As with all sports leagues, there are a number of significant rivalries in the National Football League
(NFL). Rivalries are occasionally created due to a particular event that causes bad blood between teams, players, coaches, or owners, but for the most part, they arise simply due to the frequency with which some teams play each other. Some rivalries are almost friendly, with a fair degree of mutual respect for each other's history, while others can be downright nasty.
Geographic rivalries are rare in the NFL, especially when compared to similar rivalries in college football
and also when compared to other professional sports. For example, the New York Giants of the National Football Conference
have a decent rivalry with their American Football Conference
counterpart, the New York Jets; however, the intradivisional rivals of the Giants (Dallas, Philadelphia, and Washington) are usually more hated by Giants fans. A key reason is that the NFL schedule
of 16 regular season games simply does not provide enough games for a team to play every other team every year. In comparison, National Basketball Association
teams face every other team at least twice during the regular season, and Major League Baseball
and National Hockey League
teams face every other league or conference opponent at least 3 times during the regular season. In all 3 of those leagues, teams will face certain opponents many times (as many as 19 times in the regular season for baseball teams), which naturally leads to more opportunities for rivalries to develop. In recent years, the NFL has changed its scheduling formula to ensure that every possible matchup will happen eventually, but many of those matchups will occur only once every 3 to 4 years.
Rivalries can be classified in 3 main groups:
- Intradivisional: Games between opponents in the same NFL division. As of 2005, there are 32 teams in 8 divisions of 4 teams each. Each team plays each division opponent twice during the regular season (once at home, once away) for a total of 6 regular season games out of 16 total games. Thus, every NFL team, regardless of its age, could fairly be said to have at least 3 primary rivals.
- Interdivisional: Games between opponents in different divisions but within the same conference. Teams do not play a given interdivisional opponent more than once during the regular season, however they may meet again for a second time in the Playoffs. The NFL schedules divisions to play against each other on a rotating basis, so that every team from one division will play every team from another division, for a total of 4 games per team; the division pairings rotate each year. Each team will also play 1 team from each of the remaining 2 divisions within the conference, for a grand total of 12 intraconference games. The matchups for these last 2 games are based on the previous year's standings, so that the 2 first place teams will play each other, the 2 second place teams will play each other, and so on. Conference games are often important, as a team's record in common games, as well as its overall record against its conference, is sometimes used as a tiebreaker for playoff seeding at the end of the regular season. Also, many regular season opponents have met again in the playoffs, and the result of a regular season game can affect where the playoff game will be played.
- Interconference: Games between opponents in different conferences. Teams do not play a given interconference opponent more than once during the regular season. The NFL schedules interconference divisions to play each other on a rotating basis similar to the one described above.
The NFL, sportscasters, journalists, and fans typically use the terms "division rival" or "divisional rival" instead of "intradivisional rival", and "conference rival" (also "NFC rival" or "AFC rival") instead of "interdivisional rival." The use of a prefix such as "inter-" is reserved solely for games between opponents from different conferences.
The oldest NFL rivalry, dating back to when the league was founded in 1920, consists of its two remaining charter members: the Decatur Staleys/Chicago Bears and the Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals. The longest consecutive game rivalry (at least one game played in each non-strike season) is between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. It dates back to 1922 and is currently approaching over 170 games, with 48 Hall of Famers and 23 league championships between the two teams. In the AFC the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns have the longest rivalry with over 110 games, two in the playoffs, and 13 league titles between them. The "turnpike rivalry" as it is called is only separated by a two hour drive and began during the 1950 NFL season; both of these teams predate the American Football League that formed the basis of the AFC and were added later on.
Intradivisional rivalries: AFC
This, like the NFC East
, can be considered one giant rivalry as the teams within have bitter and closely contested histories with each other. The AFC East also has the most Super Bowl
appearances of any AFC division with sixteen appearances (compared to thirteen in the AFC West
, nine in the AFC North
, and four in the AFC South
) to go with six wins (the AFC North
and AFC West
presently are tied with the East with six Super Bowl wins apiece while the AFC South
has two). The New England Patriots
are presently 3-3 in Super Bowls, the Miami Dolphins
2-3, the New York Jets
1-0, and the Buffalo Bills
- *First met in 1966
- *Next scheduled meeting October 26, 2008 @ Miami
- *49-34-1 Miami leads series (Buffalo leads playoff series 3-1)
- *Signature moment: Bills owner Ralph Wilson originally wanted an AFL team in Miami, but was denied and thus founded the Buffalo Bills as a charter member of the AFL.
- *The rivalry, much like other rivalries of this division involving the Dolphins, is based upon the Dolphins being a traditionally warm-weather team and the Bills a cold-weather team; thus, the Dolphins usually, although not always, host the first game of the rivalry each year early in the season (to take advantage of the heat) and the Bills host later in the year (taking advantage of colder, snowier weather).
- *Signature Moment: On October 9, 1983 rookie quarterback Dan Marino made his first career start for the Dolphins as they hosted the Bills at the Orange Bowl. The game opened with an exchange of turnovers as the Bills fumbled the opening kickoff at their 15-yard line but Marino was intercepted on his first throw. The Bills behind Joe Ferguson rallied from down 35-28 in the final three minutes, tying the game in the final 30 seconds on a short pass to Joe Cribbs. Two Dolphin field goal tries by Uwe von Schamann in overtime failed and the Bills finally triumphed with a Joe Danelo field goal in a 38-35 win, their first in the Orange Bowl since 1966. Ferguson and Marino combined for 741 yards passing, eight touchdowns, and three interceptions.
- * The glory days of this rivalry occurred during the late 1980s and early 1990s when Hall of Famers Jim Kelly and Marv Levy led the Bills against the Dolphins led by Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Don Shula.
- *Signature moment: Dolphins linebacker Bryan Cox taunted Bills' fans for years, claiming they had made racially cruel remarks to him.
- *Signature moment: 1980 marked a major breakthrough for the Bills in this rivalry. They beat the archrival Miami Dolphins 17-7 in their season opener. It was the first Buffalo win over Miami since 1969 and began a Buffalo run en route to their first AFC East title. The victory led to the fans at Rich Stadium tearing down the goal posts.
- * The rivalry is referenced on the Steve Martin album Comedy Is Not Pretty! on the track "How To Meet A Girl" when Martin simulates background conversation about football and artificial turf and one "partier" exclaims disbelief that Buffalo could beat Miami, which at the time of the album's 1979 recording had not happened since 1969 and would not end until 1980, a total of twenty straight Dolphins wins over the Bills.
- *First met in 1960
- *Next scheduled meeting November 9, 2008 @ New England
- *53-40-1 New England leads series (New England leads playoff series 1-0)
- *Signature Moment: On November 3, 1974 the Bills traveled to Schaefer Stadium two weeks after edging the Patriots 30-28 in Buffalo. O.J. Simpson was held in check for the first half as the Patriots raced to a 14-6 second quarter lead, but the Bills stayed in contention and the score was 21-19 Patriots at the half. The game lead changed three times in the second half on a Dave Washington interception return touchdown for the Bills, a Mack Herron score off Jim Plunkett passes to linebacker/tight end John Tanner for the Patriots, and a John Leypoldt field goal. The Patriots drove to field goal range in the final seconds but John Smith's kick was blocked by rookie Jeff Yeates. The 29-28 Bills win ruined the Patriots' first-half momentum as they slipped from 6-2 to a 14-game finish of 7-7, while the Bills advanced to the playoffs.
- *Signature Moment: After nine straight losses to the Bills, the Patriots finally took them down in their own stadium on October 24, 1976. After being thrown to the turf in a scoreless first quarter, O.J. Simpson got into a scuffle with Patriots linebackers. From there the Patriots took control, offseting Simpson's two rushing touchdowns by scoring on rushing touchdowns by Steve Grogan and Sam Cunningham and a Russ Francis catch by Grogan. The Patriots edged a fourth-quarter Bills rally for a 26-22 win.
- *Signature Moment: On December 18, 1994 the 7-7 Bills hosted the Patriots needing a win to stay in playoff contention. The Bills raced to a 17-3 lead in the second quarter but from there the Patriots exploded to 38 unanswered points off three Drew Bledsoe touchdowns, a Ricky Reynolds fumble recovery for a touchdown, a Marion Butts score, and a Matt Bahr field goal. The 41-17 Patriots win all but clinched a playoff berth for the Pats and eliminated the Bills from the '94 postseason.
- *Signature Moment: In November 1998 Doug Flutie led the Bills to a 21-17 lead with less than two minutes to go; Drew Bledsoe led a game-winning drive in which he threw a 26-yard touchdown try on the final play; a pass interference call in the endzone extended the game by one untimed down, and Bledsoe lofted a pass from the one-yard line to Ben Coates for the win; the disgusted Bills went to the locker room even though the extra point still had to be kicked; with no opposing players on the field Adam Vinatieri ran in an unopposed two-point conversion for a 25-21 Patriots win.
- *Signature moment: Prior to the 2003 season, the Patriots released team captain Lawyer Milloy; he then signed with the Bills. The two teams met in Week 1 of the regular season, with the Bills rolling to a 31-0 victory which including a sack by Milloy. In the last week of the regular season the Patriots gained revenge with a 31-0 victory, during which the opening scoring drive was aided by a pass interference call against Milloy.
- *First met in 1960
- *Next scheduled meeting November 2, 2008 @ Buffalo
- *53-42 Buffalo leads series (Buffalo leads playoff series 1-0)
- *Signature Moment: In their only playoff meeting to date, the Bills raced to a 31-27 AFC Wild Card win on December 27, 1981 at Shea Stadium. The Bills held a 24-0 lead before Richard Todd led a furious Jets comeback that ended in the final minute with an interception.
- *Signature Moment: The 3-9 Jets entered their late-season rematch with the Bills on December 6, 1992 on the heels of defensive end Dennis Byrd's paralyzing collision with teammate Scott Mersereau the week earlier. Doctors saved his life and he would eventually recover full use of his body. Before the game, Jets coach Bruce Coslet informed his team that Byrd was recovering movement, and repeated what Byrd had told him, "Dennis wants us to go on." The Jets played an inspired game, playing toe to toe with the Bills and sealing their first win over Buffalo since 1987 on a Brian Washington interception return touchdown. Following the 24-17 Jets triumph, both teams gathered at midfield and knelt in prayer.
- *Signature Moment: On September 8, 2002 the Bills hosted the Jets in the Buffalo debut of former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe. It was Bledsoe's first meeting with the Jets since the Mo Lewis hit the previous year that badly injured Bledsoe's chest and cost him his starting job with the Patriots. Following a Travis Henry touchdown early in the second quarter, Chad Morton ran back the ensuing kick 98 yards for a touchdown. The Jets led 31-24 before Bledsoe fired a 29-yard touchdown strike to Eric Moulds with 26 seconds left in regulation. Morton ran back the opening kick of overtime 96 yards for the game-winning touchdown of a 37-31 Jets win.
- *First met in 1966
- *Next scheduled meeting November 23, 2008 @ Miami
- *50-35-1 Miami leads series (New England leads playoff series 2-1)
- *Signature moment: During "The Snow Plow Game" in 1982, played in blizzard conditions at the Patriots' home in Foxborough, Massachusetts, a work release prisoner drove a plow onto the field during a timeout late in the game to create a clean area for a field goal kick, leading to the only score in a 3-0 Patriots win. Dolphins coach Don Shula later convinced the NFL Rules Committee to ban such home field advantages.
- *Signature moment: In the 1985 AFC Championship game, the underdog Patriots beat the Dolphins 31-14, advancing to their first Super Bowl appearance and winning their first game in Miami since 1966.
- *Signature Moment: In the final game of the 1993 season the Patriots hosted the Dolphins amid widespread speculation that owner James Orthwein would move the team to St. Louis for 1994. The Patriots led 17-10 but the two teams combined for 27 fourth-quarter points and a 27-27 tie into overtime when Drew Bledsoe fired a 36-yard touchdown to Michael Timpson. The 33-27 win knocked the Dolphins out of the playoffs; weeks later Robert Kraft (who controlled the team's lease with Foxboro Stadium that would have prevented them from leaving in any event) purchased the team from Orthwein with help from the NFL, securing the team's future in Foxboro.
- *Signature Moment: The 8-7 Patriots hosted the 9-6 Dolphins on December 29, 2002 with both teams needing a win to win the AFC East, their only chance at making the playoffs. The Dolphins stormed to a 21-10 halftime lead and a Brock Marion interception of Tom Brady led to a Dolphins field goal that left the score 24-13 with five minutes remaining. But a pass interference penalty against Dolphins defensive back Jamar Fletcher at Miami's 2-yard line set up a Troy Brown touchdown catch and Christian Fauria 2-point conversion. The Patriots forced a Dolphins punt and an Adam Vinatieri field goal left the game tied. In overtime the Patriots drove down field and Vinatieri's 35-yard field goal won the game for the Pats 27-24 and knocked the Dolphins out of the playoffs.
- *Signature Moment: A.J. Feeley and the 2-11 Dolphins handed the eventual Super Bowl XXXIX Champion Patriots only their second (and last) loss of the season on December 20, 2004 in a thrilling 29-28 upset that was nationally televised on Monday Night Football. The Patriots led 28-17 in the fourth. Following a Sammy Morris touchdown in the final five minutes, Tom Brady threw an interception as he fell to the ground that resulted in a 21-yard touchdown from Feeley to Derrius Thompson. Brady then launched a desperation heave that was picked off, securing the Miami win.
