, and I'm sure in 1977 it was, but let's get real.
There's no regional connection. There's really not even a competitive rivalry, because it has been pretty rare through the years that both teams have been good at the same time. The same can go for the Chiefs and the Raiders. I suppose the idea of the Raiders is supposed to be fun to root against, but when's the last time anyone got really fired up for a game against the Raiders?
Basically, the Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers need someone to call a rival and there's no natural match. They kind of picked the Raiders years ago and are sticking with it. They have the standard hatred of any division rival, but whenever I see Raiders and anyone mentioned as one of the NFL's best rivalries, I just wonder what year that might have actually applied.
EE: Saints vs. Falcons
The franchises broke into the NFL a year apart — the Falcons in 1966, the Saints in 1967 — and have been measuring themselves against each other pretty much ever since.
For the first several decades of their existences, neither franchise had much to brag about, with little playoff success for either team. But that didn’t mean the two teams didn’t care. They became division rivals in 1970, and things started getting ugly following the Falcons’ 62-7 victory over the Saints at Tulane Stadium in 1973.
The quality of play has kicked up a few notches in the past decade, and the rivalry has been mostly terrific ever since the Saints’ return to the Superdome in one of the most emotional regular-season games ever, back in 2006 — the Steve Gleason blocked punt game.
Since then, they’ve had several heated battles, and 10 of the past 11 head-to-head matchups have been close games (nine of 11 were one-score contests).
The Saints went to 13-0 with a dramatic Monday night game in 2009 that ended on a late pick in the end zone. Both games in 2010 were decided by a field goal, when both teams made the playoffs. Drew Brees broke the single-season passing yardage mark against the Falcons in 2011. The Saints stunned the Falcons in 2012, but three weeks later — after the Saints’ bus was egged in Atlanta — the Falcons picked off Brees five times and ended his record consecutive TD-pass game streak.
Even in years when one team is out of contention, the games tend to be close and hard fought. The playoff-bound Saints would sweep the four-win Falcons last season, but by margins of only six and four points.
These teams don’t like each other, and the fans love making the six-hour trek for this heated annual battle. They only have met once in the playoffs — a 27-20 Falcons win in 1991 — but you only can imagine what the scene will be like the next time they face off in the postseason.
FS: Packers vs. Bears
Underrated? Probably not. But it's still either this or Yankees-Red Sox as the best rivalry in professional sports, and it's not really close. So if you've mentioned anything else, you've underrated the NFL's real top rivalry.
Packers-Vikings is similar. There's a real hatred because of the geography. If you get swept by that rival, there's a fairly good chance you have a co-worker or neighbor that will tell you all about it all offseason. The thing Packers-Bears has over Packers-Vikings or even Bears-Vikings is history. Packers-Bears has been going on since 1921. There's a lot of time to build up a good bitterness. That's why the NFC championship game between Green Bay and Chicago at the end of the 2010 season was probably bigger for both teams' fan bases than the Super Bowl. The result of that game is going to live forever ... at least until they meet again with an NFC title on the line. Until then, every Bears fan will still cringe at "21-14."
Throw in the fact that Wisconsinites have a bit of an inferiority complex about Chicago, and that Chicago has a bit of angst that it has 1/4 of the Super Bowl titles as a city it could fit in one of its downtown neighborhoods, and it's a great mix for a fun rivalry. It's the equivalent of a college rivalry, where you live it year round, and no other NFL rivalry can match that.
Steelers-Ravens and 49ers-Seahawks have great on-field rivalries right now, but those come and go as the fortunes of the teams rise and fade. There's really just one rivalry that remains strong among the fans (and trust me, fans make rivalries, the players will never care as much as the fans about them) no matter what the teams' records are. Arguing any other NFL rivalry as the best in the sport is just foolish.
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