- *Signature Moment: In their quest for a perfect 2007 season the Patriots swept the Dolphins. On October 21 at Dolphin Stadium Tom Brady broke Steve Grogan's 1979 record of five touchdown throws with six, including two to Randy Moss who both times caught the ball despite being tackled by defensive back Cameron Worrell, in a 49-28 rout. On December 23 the Patriots routed the Dolphins by the same 21-point margin at Gillette Stadium as Brady threw scores twice to Moss and once to Jabar Gaffney (who caught the ball away from an interception attempt by Lance Schulters) while Laurence Maroney stormed through the Dolphins line for a 59-yard score in a 28-7 final score.
- *Signature Moment: The first win for the Dolphins under GM Bill Parcells and coach Tony Sparano came at Gillette Stadium on September 21, 2008. A rushing touchdown by Matt Cassel in the first quarter was nullified on an in-the-grasp sack called by the referees, and on the next play Cassel was intercepted. The Dolphins repeatedly ran direct-snap plays to Ronnie Brown and erupted to five touchdowns and a field goal in the process, winning 38-13. The rout sent most fans home halfway through the fourth quarter, earning criticism from Patriot players Ellis Hobbs and Ben Watson.
- *First met in 1960
- *Next scheduled meeting November 13, 2008 @ New England
- *48-47-1 Jets lead series (New England leads playoffs 2-0)
- *Signature moment: Former Patriots (and New York Giants) coach Bill Parcells left New England due to a dispute with owner Robert Kraft over team direction, and the Jets negotiated the right to hire Parcells. Three years later, former Parcells assistant Bill Belichick left the Jets — one day after agreeing to succeed Parcells as head coach — to coach New England.
- *Signature Moment: In September 1999, the Patriots traveled to Giants Stadium for the season-opener against the Jets. The Patriots led 14-10 in the second quarter when Vinny Testaverde tore his left achilles and was out for the season, an injury that crippled the Jets' chances at playoff contention for the season. The game itself was a back-and-forth affair that ended with an Adam Vinatieri field goal in the final 30 seconds of a 30-28 Patriots win.
- *Signature moment: Much was made in 2006 when Eric Mangini, Belichick's former defensive coordinator in New England, left to become head coach of the Jets in January. It was widely reported that Belichick was not happy with the move and that the relationship between the two had soured greatly. Indeed, much scrutiny was focused on the postgame handshakes between the two in their teams' two regular season games — a 24-17 Patriots victory in week two and a shocking 17-14 Jets road victory in week ten. The teams met again in the Wild Card round of the playoffs with the Patriots coming out victorious, 37-16. When the two coaches met at midfield, they embraced, surrounded by a mob of photographers.
- *Signature moment: Kicking off the 2007 season, the Patriots won 38-14, with Ellis Hobbs setting an NFL record with a 108-yard kick return to start the second half of the game. The Spy-Gate incident was also part of this game, with Eric Mangini reporting to the NFL of the illegal use of a video camera by a Patriots assistant in the first quarter. The Patriots were fined $250,000, Belichick $500,000 and the Patriots forfeited a first-round 2008 NFL Draft pick.
- *First met in 1966
- *Next scheduled meeting December 28, 2008 @ New York
- *45-39-1 New York leads series (Miami leads playoffs 1-0)
- *Signature moment: In their only playoff meeting to date, the Jets and Dolphins met at the Orange Bowl in the 1982 AFC championship game. Playing on a muddy field, the teams battled to a 0-0 tie at halftime before Dolphin linebacker A.J. Duhe took over. Duhe intercepted three passes by New York quarterback Richard Todd in the second half, returning the final pick 35 yards for a touchdown to clinch Miami's 14-0 victory and a berth in Super Bowl XVII.
- *Signature Moment: The 10-1 Jets met the 4-7 Dolphins on Monday Night Football on November 24, 1986 and were buried 45-3 by the Dolphins behind four Dan Marino touchdown throws and three scores by Lorenzo Hampton. The rout detonated a collapse of the Jets season as they lost all of their remaining games, backing into the 1986 playoffs and eventually losing to the Cleveland Browns.
- *Signature Moment: On November 27, 1994, the Jets battled the Dolphins at The Meadowlands for a share of first place in the AFC East. Miami, who at one point trailed 24-6, came back to make it 24-21. Then, with 22 seconds left in the game, Dan Marino faked a spike and tossed the ball to Mark Ingram, which resulted in a game-winning touchdown for the Dolphins. The "fake spike" propelled Miami to the division title, while the Jets lost all of their remaining games that year.
- *Signature moment: On October 23, 2000, the Jets hosted the Dolphins at The Meadowlands on Monday Night Football. Miami dominated most of the game, building a 30-7 lead in the fourth quarter and undoubtedly leading many television fans to turn off the game early, but things were just getting started. Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw two quick touchdown passes, followed by a John Hall field goal to bring the Jets within seven, and with 3:55 left to play, Testaverde threw a 24-yard strike to Wayne Chrebet to tie the game. Miami would then score a touchdown that seemingly crushed the Jets' hopes, but with just 42 seconds to play, Testaverde found Jumbo Elliott open on a tackle-eligible play for a three-yard touchdown to tie the game at 37-37. Although Miami got the ball first in the ensuing overtime, the Jets would eventually win on Hall's 40-yard field goal, capping an amazing comeback victory by the Jets and a just reward for the remaining fans that stuck around to the bitter end. In an online poll in 2002, as part of Monday Night Football's 500th game, fans would vote this the greatest Monday Night game of all time. This comeback became known as "The Monday Night Miracle".
The AFC North is significant in that substantial rivalries exist between nearly every team dating back to their previous divisional alignment as the AFC Central
. The Pittsburgh Steelers
has five NFL titles, the Cleveland Browns
has 4 NFL and 4 AAFC titles, and the Baltimore Ravens
. The Cincinnati Bengals
lost two Super Bowls in he 1980s (both times to the San Francisco 49ers
- *First met in 1970; suspended after the 1995 season; restored in the 1999 season.
- *Series tied 35-35. (no playoff contests)
- *Signature moment: Paul Brown got fired from the Cleveland Browns in 1963 by then-owner Art Modell. After the American Football League Bengals joined the NFL, Brown began an intrastate rivalry with the Browns. The rivalry became known as "The Battle of Ohio"; it has also been nicknamed "The I-71 Rivalry," since both teams' home cities are served by Interstate 71.
- *Signature Moment: On November 28, 2004, the Bengals hosted the Browns and the two teams' offenses would combine into the 2nd-highest scoring game in NFL history. The Bengals erupted to a 27-13 halftime lead, but the Browns behind QB Kelly Holcomb scored 35 second-half points and led 48-44 in the fourth. The Bengals then scored the game's final two touchdowns (one a 31-yard Deltha O'Neal score off an interception) for a 58-48 win. Holcomb threw for 413 yards and five touchdowns while Bengals QB Carson Palmer threw four scores and the Bengals rushed for 253 yards.
- *Signature Moment: On September 16, 2007, the Browns hosted the Bengals a week removed from a miserable 34-7 loss to the Steelers. QB Derek Anderson was making his first start of the season and erupted to five touchdowns while Bengals QB Carson Palmer had six Bengals scores. The two quarterbacks combined for 729 yards as Cleveland held on for a 51-45 win in the 8th highest-scoring game in NFL history.
- *First met in 1970.
- *44-30 Pittsburgh leads series (Pittsburgh leads playoff series 1-0)
- *A relatively recent rivalry, though termed by Sports Illustrated in 2006 to be "The Nastiest Rivalry in the NFL, and having both teams play each other twice each season (something not every rivalry can claim), it has only become heated in the last half decade.
- *Signature moment: After a long drought of non-winning seasons, the Bengals reached the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. But their first playoff game was against the division-rival Steelers. In the second play of the January 2006 playoff game, Kimo von Oelhoffen (a former Bengal and now former Steeler) ran into quarterback Carson Palmer, causing a tear in Palmer's ACL and MCL, a hit that the officials called "unavoidable". The Steelers would go on to win the game and advance to Super Bowl XL winning their fifth world championship.
- *First met in 1950; suspended after the 1995 season; restored in the 1999 season.
- *57-55 Pittsburgh leads series (Pittsburgh leads playoff series 2-0)
- *Signature moment: In the midst of 42-6 Steelers rout of the Browns on October 5, 1975, Steeler defensive tackle Joe Greene was ejected after he repeatedly kicked Browns' offensive lineman Bob McKay in the groin.
- *Signature moment: In their second meeting of the 1976 season, Steelers' quarterback Terry Bradshaw was sacked by Browns' defensive end Joe (Turkey) Jones. Instead of merely tackling Bradshaw, Jones lifted him up and slammed him head-first into the Cleveland Stadium turf. Bradshaw would miss the next two contests.
- *Signature moment: In the Browns' first season returning to the league, the team met the archrival Steelers in week 10 of the 1999 NFL season. A last minute field goal kick by Phil Dawson got the Browns their second win of the year with a 16-15 upset victory in Pittsburgh. The victory was especially notable considering the dominating 43-0 victory the Steelers notched in the Browns home opener, their first game back to the NFL after a three-year hiatus. In December 2006, the Browns' official website ranked Dawson's game winning field goal as one of the sixty greatest moments in franchise history.
- *Signature moment: This rust belt rivalry moved from the old NFL Eastern Conference to the AFC after the AFL-NFL merger. Prior to the merger, the Browns had made the Steelers their favorite patsy, but Pittsburgh won four Super Bowls in the 1970s while the Browns foundered. The teams met in their first playoff battle in 1994, which the Steelers won at Three Rivers Stadium. The teams met in the playoffs for a second time in 2002 when Pittsburgh overcame a 17-point deficit and scoring 22 points in the 4th quarter to win 36-33.
- *First met in 1996
- 15-10 Pittsburgh leads series (Pittsburgh leads playoffs 1-0)
- *Signature Moment: These two teams met in the 2001 AFC Divisional playoffs. There was a lot of jawing before the game as both teams split their regular season meetings. The Ravens were riding high following a 20-3 victory over the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card round. However, the Steelers defense proved to be too much as they physically dominated the Ravens offense, forcing four turnovers and recording three sacks while holding the Ravens offense to just 150 total yards as the Steelers prevailed 27-10.
- *Signature Moment: In the 2002 season, Baltimore cornerback James Trapp intercepted a pass and was thrown out of bounds by Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El. This triggered a wild chain of events as skirmishes broke out between both teams as Steelers safety Lee Flowers and wide receiver Hines Ward got into a scuffle with Baltimore cornerback Chris McAlister. Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress jumped into the fight in an effort to protect his fellow teammates but was thrown to the ground where Baltimore cornerback James Trapp stomped on Burress' stomach with both feet and ripped Burress' helmet right off. Consequently, Burress and Trapp got into a fight and both were ejected from the game.
- *Signature Moment: In the 2004 NFL season, Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter shoved Baltimore tight end Todd Heap to the ground. The Ravens were not even running a play as they spiked the ball immediately as it was snapped. Heap was nursing an injured ankle that he suffered on the previous play and he limped to the line of scrimmage before Porter shoved him. Porter's shove made the injury worse as Heap was unable to return to the game. Many Ravens players were angry at Porter, accusing him of taking a cheap shot on Heap.
- *Signature Moment: On November 20, 2005 the Ravens hosted the Steelers, who started Tommy Maddox at quarterback with regular starter Ben Roethlisberger sidelined with an injury. The Ravens took a 13-6 halftime lead but surrendered the game-tying touchdown (by Maddox to Willie Parker) at 9:45 of the fourth. The game went to overtime and Matt Stover won it for the Ravens with a 44-yard field goal at 10:51 of OT.
- *Signature Moment: The Ravens' 2006 storm to a 13-3 season included their very-first season sweep of the Steelers. First, on November 26, they shut out the Steelers 27-0 in M&T Bank Stadium as QB Steve McNair threw one touchdown while Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger threw two picks and was sacked nine times; at 10:14 of the third quarter, Roethlisberger coughed up a fumble returned by Adalius Thomas for a 57-yard Ravens score. Then, on Christmas Eve at Heinz Field, McNair overcame two INTs and threw three touchdowns and RB Jamal Lewis added a 1-yard rushing score, while Roethlisberger threw for one score, was intercepted twice and sacked five times in a 31-7 Ravens rout. The sweep would prove to be critical in eliminating the Steelers from playoff contention.
- *First met in 1999
- *11-7 Baltimore leads series (No playoff contests)
- *A recent rivalry, it began before these teams first met. After Art Modell moved his franchise to Baltimore for the 1996 season and were renamed the Ravens, Cleveland fans began counting the days not only until they could have a team again, but also until they would play the Ravens, and then-owner Art Modell. It is understandably difficult to understate the amount of hatred and vitriol Browns fans feel towards the Ravens organization in general, and the Modell family in particular.
- *Signature Moment: During the 2001 season, the defending Super Bowl Champion Ravens were beaten twice by the Cleveland Browns. Baltimore fans were especially upset after the second loss because Elvis Grbac, who had replaced the Super Bowl winning Trent Dilfer, threw four interceptions. Elvis was even seen crying on the field after throwing the last of them.
- *Signature Moment: In 2003 Jamal Lewis rushed for 295 yards against the Cleveland Browns on September 14. This set an NFL record for the most rushing yards in a single game (broken in 2007 by Adrian Peterson).
- *Signature Moment: In 2004 Safety Ed Reed set an NFL record for the longest interception return after returning an interception 106 yards for a touchdown.
- *Signature Moment: In 2007, the Ravens appeared to have defeated the Browns after Phil Dawson's field goal attempt was initially called a miss by the referees. The officials discussed and eventually overturned the call, leading to an overtime period even though the Ravens were already in their locker room. The Browns then kicked a field goal on the opening possession of overtime to win 33-30.
- *First met in 1995
- *13-9 Tennessee leads series (Tennessee leads playoffs 1-0)
- *Signature moment: In 1999, The Jacksonville Jaguars proved to be one of the elite teams in the AFC, posting a conference-best 14-2 record and winning the AFC Central for the second consecutive year. However, both of their two regular season losses came to the Titans. Coming off a dominating 62-7 victory over Miami in the Divisional Round, the Jaguars once again met the 4th-seeded Titans in the AFC Title game in Jacksonville. Tennessee won handily 33-14, sending the Titans to Super Bowl XXXIV and spoiling Jacksonville's dream season in the process.
- *Signature Moment: The Jaguars beat the Titans 15-12 for the first time in Tennessee in 2004. which started a string of Jacksonville victories in the series
- *Signature Moment: In 2006, the Titans defeated the Jaguars 24-17, even though the Jaguars gained over 300 yards, 23 first downs, and controlled the ball for 44 minutes; the Titans in contrast gained less than 100 yards on offense, scoring primarily on special teams and with defensive scores off Jacksonville turnovers.
- *First met in 1970 (as Houston Oilers and Baltimore Colts)
- *15-11 Indianapolis leads series (Tennessee leads playoffs 1-0)
- *Signature Moment: In the first playoff meeting between the two clubs and the first meeting in which the former Houston Oilers were now the Tennessee Titans, the Colts hosted the Titans at the RCA Dome for the 1999 AFC Divisional Playoffs. Mike Vanderjagt and Al Del Greco exchanged field goals for a 9-6 Colts halftime lead, then Eddie George's 68-yard score early in the third gave the Titans the lead. From there Del Greco added two more field goals to put the game away, this despite a late 15-yard rushing score by Peyton Manning. The 19-16 win ultimately helped the Titans get to Super Bowl XXXIV.
- *Signature Moment: The Colts and Titans were locked in a battle for the division title in 2003; they would finish second and third respectively in the AFC in points scored (447 for the Colts and 435 for the Titans, trailing only the 484 scored by the Kansas City Chiefs) and both Steve McNair and Peyton Manning would share league MVP honors as a result. On December 7 the Titans hosted the Colts, both teams coming off bitter losses to AFC East teams (the Titans lost to the New York Jets while the Colts lost to the New England Patriots). The Colts rallied from a 10-3 first-quarter deficit behind three Mike Vanderjagt field goals in the second quarter, then scored in the third quarter off two Edgerrin James rushing touchdowns and another Vanderjagt kick. A Titans rally left the score 29-27, but a two-point conversion try in the final two minutes failed and the Colts won the game, securing the first of five straight AFC South titles.
- *Signature Moment: After seven straight losses to the Colts, the Titans on December 3, 2006 erased a 14-0 second-quarter deficit with new quarterback Vince Young, who overcame two interceptions to rush for 78 yards and throw touchdowns to Drew Bennett and Brandon Jones. Colts QB Peyton Manning threw a 68-yard score to Marvin Harrison but also tossed two interceptions while K Adam Vinatieri missed a 53-yard field goal try. Titans kicker Rob Bironas kicked the game-winning field goal with seven seconds remaining, which sealed a 20-17 Titans win. It was the first of three losses (all to division foes) for the Colts in their last five regular season games of 2006.
- *Signature Moment: In the season finale of the 2007 season the Colts hosted the Titans having secured a first round playoff bye. The Colts rested most of their starters (backup quarterback Jim Sorgi played the majority of the game) while the Titans, needing a win to make the playoffs, won the game 16-10, their first road win over the Colts since 2002.
- *First met in 2002
- *11-2 Tennessee leads series (no playoff contests)
- *The formation of the Houston Texans helped lead to NFL divisional realignment in 2002 and the formation of the AFC South.
- *The rivalry pits the former Houston Oilers, who left Houston after the 1996 season, against Houston's present-day NFL squad.
- *Signature Moment: On November 10, 2002 the Titans returned to Houston for the first time since December 15, 1996 when the Oilers lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 21-13 in their final game at the Astrodome. The present-day Houston squad limited Titans quarterback Steve McNair to just 109 yards passing with two touchdowns and two INTs. The Titans behind 132 rushing yards by McNair and Eddie George won 17-10 as the Texans managed one touchdown from David Carr to Jarrod Baxter.
- *Signature Moment: On December 21, 2003 the Texans and Titans put on a hard-fought affair at Reliant Stadium as Houston erased a 10-3 halftime gap. Marlon McCree intercepted a Steve McNair pass at his 5-yard line and scored. Samari Rolle then grabbed a Houston fumble at his 39-yard line and scored for the Titans, but David Carr's 20-yard touchdown to Corey Bradford left the game tied at 17 entering the fourth. With 2:48 left in the fourth the Texans took a 24-20 lead on a Domanick Williams rushing score, but McNair landed a 23-yard touchdown to Drew Bennett for the 27-24 Tennessee win.
- *Signature Moment: The Texans ended their career losing streak to the Titans on November 28, 2004 at Reliant Stadium. Steve McNair threw three touchdowns in the game's first 20 minutes for a 21-3 Tennessee lead, but the Texans shut out the Titans from then on, scoring 28 unanswered points. David Carr had two touchdowns while Jonathan Wells and Domanick Williams' rushing scores completed the 31-21 Houston win.
- *Signature Moment: It was a scoring explosion on October 21, 2007 at Reliant Stadium as the Titans and quarterback Vince Young chipped away to a 32-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Kicker Rob Bironas kicked six field goals in the first three quarters. Matt Schaub of the Texans was knocked out of the game and backup Sage Rosenfels overcame three interceptions and erupted with four touchdowns in the fourth quarter, tying an NFL record, and leading the Texans to a 36-35 lead. But Bironas kicked two more field goals, setting a single-game NFL record, for a 38-36 Titans win.
- Another rivalry with a special level of division-wide bitterness, the division also has Super Bowl tradition. Entering 2008 the Broncos are 2-4 in Super Bowls, the Raiders 3-2, the Chiefs 1-1, and the Chargers 0-1.
- Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs
- *First met in 1960
- *52-42 Kansas City leads series (Denver leads playoffs 1-0)
- *Signature moment: Former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana finished his career in Kansas City, and led the Chiefs to a memorable comeback at Denver's Mile High Stadium.
- *Signature moment: After suffering a 24-22 road defeat at the hands of the Chiefs in the regular season, Denver went on to beat Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium in the playoffs, eventually winning Super Bowl XXXII.
- *Signature Moment: The 11-1 Chiefs traveled to Invesco Field on December 7, 2003 and were buried 45-27 behind a monster rushing day by Clinton Portis, who ran for 218 yards and five touchdowns. The Chiefs led 21-17 at the half before Portis exploded to 140 yards and three scores in a ten-minute span from 12:18 of the third quarter to 7:02 of the fourth.
- *Signature Moment: Coach Herm Edwards saw the Chiefs end a 12-game losing streak by downing the Broncos 33-19 at Arrowhead Stadium on September 28, 2008. Entering the game at 3-0, the Broncos' high-scoring offense had averaged 38 points in three wins but was shut down in the first quarter and limited to one Jay Cutler touchdown throw (to Brandon Marshall) and three Matt Prater field goals, with a 28-yard FG miss and two Cutler INTs adding insult to the loss. The Chiefs erupted in the fourth quarter with two touchdowns (a Damon Huard ten-yard strike to Tony Gonzalez and a late 16-yard burst by Larry Johnson) and a field goal to put the game away. The game was marred by a scary hit on a Denver kick return; Broncos receiver Clifford Russell was hit twice in the head and went numb on the right side of his body; he was taken from the stadium on a stretcher but waved to the crowd upon leaving and regained full mobility later.
- *First met in 1960
- *53-43-1 Denver leads series (no playoff contests)
- *Signature Moment: In San Diego's Super bowl season of 1994, the road team won both matchups with Denver. At Mile High Stadium on September 4 the Chargers wiped out a 17-6 first-quarter Denver lead with three Stan Humphries touchdown throws and a fourth-quarter Stanley Richard interception of John Elway at the Chargers 1-yard line returned for a San Diego touchdown. Elway and Shannon Sharpe put the Broncos up 34-30 late in the fourth, but the Chargers stormed down field and Natrone Means ran in the game-winning touchdown of a 37-34 Chargers final. The October 23 rematch at Jack Murphy Stadium was far less spectacular as the Broncos picked off Humphries three times and clawed to a 20-15 win.
- *Signature Moment: On November 9, 2000 the 0-10 Chargers led by Ryan Leaf took on the Broncos in Denver. Leaf threw three touchdowns and Scott Turner ran back a Gus Frerotte interception 75 yards for a Chargers touchdown. Following an 83-yard Jeff Graham touchdown catch at the end of the third quarter the Chargers led 34-17 but the Broncos, despite four Frerotte INTs, fought back as Frerotte threw three scores in the fourth quarter and won 38-37.
- *Signature Moment: On December 1, 2002 at Qualcomm Stadium the Chargers erased a 10-0 Broncos lead in the first quarter with three LaDanian Tomlinson rushing scores and a 21-10 lead in the second. But Chargers PK Steve Christie missed three field goal tries as the Broncos clawed back and tied the game in the third. An exchange of field goals sent the game into overtime and Christie redeemed his earlier misses with a 27-yard kick and a 30-27 San Diego win.
- *Signature Moment: At Invesco Field on November 19, 2006 the Broncos raced to a 24-7 lead early in the second quarter. But new Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers overcame two interceptions and threw two scores in the second half; the first Rivers touchdown throw was a 51-yard strike to LaDanian Tomlinson in the third quarter. The Chargers wiped out Denver's lead and won 35-27 as Tomlinson finished with 179 combined yards and three scores.
- *Signature Moment: Controversy dogged a thrilling 39-38 Broncos win at Invesco Field on September 14, 2008. Two Tony Scheffler touchdown catches from Jay Cutler in the second quarter put Denver up 21-3, but following the second touchdown Darren Sproles ran back the ensuing kick 103 yards for a touchdown. The Broncos led 31-17 at the half, but two Nate Kaeding field goals and two Philip Rivers touchdown throws and a two-point conversion made off a 60-yard Sproles touchdown run off an eight-yard Rivers throw put San Diego up 38-31 in the finl five minutes. But the Broncos stormed down field and reached the 1-yard line in the final minute; on third-and goal Cutler dropped back to pass but the ball slipped out of his hands and was grabbed by Tim Dobbins. Referee Ed Hochuli ruled the play was not a fumble because he'd blown the play dead; TV replays, though, indicated the play got off before the whistle, and an equipment failure left referees unable to access TV replays. The call stood and Cutler fired a four-yard score to Eddie Royal; Mike Shanahan then called for a two-point conversion and it was successfully completed on another Cutler to Royal pass. The loss left Norv Turner still upset over the Cutler fumble call.
- *First met in 1960
- *58-39-2 Oakland leads series (Playoffs tied 1-1)
- *Signature moment: The Broncos beat the Raiders in 1977 to win their first AFC Championship.
- *Signature moment: In the 1993 season finale, the Raiders scored an overtime victory against the Broncos to make the playoffs, setting up another game between the two in Los Angeles the following week. Outspoken Raiders' owner Al Davis commented before the playoff game that the Broncos were "scared to death of us. Despite the Broncos' protestations to the contrary, the Raiders made their owner's words stand up, winning 42-24.
- *Signature moment: In 1995, former Raiders coach Mike Shanahan, who was at the time in an ongoing contract dispute with Davis, became Denver's head coach, heightening an already contentious AFC West rivalry. The bitterness of the rivalry and the Shanahan chapter of it was illustrated following the firing by the Raiders of coach Lane Kiffin. Shanahan was asked about Kiffin at a press conference and joked that Kiffin spent 34 more days in the employ of Al Davis than he had; "Al Davis liked Lane more than he liked me," Shanahan quipped. It was also noted that the Raiders had lost in an arbitration hearing over $250,000 owed Shanahan which had yet to be paid as of 2008. Shanahan has dominated the rivalry, losing only six of his first 27 meetings with the Raiders since becoming Broncos head coach.
- *First met in 1960
- 51-43-2 Kansas City leads series (Kansas City leads playoffs 2-1)
- *Signature moment: In 1969, the final season prior to the merger between the AFL and NFL, the Raiders defeated the Chiefs twice during the regular season (27-24 at Kansas City and 10-6 at Oakland). The two teams met again in the last AFL championship game at the Oakland Coliseum, with the Chiefs taking a 17-7 victory. Kansas City would go on to win Super Bowl IV the next week against the Minnesota Vikings.
- *Signature moment: In the first meeting between the teams during the 1970 season, the Chiefs held a 17-14 lead late in the fourth quarter and appeared ready to run out the clock. Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson rolled around right end and gained enough yardage for a first down, and as he fell to the ground, he was speared from behind by Raiders defensive end Ben Davidson. A fight ensued, and Davidson was shoved out of the way by Chiefs wide receiver Otis Taylor. Offsetting penalties were called, and the play was nullified. Kansas City was forced to punt, and the Raiders took advantage, as George Blanda nailed a 48-yard field goal with two seconds left to secure a 17-17 tie. Due to this play, the NFL changed the rules so that Davidson's personal foul would have been enforced at the end of the play, and Taylor's penalty would have been assessed only after the Chiefs had been awarded a first down. The tie proved to be costly for the Chiefs, as Oakland would clinch the first AFC West championship with a 20-6 victory in Oakland in Week 13.
- *Signature moment: Former Super Bowl XVIII MVP Marcus Allen joined the Chiefs after falling out of favor with Oakland's owner, Al Davis. In ten career matchups against the Raiders Allen's Chiefs were 9-1, losing only on December 9, 1996 at Oakland 26-7. Allen had three touchdowns against the Raiders in his five seasons with Kansas City.
- *First met in 1960
- *55-39-2 Oakland leads series (Oakland leads playoffs 1-0)
- *Ironically, this rivalry involves two teams that at periods of their existence played in Los Angeles. The Chargers began in 1960 as the LA Chargers, while the Raiders played in LA in the 1982-94 period.
- *Signature moment: The Raiders are many teams' most hated rival, and the Chargers have been in the same division and state for over 40 years. In their only playoff meeting to date, the Raiders went into San Diego to defeat the Chargers 34-27, in the 1980 AFC Championship Game.
- *Signature moment: In a 1978 game, the Raiders were behind 20-14 with 10 seconds to go and facing fourth down on the Chargers 14. Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler deliberately fumbled forward (he admitted doing so in a postgame interview), and teammates Pete Banaszak and Dave Casper batted the ball forward until Casper fell on the ball in the end zone for the touchdown that tied the game. The Raiders won with the ensuing point-after kick. The play would enter NFL lore as the "Holy Roller", or the "Immaculate Deception" among Chargers fans. The play directly led to changes in NFL rules regarding fumbles on fourth down or within the last two minutes of the game.
- *Signature Moment: Since divisional realignment in 2002 the Chargers won 10 of 12 matchups covering the 2002-7 period. Oakland's last win entering 2008 was a 34-31 overtime win on September 28, 2003. LaDanian Tomlinson exploded to 187 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown, and also threw a 21-yard score to quarterback Drew Brees in the first quarter. But Oakland wiped out a 31-17 Chargers lead in the fourth quarter, then won in overtime on a 46-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal.
- *Signature moment: In a Monday Night Football doubleheader on September 11, 2006, the Chargers shut out the Raiders, 27-0, for the first time since 1961.
Intradivisional rivalries: NFC
This entire division can be considered one gigantic rivalry in itself, since every team shares a long and bitter rivalry with every other team, and also because this division holds 11 titles of the 42 Super Bowls
played as of 2007
. The rivalries are so entrenched that when the NFL realigned the divisions into the four-team format, the teams remained in the same division (despite the fact that Dallas is much further west
than the St. Louis Rams
, who play in the NFC West). This also makes for a very financially lucrative division, with more guaranteed "big market match-ups" for the NFL and its media partners. Sports Illustrated magazine ranks the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry as #1 and the Eagles-Giants rivalry as #4 in its list of the top ten NFL rivalries of all time.
- *First met in 1960
- *55-38-2 Dallas leads series (Washington leads playoffs 2-0)
- *Perhaps no NFL rivalry has had more national spotlight than the Cowboys–Redskins rivalry. Whether it was Landry vs. Allen or Landry vs. Gibbs, or Staubach vs. Theismann, or Dorsett vs. Riggins, the two annual Cowboys vs. Redskins games are a big deal no matter what the records are. The teams have won a combined total of eight Super Bowls and have played each other twice in the NFC Championship Game. Dallas leads the all-time series 55-39-2, while Washington has won both playoff contests (both in the NFC Championship Game) between the two clubs.
- *Signature Moment: The rivalry began even before the Dallas Cowboys existed when then Redskins owner George Preston Marshall opposed the proposal for an expansion team in Texas. A behind-the-scenes battle would then ensue, and finally culminate when the would-be Dallas owners bought the rights to Washington's fight song, "Hail to the Redskins" and threatened to not allow Marshall to play it at his team's games. Marshall then backed down, the Cowboys were born, and the rivalry began in 1960.
- *Signature moment: November 10, 1962 was the date of the infamous Cowboy Chicken Club game, as four banners reading "CHICKENS" were unfurled over the 50 yard line and end zone facades of D.C. Stadium, during "Hail To The Redskins." Two acrobats then ran onto the field releasing a chicken and throwing colored eggs into the crowd, during the National Anthem. The chicken prank dated back to the season before as the Chicken Club planned to release 75 white chickens and one black chicken during the halftime show of a game on December 17, 1961. The black chicken and colored eggs symbolized then Redskins owner George Preston Marshall's stance against signing African-American players to play for the Redskins. After apprehending one of the acrobats (the other escaped), the game began and the Cowboys marched to a 38-10 victory.
- *Signature moment: In their first ever playoff meeting, the Redskins crushed the Cowboys 26-3 in the 1972 NFC Championship Game, halting the Cowboys' bid to reach three consecutive Super Bowls.
- *Signature moment: On Thanksgiving 1974, backup Dallas QB Clint Longley, subbing for an injured Roger Staubach, threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Drew Pearson to cap an amazing comeback and defeat the Redskins 24-23. Longley never saw significant playing time after that, and was cut from the team after a locker room fight with Staubach.
- *Signature moment: Washington led by 13 points late in the final game of the 1979 season, but Dallas QB Roger Staubach led two scoring drives as time was running out to win the game 35-34. Staubach threw an 8-yard pass to Tony Hill for the last touchdown. The win knocked the Redskins out of the playoffs for the 1979 season.
- *Signature moment: Perhaps the most remembered contest of this rivalry was the NFC Championship game at RFK Stadium in 1982, where the rivalry was personified with the entire stadium chanting "We Want Dallas!" throughout the game. The game was highlighted by Redskins guard Darryl Grant high-stepping into the end zone to add insult to the Redskins 31-17 victory.
- *Signature Moment: In the 1999 season opener in Washington, Dallas fell behind 35-14 at the end of the third quarter. Troy Aikman threw touchdowns to Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith added a one-yard rushing score to force overtime. On a play fake just over two minutes into OT Aikman found a wide-open Raghib Ismail for a 76-yard touchdown and a 41-35 Dallas win. The win was the fourth of ten straight by the Cowboys over the Redskins.
- *Signature Moment: In the second game of the 2005 season, the Cowboys led 13-0 with little over 4 minutes to go in the fourth quarter at Texas Stadium. Mark Brunell led a furious comeback, throwing two bombs to Santana Moss to win the game 14-13, the first Redskins victory over Dallas since 2002, and effectively ending the Cowboys' dominance of the rivalry from the mid 1990s to that point. Washington would go on to defeat Dallas 35-7 in the second meeting, and capture the last NFC Wildcard berth by one game over their hated rivals.
- *Signature Moment: In Week 15 of the 2005 season, the Washington Redskins defeated the Cowboys 35-7 with head coach Joe Gibbs and his team handing Bill Parcells the worst loss of his hall of fame career, a win that catapulted the Redskins into the playoffs, and knocked their rivals out.
- *Signature Moment: "The Hand of God Game" In Week 9 of the 2006 season, during the fourth quarter, the game was tied 19-19 (due in part to a missed two-point conversion by the Cowboys). With 31 seconds to go, the Redskins' recently acquired kicker, Nick Novak, missed a 49-yard field goal. The Cowboys then worked their way up the field to set up Mike Vanderjagt, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, for a 35-yard field goal with only seconds remaining. However, the kick was blocked by Troy Vincent, a safety who had been picked up by the Redskins off waivers earlier that week. The ball was scooped up by the Redskins' free safety, Sean Taylor, who recovered the blocked kick and ran it back to the Cowboys' 44-yard line, where the Cowboys' offensive lineman Kyle Kosier grabbed him by his facemask in an attempt to tackle him. The game would have gone into overtime had it not been for Kosier's defensive penalty, which added fifteen yards to the end of the return (by rule an NFL game cannot end on a defensive penalty). Novak set up for a 47-yard field goal with no time left on the clock. After missing the first one wide right, Novak's kick started wide right again before suddenly swinging back between the uprights as if pushed "by the hand of God" to give the Redskins a thrilling victory with no time on the clock.
- *Signature Moment: In the final Cowboys–Redskins game in Texas Stadium, the Washington Redskins under rookie head coach Jim Zorn defeated the Cowboys 26-24 in a game that the Redskins controlled most of and wasn't as close as the score suggests. Coming into the game the Cowboys were ranked first by many NFL insiders such as the Fox NFL Sunday crew and analysts for ESPN's SportsCenter as well as an early favorite for the Super Bowl while the Redskins were suspected to finish last in the NFC East.
- *First met in 1960
- *54-42 Dallas leads series (Dallas leads playoffs 2-1)
- *This rivalry, although not as intense as the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry, is still considered one of the greatest in the NFL as both teams, along with their die hard fans, usually pose a great challenge to each other whenever they meet.
- *Famed Cowboys coach Tom Landry was 36-21 against the Eagles.
- *Signature moment: When the Cowboys visited Veterans Stadium for a Monday Night Football contest on September 23, 1974, Dallas was coming off its eighth consecutive playoff appearance in 1973, while the Eagles had suffered through its seventh consecutive losing season. But thanks to a 97-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Joe Lavender and a 45-yard field goal by Tom Dempsey as time expired, Philadelphia pulled off a 13-10 shocker. The 1974 season marked the only time between 1966 and 1983 in which the Cowboys did not make the playoffs, and the Eagles finished 7-7 in 1974, the only non-losing season for the franchise between 1967 and 1977.
- *Signature moment: One of the first signs of the end of the Cowboys' dominance of the NFC in the late 1970s came in the 1980 NFC Championship, when the Eagles, led by quarterback Ron Jaworski toppled Dallas in a frigid Veterans Stadium, 20-7.
- *Signature moment: The Eagles had another strong season in 1981 and faced Dallas in a December showdown for the division title. The Cowboys won the showdown 21-10 to force the Eagles to settle for a wild card playoff berth.
- *Signature moment: The Cowboys' traditional home Thanksgiving game in 1989 saw several skirmishes between players of both teams, with Cowboys kicker Luis Zendejas (a former Eagle) eventually being knocked out of the game with a concussion. In the wake of the Cowboys' 27-0 defeat, the only shutout Dallas has ever suffered on Thanksgiving, Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson accused Eagles coach Buddy Ryan of placing bounties on Zendejas and Cowboys QB Troy Aikman. The game became known as the Bounty Bowl. Two weeks later, chaos again broke out in Veterans Stadium as snowballs were pelted at the Dallas bench, with Coach Jimmy Johnson needing a police escort on the way out. This is known as Bounty Bowl II. One of the participants in the snowball throwing was future Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, an avowed Eagles fanatic.
- *Signature moment: Michael Irvin was injured in an October 1999 game at Veterans Stadium that left him briefly paralyzed; he lay motionless on the Vet's hard Astroturf field and had to be taken off on a stretcher. Irvin was forced to retire due to the injury. The Eagles fans cheered following this incident; while the cheering was condemned by some, like Rich Eisen on ESPN, as being in bad taste, it has been interpreted by many as polite as the cheering began when Irvin was taken from the field. This kind of cheering is standard in NFL games.
- *Signature moment: After being released by the Eagles, Terrell Owens was signed by the Cowboys for a 3-year, $25 million deal on March 18, 2006. The Eagles and Cowboys squared off at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 5 of the 2006 season. The minute Owens stepped on the field, he was hailed with boos and jeers from the crowd. He only had 3 catches for 45 yards in the Eagles' 38-24 victory. However, in the 2007 meeting in Philadelphia, Owens fared much better, catching 10 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. When Owens scored the touchdown, he mockingly flapped his wings in the end zone to infuriate the Eagles fans. The Cowboys won the game 38-17.
- *Signature Moment: The Eagles participated in their final game in the old Texas Stadium on September 15, 2008 on Monday Night Football. Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo combined for 593 passing yards, but at the start of the second quarter Romo fumbled in his endzone and Chris Gocong of the Eagles fell on the fumble for a touchdown. The Eagles led 30-24 at halftime and 37-31 in the fourth, but the Cowboys fell on a botched handoff by McNabb to Brian Westbrook and ultimately scored 10 unanswered points. The Eagles had possession in the final two minutes but McNabb was sacked twice and on 4th and 17 tried a short pass followed by a pair of laterals quickly snuffed out by the Cowboys for a 41-37 win The 78 combined points was the largest total score in any game in the rivalry's history.
- *First met in 1937
- *86-62-4 NY Giants lead series (Playoffs tied 1-1)
- *In the league's early years, this northeast corridor battle had the biggest stars on the league going up against each other — Sammy Baugh of the Redskins, Y.A. Tittle and Frank Gifford for the Giants, and Sam Huff who played for both teams. The modern version of the rivalry saw Bill Parcells' Giants and Joe Gibbs' Redskins battle to see who would go to the Super Bowl from the NFC, in the 1980s and early 1990s. The Giants and Redskins each won two Super Bowls between the 1986 and 1991 seasons.
- *Until the Giants moved to Yankee Stadium in 1956, the Washington Redskins would bring their marching band, the first in the NFL, to away games at the Polo Grounds and march them from Penn Station up Eigth Avenue to Columbus, and then to the stadium, playing the Redskins fight song for all of New York to hear.
- *Signature moment: In the eleventh week of a 1966 season that would see only one Giants victory and a lackluster 7-7 record for the Redskins, records were set for both highest team score and highest total game score as Washington humiliated New York 72-41 on November 27. Linebacker Sam Huff, who was traded by the Giants two years earlier, sent in the field goal team with the Redskins up 28, while head coach Otto Graham was talking to quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. Kicker Charlie Gogolak completed the meaningless field goal to surpass the 1950 Los Angeles Rams' previous regular season record of 70 points in a game, kicking against the Giants team whose kicker was his own brother Pete.
- *Signature moment: On a Monday Night Football game in 1985, Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor sacked Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, breaking Theismann's leg on the play. The gruesome injury was caught on live television and replayed multiple times, and Theismann was forced into early retirement. Taylor, who frantically motioned to both sidelines for medical help for Theismann following the play, is still shaken by the incident to this day, and refuses to watch replays of the catastrophe.
- *Signature moment: In 1986, the teams met for the NFC championship game after the Giants swept the Redskins during the regular season. When New York won the coin toss, the Giants opted to take advantage of a swirling wind at Giants Stadium that was gusting in excess of 50 miles per hour rather than have its offense battle the wind in the opening period. Washington was forced to punt into the gale, and the Giants scored a touchdown on their first drive. New York scored all of its points in the first half of a 17-0 victory, catapulting Big Blue to Super Bowl XXI and an eventual world championship.
- *First met in 1960
- *53-35-2 Dallas leads series (New York leads playoffs 1-0)
- * North vs. South. The bright lights of New York and the wide open spaces of Texas. The games between these two teams have served as a metaphor for both America and pro football.
- *Signature moment: The Cowboys defeated the Giants 20-13 on October 11, 1971, the first Monday Night Football meeting between the teams and the last NFL game at the Cotton Bowl.
- *Signature moment: On December 19, 1981, the Giants defeated the Cowboys 13-10 in overtime on a frigid Saturday afternoon in Giants Stadium to help Big Blue reach the playoffs for the first time since 1963. Joe Danelo kicked the winning field goal in overtime after missing a game-winning attempt earlier in sudden death.
- *Signature moment: In the final game of the 1993 season, with both teams at 11-4 and competing for playoff position, Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith suffered a separated right shoulder in the first half, but continued to play in obvious pain, amassing 168 rushing yards, including 41 on the game-winning drive, as Dallas won 16-13 in overtime. Smith also locked up the NFL rushing title with his tough, gritty performance. After the game, sportscaster John Madden paid a visit to Smith in the locker room to congratulate him, the only time Madden (as an announcer) would pay such a visit to a player, later writing "[It] was one of the toughest efforts I've ever seen by any football player in any game. The win earned the Cowboys a bye in the playoffs, giving Smith time to heal, and he would go on to lead the Cowboys to victory over the Bills as the MVP of Super Bowl XXVIII.
- *Signature moment: In 2003, the teams met at Giants Stadium on Monday Night Football. The game marked former Giants coach Bill Parcells' first visit to Giants Stadium as head coach of the Cowboys. The Cowboys led 29-14 after three quarters, but they squandered the lead over the last 15 minutes, and found themselves down 32-29 with just 11 seconds to play. The Giants simply needed to kick off and play a "prevent" defense for 1 or 2 plays, but the kickoff went out of bounds, putting the Cowboys at their own 40 with no time elapsed, and Quincy Carter completed a deep pass to Antonio Bryant, who went out of bounds at the New York 34 to stop the clock with 4 seconds left. Billy Cundiff then converted a 52-yard field goal as time expired to send the game to overtime, and kicked a 25 yarder with 5:56 left in OT to win it for the Cowboys. Cundiff tied an NFL record with 7 field goals in the game, out of 8 total attempts.
- *Signature Moment: In 2007, the Cowboys swept the Giants in the regular season (45-35 in Dallas & 31-20 in NYC), but in the playoffs, the #5 Giants came to Texas Stadium and stunned the top-seeded Cowboys 21-17 en route to winning Super Bowl XLII . Eli Manning scored his second-straight playoff win while Tony Romo suffered his second-straight playoff loss.
- *First met in 1933
- *81-68-2 NY Giants lead series (NY Giants lead playoff series 2-1)
- * The Giants/Eagles rivalry is the oldest of the NFC East rivalries, dating all the way back to 1933.
- *Signature moment: In a 1960 game, the Eagles' Chuck Bednarik cleanly blindsided Giants running back Frank Gifford, sending Gifford into an 18-month retirement due to a severe concussion.
- *Signature moment: On November 19, 1978 at Giants Stadium, the Giants were leading the Eagles 17-12 with 20 seconds remaining. Offensive coordinator Bob Gibson called for a running play when all that was needed was for the Giants to take a knee. The handoff between quarterback Joe Pisarcik and Larry Csonka was fumbled and Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards grabbed the loose ball and returned it for the winning score. This play is commonly referred to as "The Miracle at the Meadowlands" by Eagles fans and just "The Fumble" by Giants fans.
- *Signature moment: On January 7, 2001 in a divisional playoff game, the Giants defeated the Eagles 20-10 thanks to Ron Dixon's 97-yard kickoff return and Jason Sehorn's acrobatic 32-yard interception return. This win would help propel the Giants to Super Bowl XXXV which they ultimately lost to the Baltimore Ravens 34-7.
- *Signature moment: In the two teams' first meeting of the 2006 season, Philadelphia held a 17-point lead going into the fourth quarter. However, the Giants rallied to tie the game, and go into overtime. In overtime, Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw a game winning touchdown pass to WR Plaxico Burress, and the Giants won 30-24. In the second meeting, the Eagles behind quarterback Jeff Garcia (who had replaced Donovan McNabb due to an injury he suffered a few weeks earlier) would get some payback in a 36-22 victory, which was capped with DE Trent Cole intercepting a pass from Manning (who was getting hit and he ended up throwing the ball up in the air) and returning it for a touchdown. They would meet for a third time in the 2006-2007 playoffs, where the Giants rallied to tie the game at 20 in a late fourth quarter drive marred by repeated penalties by linesman Chris Snee; the Eagles then executed a textbook late-game rush-oriented drive and won on a game-ending field goal, 23-20.
- *Signature moment: In the teams' first meeting of 2007, the Giants won 16-3. In the game, New York's defense sacked Eagles QB Donovan McNabb 12 times (tying an NFL record), with DE Osi Umenyiora recording 6. Also, with one lone sack, Michael Strahan surpassed Lawrence Taylor as the Giants' All-Time Sack Leader.
The three dominant teams in the NFC North division (the Green Bay Packers
, Minnesota Vikings
and Chicago Bears
) all have long, historic and deeply charged rivalries between them. In the Super Bowl
era the Packers are 3-1, the Bears 1-1, and the Vikings 0-4.
- *First met in 1922
- *90-79-6 Chicago leads series (Chicago leads championship series 1-0)
- *Signature moment: Pro football's longest and most storied rivalry. Green Bay was often overshadowed by the Monsters of the Midway (led by George Halas) for many years, until Vince Lombardi came to Wisconsin to dominate the 1960s.
- *Signature moment: Packers star halfback Paul Hornung was suspended for the 1963 season by commissioner Pete Rozelle for gambling, but Green Bay still finished the 1963 campaign 11-2-1. The two losses, however, came to the Bears, 10-3 in the season opener at Lambeau Field and 26-7 in week ten at Wrigley Field, ending coach Vince Lombardi's first quest for three consecutive NFL championships, a goal the Packers would reach from 1965-67. The Bears finished the 1963 season 12-1-1 and defeated the Giants for the NFL championship, 14-10, on an 8-degree day at Wrigley.
- *Signature moment: On September 7, 1980 the Packers and the Bears were tied at 6-6 in overtime. A 32-yard pass from Lynn Dickey to James Lofton helped set up a game-winning field goal attempt by Packers' kicker Chester Marcol. Bears' defender Alan Page was able to block the field goal, sending the ball straight back to Marcol. Surprised by getting the ball back, Marcol ran around the Bears defenders who were confused by the play. Marcol received a block and was able to run in for the game winning touchdown.
- *Signature moment: In Week 12 of the 1986 season Green Bay defensive tackle Charles Martin wore a towel with specific Bears numbers written on it (#34, Walter Payton, #9 Jim McMahon). It was considered a hit list by many. Following a McMahon interception Martin came up from behind and body slammed him to the turf, separating McMahon's shoulder, ending the quarterback's season. Martin would be suspended for two games, at the time the longest suspension in NFL history.
- *Signature moment: Packers quarterback Don Majkowski led the Packers to a comeback and a game-winning touchdown pass to WR Sterling Sharpe with only seconds left to play. Initially the play was called a touchdown, but line judge Jim Quirk had called a penalty on Majkowski for being beyond the line of scrimmage when he threw the pass. With a nervous and tense crowd at Lambeau Field, the call went up to the instant replay official, Bill Parkinson. Several minutes later the call came down and the touchdown was correctly awarded as recorded by instant replay. The Lambeau faithful and Packer players erupted with joy because it marked the first time since 1984 that the Packers had beaten their long-time rivals. The game has been called "The Instant Replay Game" by many fans and was given its own notation in the Bears programs for many years.
- *Signature moment: In the opening week of the 2006 season, September 10, the Chicago Bears handed legendary Packer quarterback Brett Favre his first shutout in his 16-year career, winning 26-0 in Green Bay. The Packers beat the Bears in the last game of the season 26-7, which was widely speculated (incorrectly, as it later turned out) to have been Favre's last game.
- *First met in 1961
- *48-42-2 Minnesota leads series (Chicago leads playoffs 1-0)
- *Signature moment: The first meeting between the 2 teams in 1961. The upstart Minnesota Vikings upset the dominant Chicago Bears 37-13 in the Vikings first game as a franchise. Also memorable was the meeting between the 2 teams in 1998 when former Vikings linebacker Dwayne Rudd taunted a Chicago player en route to scoring a defensive touchdown.
- *Signature Moment: On October 14, 2007 the Bears hosted the Vikings at Soldier Field. The game was scoreless until Devin Hester returned a punt for an 89-yard touchdown with two minutes left in the first quarter. But on the final play of the first quarter, Vikings QB Tavaris Jackson launched a 60-yard touchdown pass to Troy Williamson. The Bears threw for 373 yards and Brian Griese threw three touchdowns and two picks, while the Vikings behind rookie RB Adrian Peterson's 224 rushing yards and three scores attacked on the ground to the tune of 311 rushing yards. The Vikings stormed to a 31-17 lead with five minutes in regulation, but two Griese touchdowns tied the game with 1:38 to go. The Vikings clawed into range for a 55-yard Ryan Longwell field goal on the final play for a 34-31 Vikings win.
- *First met in 1961
- *48-44-1 Green Bay leads series (Minnesota leads playoffs 1-0)
- *The bitterness of the rivalry was illustrated in the 2008 preseason when Packers quarterback Brett Favre, in his public feud with Green Bay management over his attempted comeback from retirement, expressed desire to play for the Vikings, a move soundly opposed by the Packers, who filed tampering charges against the Vikings (which were proven to be unfounded) and later traded Favre to the New York Jets with a stipulation that the Packers receive multiple draft picks from the Jets should Favre be traded to an NFC North team, presumably the Vikings.
- *Signature Moment: On October 5, 1998 Vikings rookie Randy Moss made his Monday Night Football debut at Lambeau Field and had five catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Randall Cunningham had two additional touchdown throws (to Jake Reed and Robert Smith) and Gary Anderson connected on three field goals in a 37-24 Vikings win. Brett Favre threw three interceptions and was benched for Doug Pederson, who threw fourth-quarter scores to Tyrone Davis and Bill Schroeder.
- *Signature moment: In a Monday Night Football game in 2000, the Packers and Vikings were tied at 20-20 in overtime when Brett Favre threw a long pass that Vikings cornerback Cris Dishman deflected towards Antonio Freeman, who was on the ground. The ball went straight from Dishman to Freeman's shoulder, who then rolled over to make the catch at the 15-yard line, and took it into the endzone for the touchdown and the 26-20 win. This prompted Al Michaels, who was broadcasting the game on ABC, to famously utter, "He did what?" This catch has gone down as the "Improbable Bobble."
- *Signature moment: January 9, 2005 represented the first time that the two clubs have faced each other in the playoffs. The Vikings jumped to an early lead and carried by the arm of Daunte Culpepper ultimately won 31-17. After his second touchdown, Viking's wide receiver Randy Moss faux mooned Packer fans. Culpepper threw four touchdowns, two of them to Moss for 20 and 34 yards, while Nate Burleson caught a 19-yad score and Moe Williams hauled in a 68-yard bomb. Brett Favre threw four interceptions for Green Bay's second home playoff loss in three years after winning 13 straight postseason contests at Lambeau Field.
- * The Packers-Vikings rivalry is noted for being very balanced. In the 94 meetings, the total offensive yardage, points scored, wins, turnovers, and time of possession are all within 5% of each other; these are the closest margins for a rivalry longer than 15 years.
Though only formed in 2002, the division quickly established itself as an NFC playoff power. The Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII
in the division's first season of existence, and the Panthers reached Super Bowl XXXVIII
, losing in a wild shootout to the New England Patriots
. The Falcons, Panthers, and Saints all made the NFC Championship Game in the next three seasons, with 2007 being the first season since the division's formation that a team did not advance beyond the Wild Card playoff round.
- *First met in 1995
- *16-11 Atlanta leads series (No playoff contests)
- *Signature moment: The Panthers and Falcons have played each other in both the NFC West and now the NFC South. Their games have been marked by intensity, close scores, and remarkable performances. Carolina's first ever regular season game was against the Falcons, a loss. But Carolina went on to defeat Atlanta later that season, their seventh win---the most ever for an expansion franchise. More recently, Atlanta's Michael Vick and Carolina's Julius Peppers, often considered two of the best athletes in the League, have faced each other with spectacular results. The Falcons have manhandled the Panthers since the arrival of Michael Vick until the Panthers showed a glimpse of hope in the 2005 season. In 2005, the Panthers beat the defending NFC South champion Falcons by winning at home 24-6 and then, they overtook the Falcons on New Year's Day 44-11 in Atlanta. This ended the Panther's eight-game losing streak in the Georgia Dome and clinched a playoff berth in the process, along with making their largest margin of victory in franchise history. However, in the opening game of the 2006 season, the Falcons would win in Carolina, 20-6. The Panthers got their revenge later that season, beating the Falcons 10-3 in Atlanta on December 24. The game featured Carolina running the ball 52 times, while completing only 4 passes. On some plays, Carolina ditched the passing game entirely by taking quarterback Chris Weinke out of the game and direct-snapping the ball to running back DeAngelo Williams. The game has become known to a point as the "I-85 Rivalry", named so because both cities are along the route of Interstate 85.
- *First met in 1967
- *44-32 Atlanta leads series (Atlanta leads playoffs 1-0)
- *Signature moment: Born one year apart, the Saints and Falcons were the first two NFL franchises in the Deep South (Washington and Dallas being arguably southern but not in the traditional Deep South). Each team considers the other its biggest rival, and they have traditionally shared many of the same players, such as Morten Andersen (the leading scorer in both franchises' histories), Bobby Hebert (who quarterbacked for both teams in the 1990s), and Joe Horn (the Pro Bowl Saints receiver who left for the Falcons in 2007). They have also shared coaches; recent Falcons coach Jim L. Mora is the son of longtime Saints coach Jim E. Mora. Former Falcons and Saints coach Wade Phillips is the son of former Saints coach Bum Phillips.
- *Signature moment: ESPN.com writer Len Pasquarelli has cited the rivalry as one of the best in all of sports: "Every year, bus caravans loaded with rowdy (and usually very inebriated) fans make the seven-hour trip between the two cities. Unless you've attended a Falcons-Saints debauchery-filled afternoon, you'll just have to take my word for how much fun it really can be.
- *Signature moment: Most recently, the Falcons were the opponent in the Saints' first game in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, held on September 25, 2006. The Saints won the nationally televised match 23-3; the game was the highest-rated program in the history of ESPN and the second-highest-rated cable program of all time.
- *Signature Moment: The Falcons hosted the Saints on November 26, 2006 at the Georgia Dome. Michael Vick rushed for 166 yards but threw for only 84 yards while Drew Brees of the Saints threw for 349 yards (a week after a 510 yard performance against the Cincinnati Bengals), including a 48-yard heave to Terrance Copper caught in heavy traffic in the Falcons endzone for a Saints touchdown. The Saints routed the Falcons 31-13, and after the game Vick flashed an obscene gesture to booing Falcons fans.
- *First met in 1995
- *9-6 Carolina leads series (No playoff contests)
- *Signature moment: This rivalry did not begin until the Panthers and Buccaneers were both placed in the NFC South after the 2002 division re-alignment. Tampa Bay defeated the Panthers twice in 2002 on their way to winning the Super Bowl. In their first meeting of 2003, Carolina was leading Tampa Bay by a score of 9-3 at the end of the game. Tampa Bay scored a touchdown in the final play of the game, but Carolina tackle Kris Jenkins blocked the extra point. The Panthers went on to win in overtime off a John Kasay field goal. This would become a familiar sight for Tampa fans, as Carolina went on to beat the Buccaneers off a touchdown catch by Steve Smith with 1:06 left in the game on November 9, 2003, a 40-yard touchdown pass from Jake Delhomme to Keary Colbert with 20 seconds left in a game in which Buccaneers kicker Martin Gramatica missed 3 field goals (November 28, 2004), and a 46-yard field goal by Panthers kicker John Kasay with 7 seconds remaining in a game where Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms took so many hard hits that he ruptured his spleen (September 24, 2006). This rivalry has been known for often harsh exchanges of words between players on the two teams, most notably a long feud between Carolina punter Todd Sauerbrun and Tampa Bay kicker Martín Gramática (both are no longer with the teams). Carolina has won 7 out of the last 8 meetings between the two teams.
- *First met in 1950
- *60-55-2 St. Louis leads series (San Francisco leads playoffs 1-0)
- *The rivalry was much more intense before 1995, when the Rams were in Southern California and not the Midwest. The Rams ran roughshod over the NFC West in the 1970s, but Joe Montana, Steve Young, and the Niners dominated from 1981 to 1998, winning five Super Bowl titles. Between 1990 and 1999, the 49ers won 17 straight games against the Rams. In recent years, the balance of power has shifted back to the Rams, who won Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 and narrowly lost in 2002.
- *Signature moment: In 1982, a 1-7 Rams team met the 3-5 defending Super Bowl champion 49ers in San Francisco for the last game of the season (a players' strike shortened the season to 9 games), with the 49ers needing a win to make the playoffs. The Rams led late in the 4th quarter by one until Joe Montana led one of his patented two-minute drives, putting the 49ers in position for a short field goal. But the Rams blocked Ray Wersching's kick to preserve a 21-20 win and knock the 49ers out of the playoffs.
- *Signature moment: The two teams met in the playoffs only once, in the 1989 NFC Championship game. The Rams were heavy underdogs but had already pulled off two road win upsets in the playoffs (over the Eagles and Giants). Sure enough the Rams took a 3-0 lead and were driving again, but Jim Everett noticed a wide open Henry Ellard a second too late and was intercepted by Ronnie Lott. Instead of a 10-0 Ram lead, Montana led the 49ers on a touchdown drive and the complexion of the game changed as San Francisco led 7-3. They would go on to a 30-3 win.
- *First met in 1976
- *10-10 series tied (St. Louis leads playoffs 1-0)
- *Signature moment: Although these two teams were never really rivals until the 2002 realignment when the Seahawks moved back to the NFC West from the AFC West, the two teams developed a healthy, albeit short so far, rivalry as the Seahawks began to contend for the division. In 2003, the Seahawks notched an exciting 24-23 victory in Seattle by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. However, the Rams won the rematch in St. Louis (27-22) on their way to winning the division. In 2004, the Seahawks looked set to a convincing victory over the Rams and a 4-0 start. However, this time the Rams would be the ones to come back, overcoming a 27-10 fourth quarter deficit to win 33-27 in overtime in Seattle. Despite the Rams winning the rematch in St. Louis as well, the Seahawks wound up winning a very mediocre NFC West that year. In the playoffs, however, they would once again be foiled by the Rams, losing 27-20 at home. The Seahawks nearly tied the game in the final seconds, but Bobby Engram dropped quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's pass in the end zone to effectively end the game.
- *Signature moment: In 2006, a week 6 matchup would determine control of the division as the Rams started the season a surprising 4-1. The Rams led 21-7 at halftime, yet Seattle came back and late in the game, the Seahawks trailed 28-27. When they were supposedly whistled for an illegal formation with four seconds left, St. Louis thought that automatically ended the game with a ten-second runoff. However, there was no penalty and kicker Josh Brown kicked they game-winning 54-yard field goal. Brown kicked another last-second field goal in their rematch that year, a 24-22 win at Seattle.
- *First met in 1937 (as Cleveland Rams and Chicago Cardinals)
- *31-26-2 Rams lead series (no playoff contests)
- *Signature Moment: On September 29, 1996 the Cardinals hosted the Rams for the first time since the Rams moved to St. Louis, the previous home of the Cardinals. Kent Graham rallied the Cardinals from two-touchdown deficits twice, tying the game at 28 on a five-yard score to Frank Sanders. Kicker Greg Davis won the game with a 24-yard field goal in overtime.
- *Signature Moment: On November 23, 2003 the Cardinals hosted the Rams and St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger endured a huge struggle. Bulger led the Rams to a 14-0 second quarter lead before a Neil Rackers field goal put the Cards on the board, then Renaldo Hill snatched an interception from Bulger and ran it back 70 yards for the score. The Rams went up 24-10 late in the third before Bulger was picked off by Hill again. The Cards scored 17 points, two of them Anquan Boldin catches from Jeff Blake and a field goal off a Bulger fumble, before Bulger led a game-tying field goal drive at the end of regulation, then led the game-winning field goal drive in overtime of a 30-27 Rams win despite throwing four INTs.
Intraconference rivalries: AFC
- *First met in 1960
- *25-16 Tennessee/Houston leads series (Buffalo leads playoffs 2-1)
- *Signature moment: In their second playoff meeting, on January 3, 1993, the then-Houston Oilers took a commanding 35-3 lead over Buffalo early in the third quarter. However, backup quarterback Frank Reich led the Bills to an improbable comeback, scoring 35 unanswered points to take a 38-35 lead. The Oilers scored a last-minute field goal to force overtime. However, an interception in overtime led to the Bills' game-winning field goal to beat the Oilers 41-38.
- *Signature moment: Seven years later, the Oilers had moved to Tennessee and renamed themselves the "Titans." In their first playoff game as the Titans, on January 8, 2000 they once again faced the Bills, this time in Nashville. The Bills scored a field goal with just 16 seconds left in the 4th quarter to take a 16-15 lead and what seemed like a sure victory. All that was needed was for the Bills to prevent the Titans from doing anything significant on the kickoff, and there would likely be little time left for the Titans to try and score. However, a controversial lateral from Frank Wycheck to Kevin Dyson on the kickoff return enabled Dyson to run 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown and a 22-16 victory. The play would come to be known as the "Music City Miracle" and some fans saw this as revenge for "The Comeback".
- *First met in 1971
- *19-5 Denver leads series (Denver leads playoffs 3-0)
- *Signature moment: Over three playoffs in four years, Cleveland lost to Denver in the AFC Championship game. In January 1987, after the 1986 season, John Elway led "The Drive" to secure a tie in the waning moments at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium; the Broncos would go on to win in overtime. In January 1988, at Mile High Stadium, after the 1987 season, Cleveland nearly had its own comeback drive, but Earnest Byner's costly fumble at the goal line saved the day for Denver. The game after the 1989 season was not as close, easily won by the Broncos.
- *Signature Moment: Entering 2008 the most recent Cleveland victory in the rivalry was on October 8, 1990 in Mile High Stadium. The Broncos led 29-20 in the fourth quarter but Bernie Kosar led a touchdown drive and then Jerry Kauric kicked a 30-yard field goal for a 30-29 Browns win. John Elway rushed in one touchdown but also had two picks.
- *First met in 1970
- *43-27 New England leads series (New England leads playoffs 2-1)
- *This rivalry is based partly on the fact that Indianapolis and New England were both in the AFC East prior to the 2002 NFL realignment, although this fact has been overshadowed by more recent events and both teams' dominance in their respective divisions and the rest of the league.
- *Signature Moment: Prior to the Manning vs. Brady showdowns, the most memorable meeting between the two teams came in a Monday Night Football game on September 18, 1978. Colts running back Joe Washington had the best game of his NFL career in a driving rainstorm, running for a touchdown, catching a touchdown pass from Bill Troup, and throwing for a third score to help the Colts take a 27-20 lead midway through the fourth quarter. New England drove to a tying touchdown on a quarterback sneak by Steve Grogan, but on the ensuing kickoff, Washington picked up a squib kick and ran it back on the slushy field to the game-winning touchdown in a 34-27 triumph. An incredulous Howard Cosell exclaimed, "What a football game this turned out to be!" as Washington scored the winning touchdown.
- *Signature moment: Despite spending 31 seasons in the AFC East, many of the Colts' most memorable games with the Patriots came after realignment shifted them to the AFC South. From 2000-2004 the rivalry was focused around Brady vs. Manning. The Patriots won the 2003 AFC Championship game, in which Manning had 4 interceptions in the 24-14 loss.
- *Signature Moment: In November 2003 the Patriots traveled to Indy for the first time in two years and broke out to a 31-10 third-quarter lead. Two Tom Brady interceptions helped the Colts to 21 unanswered points. A 70-yard kick return by Bethel Johnson led to a Brady-to-Deion Branch touchdown. The Patriots gave up a field goal, then punted with over one minute to go. The Colts drove to the Patriots' two-yard line, but a goalline stand sealed a 38-34 Patriots win.
- *Signature Moment: On January 16, 2005 the Colts traveled to Foxborough on the heels of a record-setting season. Peyton Manning had set two all-time NFL records during the season; most touchdown passes in a single season (49) and highest passer rating in a single season (121.1). Manning also was the NFL MVP for the 2004 season. In a snowstorm, the Patriots forced three turnovers and held the Colts to 276 yards and 3 points, their lowest output since the opening game of the 2003 season. Peyton Manning suffered his seventh consecutive loss in Foxboro.
- *Signature moment: The undefeated Colts won a regular season game in Foxboro on Monday, November 7, 2005, to push their season record 8-0. The final score was 40-21.
- *Signature moment: In the biggest comeback ever in a conference championship game, the Colts rallied from a 21-3 deficit against the Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship game to win the game, 38-34.
- *Signature Moment: On November 4, 2007 the Patriots traveled to the RCA Dome for what was dubbed "Super Bowl 41 1/2", one of the more anticipated regular season games. New England entered at 8-0 and the Colts entered at 7-0, marking the farthest into a season that two undefeated teams met. The Colts took a 20-10 lead in the fourth quarter, but two Brady touchdowns to Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk in the fourth quarter rallied the Patriots for a 24-20 victory.
- *First met in 1970
- *Indianapolis/Baltimore leads series 11-7 (Indianapolis/Baltimore leads playoffs 3-0)
- *Signature moment: The underdog Colts defeated the heavily-favored Chiefs in the 1995-96 playoffs 10-7 after three missed field goals from Kansas City kicker Lin Elliot.
- *Signature moment: In 2003, both the Colts and Chiefs possessed the NFL's two best offenses (Kansas City led the AFC in scoring with 484 points while the Colts were second with 447), but the Colts again defeated the Chiefs 38-31 in the 2003-04 playoffs in the only puntless playoff game in NFL history.
- *Signature Moment: The Colts won nine of ten meetings encompassing the period of 1990-2007. The lone Kansas City win in that stretch came on Halloween 2004 at Arrowhead Stadium. After a first quarter exchange of touchdowns by Peyton Manning and Trent Green, the Chiefs erupted to 24 second-quarter points led by Green's touchdown to Johnnie Morton and two Priest Holmes rushing scores. Manning threw three touchdowns in the second half but another Holmes rushing score and Green toss to Tony Gonzalez put away a 45-35 Kansas City win. Manning and Green combined for 859 passing yards and eight scores, but it was Kansas City's ground game (203 rushing yards led by Holmes' 143) that proved decisive.
- *Signature moment: In 2006, the Colts had the NFL's worst run-defense, and Kansas City running back Larry Johnson carried the ball a record 416 times for 1,789 yards. The Chiefs were widely expected to run all over Indianapolis when the two teams met in the playoffs for the third time in 11 years, but the Colts' defense stepped up. Indianapolis won 23-8 by holding Larry Johnson to just 32 yards on 13 carries and even held the Chiefs offense without a single first down for the entire first half. The Colts would later go on to win Super Bowl XLI with the NFL's worst run defense in the regular season.
- *First met in 1969
- *40-26 Indianapolis/Baltimore leads series (New York leads playoffs 2-0)
- *This rivalry is built on the fact that Indianapolis and New York were both in the AFC East prior to the 2002 NFL realignment.
- *Signature moment: "Broadway" Joe Namath of the Jets guaranteed a win over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Namath delivered a 16-7 victory and was named MVP.
- *Signature moment: The Colts swept the season series from the Jets in 1970 and 1971 following the AFL-NFL merger, but when the teams met in week 2 of the 1972 season, Namath was healthy for the first time in nearly two seasons. In his first appearance at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, Namath riddled the Colts for 496 yards and six touchdowns as New York beat Baltimore for the first time since Super Bowl III, 44-34. The Jets needed all of Namath's heroics, as the Colts' Johnny Unitas threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns. This game is widely regarded as one of the greatest passing duels, if not the greatest, in NFL history.
- *Signature moment: In the 2002 playoffs, the Jets and Colts met in the Wild Card round. In Jets QB Chad Pennington's first playoff appearance, he led the Jets to a 41-0 rout of the Colts. The game was the second most lopsided shutout playoff game in the history of the NFL. Pennington tied the Jets franchise record for most TDs in a playoff game (Joe Namath, Vinny Testaverde). This game was the only time the Jets and Colts met in the postseason with the exception of the 1969 Super Bowl.
- *First met in 1970
- *Dolphins lead series 46-23 (lead playoff series 2-0)
- *Signature Moment: On January 2, 1972 the Dolphins shut out the Baltimore Colts 21-0 in the AFC playoffs; it was the first of four straght shutout wins over Baltimore by the Dolphins.
- *Signature Moment: The Dolphins defeated the Colts in 14 straight games from 1980 until November 15, 1987, when the Colts defeated the Dolphins 40-21.
- *Signature Moment: The debut of Peyton Manning came as the Colts hosted the Dolphins on September 6, 1998. The Dolphins put down the Colts 24-15 as Manning completed 21 passes for 302 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown to Marvin Harrison, but three interceptions helped doom the Colts' chances.
- *Signature Moment: Peyton Manning and Dan Marino put on two thrillers in the 1999 season. On October 10 at the RCA Dome the Dolphins trailed 17-9 in the fourth quarter but erupted to 25 fourth-quarter points to overcome a Terrence Wilkins 97-yard kick return touchdown and a 32-yard Manning score to Marcus Pollard. Marino drove the Dolphins downfield in the final two minutes; with 27 seconds left Oronde Gadsden caught a 2-yard Marino throw and was thrown out of bounds; the catch was ruled incomplete but a huddle by referees changed the call to a touchdown, ending a 34-31 Dolphins win. On December 5 at Pro Player Stadium the Colts stormed to a 24-10 halftime lead but the Dolphins stored back again and with 36 seconds left tied the game at 34. Manning drove the Colts into range for a 53-yard Mike Vanderjagt field goal on the final play and a 37-34 Colts win.
- *Signature Moment: On December 30, 2000 the Colts traveled to Pro Player Stadium for the AFC Wild Card playoffs. The Colts led 17-10 with less than five minutes to go and had snared three interceptions off new Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler, but Fiedler tied the game wih 34 seconds to go on a nine-yard touchdown to Jed Weaver, then Lamar Smith's 17-yard run at 11:26 of overtime won the game 23-17 for the Dolphins.
- *First met in 1970
- *Chargers lead series 15-9 (playoff series tied 1-1)
- *Signature Moment: On December 31, 1995 the Colts eliminated the Chargers in the AFC Wildcard round of the playoffs 35-20; the win was the first playoff win for the Colts since 1971.
- *Signature Moment: On October 4, 1998 the Colts defeated the Chargers 17-12. The game was the only career meeting between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, the top two picks in the 1998 NFL Draft. Both quarterbacks went 12-of-23, but Leaf was sacked four times and intercepted once.
- *Signature Moment: On December 26, 2004 the Chargers stormed to a 31-16 fourth-quarter lead in the RCA Dome behind three Drew Brees touchdown throws and two LaDanian Tomlinson scores (a 73-yard catch from Brees and a 16-yard run). But following Tomlinson's second score Dominic Rhodes returned the ensuing kick 88 yards for a touchdown, and in the final minute of regulation Peyton Manning hit Brandon Stokely for a touchdown (along with becoming the all-time single-season touchdown passer with 49 TD passes) and Edgerrin James ran in the game-tying two-point conversion. The Colts won less than three minutes into overtime on a 30-yard Mike Vanderjagt field goal.
- *Signature Moment: The Chargers ended the Colts' 2005 quest for perfection with a 26-17 triumph in the RCA Dome on December 18.
- *Signature Moment: On November 11, 2007 in a rain-soaked Qualcomm Stadium the Chargers raced to a 23-0 second-quarter lead on two Darren Sproles returns, a Nate Kaeding field goal, and a LaDanian Tomlinson run. Despite an astonishing five first-half interceptions, Peyton Manning led the Colts back into the game with two touchdowns, while Gary Brackett fell on a Philip Rivers endzone fumble, leaving the score at 23-21. The Colts drove downfield in the final three minutes and attempted a 29-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri; inexplicably the field goal missed, and, after forcing a Chargers punt, Manning threw a sixth interception to end what some considered one of the most bizarre games in recent NFL history. The teams met again in the AFC Divisional Playoffs in Indianapolis, where the Chargers again pulled off a surprising victory, winning 28-24 even though injury sidelined Philip Rivers and Tomlinson late in the game. The win sent the Chargers to the AFC Championship Game.
- *First met in 1960
- *15-15-1 series tied (New England leads playoffs 2-1)
- *Signature Moment: The 1976 AFC Divisional Playoff, forever known as "The Ben Dreith Game." Officiating became a controversy during this game with several questionable hits and a running controversy involving constant mugging of Patriots tight end Russ Francis by Raiders linebacker Phil Villapiano. Holding a 21-17 lead in the final minute, the Patriots stopped the Raiders on a 3rd-and-18 play where quarterback Ken Stabler threw to the endzone; referee Ben Drieth flagged Patriot Raymond "Sugar Bear" Hamilton for roughing the passer, though replays showed no roughing; the call stood and the Raiders scored the game-winning touchdown with ten seconds left.
- *Signature Moment: During an August 12, 1978 pre-season game, Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley was hammered in the jaw by the Raiders' Jack Tatum and the hit paralyzed Stingley for life. The teams later met during the regular season on September 24. In that game, the Patriots overcame a 14-0 deficit, and a Sam Cunningham touchdown with 16 seconds to go sealed a 21-14 Patriots win. Following the game, the Patriots visited Stingley in his hospital room and Stingley teased Steve Grogan about throwing three interceptions, but added solemnly "I knew you'd pull it out."
- *Signature Moment: The 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff, forever known as the Tuck Rule Game; Tom Brady was hit as he tried to throw the ball; the ball flew out and was ruled a fumble, until it went to review and was ruled an incompletion, a ruling that kept a Patriots drive going and was capped off by an improbable 45 yard field goal through driving snowstorm by Adam Vinatieri. This sent the game into overtime where the Patriots would win 16-13.
- *The bitterness of the rivalry was illustrated following the firing by the Raiders of head coach Lane Kiffin on October 1, 2008. Following the press conference on Kiffin's firing, Raiders owner Al Davis claimed that before the 2007 NFL Draft the Patriots had a private workout with recever Randy Moss and "tampered with him" before his trade from the Raiders to the Patriots, a charge disputed by Bill Belichick. The issue also led to a letter sent by the NFL to Davis stating his accusation violated league rules.
- *First met in 1960 (as Boston Patriots and Dallas Texans)
- *16-12-3 Kansas City leads series (no playoff contests)
- *Signature Moment: The Dallas Texans' path to the 1962 AFL title included a season sweep of Boston, winning the September 8 season opener in the Cotton Bowl 42-28, then defeating Boston at Braves Field on October 1, 27-7; the Texans only led 10-7 entering the fourth quarter before Len Dawson threw two touchdowns and Tommy Brooker kicked a 34-yard field goal.
- *Signature Moment: The last win for the Patriots over the now-Kansas City Chiefs until 1977 came on December 6, 1964 in Kansas City. Babe Parilli threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Art Graham. The game was tied at 17 after three quarters before Parilli's second score to Graham and a J.D. Garrett rusing score put the game away 31-24 for Boston.
- *Signature Moment: Kansas City won ten of the next fifteen meetings between the two clubs after 1964 with two ties and three losses, including a 40-10 slaughter by the Patriots in 1998. On October 10, 1999 the 4-0 Patriots visited Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs clawed to a 16-7 lead in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter before Drew Bledsoe found Shawn Jefferson for an eight-yard score. After forcing a punt the Patriots drove down field in the final minute, and set up for a 32-yard field goal try by Adam Vinatieri on the final play, but the kick bounced off the right upright and secured a 16-14 Chiefs win.
- *Signature Moment: The Patriots hosted the Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on September 22, 2002, in the second ever game at "The Razor." The Chiefs grabbed a 17-9 lead two minutes into the third quarter on a 3-yard Priest Holmes touchown catch, but from there the Patriots, despite twelve penalties for 100 yards, stormed back with three consecutive Tom Brady touchdowns and a 31-17 Patriots lead early in the fourth. The Chiefs then fought back themselves, as Trent Green threw three touchdowns and Holmes rushed for 180 yards and two scores, the final touchdown coming on the final play of regulation. Tied at 38 in overtime, the Patriots won the coin toss and stormed down field in under five minutes for a 35-yard Vinatieri field goal and 41-38 win.
- *Signature Moment: New England's 2008 season was thrown into uncertainty halfway through the first quarter of September 7's game at Gillette Stadium. On a 40-yard Brady throw to Randy Moss Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard, wrestling with Patriot running back Sammy Morris, lunged at Brady's leg and hit his left knee, tearing his ACL and knocking Brady out for the season; adding insult to the injury, Moss fumbled the ball to the Chiefs at their 15-yard line on the play. The Patriots forced a Kansas City punt and backup Matt Cassel was forced to get the Patriots out from their 2-yard line. On third and 12, Cassel thew a 30-yard strike caught by Moss and carried to the Chiefs 49-yard line. From there Cassel led the Patriots to the opening score, a 10-yard touchdown throw to Moss. He led two more scoring drives for a 17-10 Patriots lead in the final two minutes. Chiefs starter Brodie Croyle suffered a shoulder injury and former Patriot Damon Huard took over, throwing a touchdown to Dwayne Bowe, then in the final minute absorbing a Patriots blitz in completing a throw caught by Devard Darling at the 50 and run to the Patriots 5-yard line, but a goalline stand by the Patriots stopped the Chiefs for a 17-10 New England win.
- *First met in 1970
- *13-9 Pittsburgh leads series (New England leads playoffs 3-1)
- *Signature Moment: On September 26, 1976 the Patriots visited Three Rivers Stadium to meet the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Steelers. The Steelers behind two Franco Harris touchdowns and two Roy Gerela field goals led 20-9 in the third quarter, but Steve Grogan threw two touchdowns (to Russ Francis and Darryl Stingley) and ran in a third score for a 30-27 Patriots win.
- *Signature Moment: Perhaps the most emotional moment in Patriots history preceded their Monday Night Football game against Pittsburgh on September 3, 1979 when former wide receiver Darryl Stingley, paralyzed in 1978's preseason in Oakland, was introduced from the owners' box. The sellout crowd at Schaefer Stadium erupted in unstopped applause for ten full minutes to the tearful gratitude of Stingley. The Patriots took a 13-6 lead but a late Terry Bradshaw touchdown to Sidney Thornton tied the game, and in overtime the Steelers won on a 41-yard field goal by future Patriots' kicker Matt Bahr.
- *Signature Moment: "Fog Bowl II," as fog blanketed Foxboro Stadium for the 1996 AFC Divisional Playoff. The Patriots behind a huge running game by Curtis Martin (a Pittsburgh native) and turnovers by the Steelers erupted to a 28-3 win, the Patriots' first playoff win since 1985.
- *Signature Moment: In the 2001 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers dominated the regular season and earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Steelers were expected to dominate a Patriots team that many believed didn't really belong in the title game. However, the Patriots storybook season continued as Drew Bledsoe replaced an injured Tom Brady to lead the Patriots to a hard-fought 24-17 victory, stunning the crowd at Heinz Field. The Patriots scored on a Troy Brown punt return touchdown, a Bledsoe throw to David Patten, a blocked Steelers field goal returned for a touchdown, and an Adam Vinatieri field goal.
- *Signature Moment: These two teams met in the 2004 season with the Steelers coming out on top with a dominating 34-20 victory over the Patriots at Heinz Field. The victory ended the Patriots' record 21-game winning streak, and paved the way for the Steelers' 15-1 record and rookie quarterback Ben Rothlisberger's own winning streak of 13 regular season games in 2004. The victory was also crucial to the Steelers eventually clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. However, the Patriots, led by Brady, once again went into Pittsburgh and came away with a 41-27 playoff victory in the AFC Championship game. It was the second time in four seasons that the Super Bowl ambitions of the Steelers fell short by one game.
- *Signature Moment Not only did New England give Ben Roethlisberger his first loss as a starter, but in a Week Three rematch on September 25, 2005 the Patriots also gave Roethlisberger his first regular season loss. The Steelers clawed to a 13-7 lead in the third quarter, but the Patriots responded with two Adam Vinatieri field goals and a seven-yard Corey Dillon rushing touchdown. On 4th-and-11 on the Patriots 27-yard line with 1:25 to go a pass-interference call on former Steeler Chad Brown set up a four-yard Hines Ward touchdown catch. From there the Patriots quickly drove down field with no timeouts remaining and Vinatieri's 43-yard field goal with one second left iced a 23-20 Patriots win.
- *Signature Moment: These two teams faced off again during the 2007 season. In the days prior to the game, Steelers safety Anthony Smith guaranteed a victory over the then-12-0 Patriots. This led to many exchanges back and forth from both teams during the game, which New England handily won 34-13. The most famous play of the game came in the third quarter; the Patriots led 17-13 when Tom Brady lateralled to Randy Moss; he dropped the catch, then threw the ball back to Brady who fired it 60 yards to Jabar Gaffney for the touchdown. In the final seconds of the game, Smith's picture was plastered on the video screen at Gillette Stadium, as Patriots fans chanted "Guar-an-TEE! Guar-an-TEE!"
- *First met in 1961
- *20-16-2 New York leads series (Playoff series 2-2)
- *Signature moment: Arguably, the teams' most memorable game was a regular-season game whose ending was missed by the majority of American television viewers. Taking place in Oakland on November 17, 1968, the teams traded many scores until the Jets kicked a field goal to take a 32-29 lead with just over a minute remaining in the game. At this point, due to a communication mishap at NBC, the network cut its telecast at 7:00 PM EST to begin the heavily-promoted movie Heidi. The Raiders scored two touchdowns in the final minute to win the game 43-32. In addition to the effect the game had in the standings, the game had a lasting effect on the way sporting events would be televised in the future.
- *Signature moment: The teams would meet again that season, at Shea Stadium to decide the 1968 AFL Championship, as well as the league's representative in Super Bowl III. With Oakland leading 23-20 late in the fourth quarter, Joe Namath staged a drive to score the winning touchdown to give the Jets the championship. They would go on to defeat the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl.
- *First met in 1970. The Raiders' achievement of winning six division titles during the 1970s was marred somewhat by two losses in AFC Championships in 1974 to 1975 at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Finally, after finishing 13-1 in 1976, the Raiders defeated the Steelers 24-7 in the AFC Championship game.
- *12-11 Oakland leads series (3-3 Playoff series tied)
- *Signature moment: The "Immaculate Reception" - a catch of a deflected pass by Pittsburgh RB Franco Harris helped build the Steelers' legacy as the team of the 1970s, in their first playoff victory against an Oakland team that quickly became their regular black-shirt rivals.
- *Signature moment: In a regular-season game in 1976, Raider Defensive Back George Atkinson hit an unsuspecting Steeler Wide Receiver Lynn Swann in the back of the head with a forearm smash, even though the ball had not been thrown to Swann. The cheap shot rendered Swann unconscious with a concussion. Atkinson had also hit Swann in a similar manner in the previous season's AFC Championship game, which also gave Swann a concussion. After the second incident, Steeler's coach Chuck Noll referred to Atkinson as part of the "criminal element" in football. Atkinson subsequently filed a $2 million defamation lawsuit against Noll and the Steelers, which Atkinson lost.
- *Signature moment: In Week 8 of the 2006 season, the Raiders defense shined as they forced four turnovers from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite their offense getting outgunned in total yards (360-98), Oakland would return two interceptions for touchdowns on the way to a 20-13 victory.
- *First met in 1960.
- *Patriots lead series 20-14-2 (New England leads playoffs 2-1)
- *Signature Moment: In the 1963 AFL Championship Game the Chargers crushed the Patriots 51-10 behind a short-passing attack that thwarted the Patriots' blitz-oriented defense.
- *Signature Moment: On October 1, 1978 the Patriots hosted the Chargers. Dan Fouts threw three touchdowns in the first half, but the Patriots rallied from down 20-7 in the third with scores by Steve Grogan (touchdown throws to Harold Jackson and Russ Francis and a four-yard rushing score) for a 28-23 Patriots win.
- *Signature Moment: On October 14, 2001, the Chargers led by former Patriots quarterback Doug Flutie played in Foxboro Stadium and stormed to a 26-16 lead with less than seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter. But Tom Brady, in his third career start, led two scoring drives that tied the game, then led the drive in overtime that led to the game-winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri for a 29-26 final score. The comeback win launched the Patriots on a run toward their first Super Bowl while the Chargers collapsed to a 5-11 season.
- *Signature Moment: On October 2, 2005 the Chargers ended the Patriots' 21-game Gillette Stadium winning streak with a 41-17 rout behind two LaDanian Tomlinson rushing touchdowns and a 28-yard touchdown catch by Reche Caldwell.
- *Signature Moment: The 2006 AFC Divisional Playoffs. On January 14, 2007 the 12-4 Patriots traveled to Qualcomm Stadium to face the 14-2 Chargers behind quarterback Philip Rivers. LaDanian Tomlinson, voted the league MVP, scored two rushing touchdowns for a 21-13 fourth quarter Chargers lead, and on a 4th down throw at midfield Brady was intercepted by Marlon McCree. But as McCree started upfield he was grabbed by Troy Brown, who yanked the ball out of his hand and Reche Caldwell, now with the Patriots, grabbed the fumble. Brady then connected with Caldwell for the touchdown and Kevin Faulk ran a direct-snap in for a two-point conversion. After forcing a Chargers punt Brady launched a 55-yard strike to Caldwell down to the Chargers 14-yard line, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked the go-ahead field goal. Nate Kaeding's 54-yard field goal try in the final seconds fell short in a 24-21 Patriots win. As the Patriots celebrated after the final gun Tomlinson confronted Caldwell, Ellis Hobbs, and other Patriots and had to be separated, while Philip Rivers called Hobbs "the sorriest cornerback in the league." The loss also led to the firing of coach Marty Schottenheimer and hiring of Norv Turner.
- *Signature Moment: The 2007 AFC Championship Game. The Chargers forced three interceptions off Tom Brady while Philip Rivers played despite needing knee surgery following San Diego's bruising 28-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts the week before. The Patriots kept the Chargers out of their end zone, limiting them to four field goals, while scoring three touchdowns for a 21-12 win that sent the then-18-0 Patriots to Super Bowl XLII.
Intraconference rivalries: NFC
- *First met in 1960
- *15-12 Dallas leads series (Dallas leads playoffs 4-2)
- *Signature moment: The Ice Bowl was the 1967 NFL Championship game, played in arctic conditions in late December at Green Bay. The temperature was -13°F at kickoff and dropped throughout the day, with windchills of -40°F and below, and is considered one of the coldest NFL games ever played. Green Bay won 21-17 on a late quarterback sneak by Hall of Famer Bart Starr, and the game will undoubtedly live forever as the one that started the legend of "the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field."
- *Signature moment: Three decades after the Cowboys lost to the Packers in the "Ice Bowl", the teams would again meet in post-season play with a championship title on the line. This time the Cowboys claimed the NFC Conference Championship (an NFL record 8th NFC title for Dallas and its 3rd in four years) by defeating the Green Bay Packers 38-27 at Texas Stadium on Jan. 14, 1996.
- *Signature moment: After seven losses in Dallas over the past five seasons (including playoffs), Green Bay fans chanted "WE WANT DALLAS!" in the waining moments of the Packers 1996 divisional playoff victory over San Francisco. The fans were hoping to see the Packers eliminate the Cowboys from the playoffs at Lambeau Field as the Cowboys had done to the Packers each of the past three seasons at Texas Stadium. Unfortunately for the Packers faithful, this "dream game" did not materialize as the Cowboys would fall to the Carolina Panthers the next day. However, by virtue of the NFL scheduling formula, a game between the two teams at Lambeau Field was scheduled for November 23, 1997. Packers fans looked forward to the game all year, calling it the Showdown In Titletown. The Packers did not disappoint their fans as running back Dorsey Levens scampered for a then-team-record of 190 yards as Green Bay routed the Cowboys 45-17 on the coldest day of 1997 in Green Bay.
- *Signature moment: During the 2007 season, both teams entered their Week 12 contest (a Thursday night game played on November 29) at 10-1. Dallas eventually cruised to a 27-10 halftime score, knocking out Packers quarterback Brett Favre with an elbow injury in the second quarter. Backup QB Aaron Rodgers mounted a second-half rally, but the Cowboys held on for a 37-27 victory, keeping Favre winless at Texas Stadium.
- *The teams met 8 times in the playoffs between 1973 and 1985, with each team winning 4 and going 2-2 in the other team's stadium
- *Signature moment: The 1975 NFC Championship game The Rams defeated the Cardinals in the first round and then watched as Dallas spared them a trip to the cold midwest when they upset the Vikings. The Rams were 12-2 with the #1 defense in the NFL, although one of those losses was opening day in Dallas, 18-7. Dallas was the wild card team and the Rams were favorites at home. But creative offense, a great day by Roger Staubach, and Rams'turnovers turned this game into a rout; Dallas led 21-0 at the half and went on to win 37-7.
- *Signature moment: In 1979, the 9-7 Rams went into two-time defending NFC champion Dallas as heavy underdogs in a divisional playoff game. The Cowboys defeated the Rams 30-6 in week 7 in Dallas, but the Rams got revenge when they scored with 2:03 left to upset the Cowboys, 21-19 in what would be hall of fame QB Roger Staubach's final game. Staubach's last play was a 4th and 10 pass that, under a heavy Rams' rush, was thrown to an ineligible receiver (a lineman). The Rams would go on to their only super bowl appearance while in Los Angeles.
- *Signature moment: In the 1985 divisional playoff in Anaheim, Texan Eric Dickerson ran for over 200 yards as the Rams shut out the high powered Cowboys, 20-0, evening their playoff record against each other at 4 wins apiece.
- *First met in 1960
- *14-9-1 San Francisco leads series (Dallas leads playoffs 5-2)
- *While the Cowboys dominated the rivalry in the 1970s and the Niners dominated in the 1980s, both clubs battled for NFC supremacy throughout the 1990s. The Niners won 4 Super Bowls in the 1980s, with quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, as well as receiver Jerry Rice. The Cowboys would later rise to the top, winning 3 Super Bowls in the 1990s, with quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith, and receiver Michael Irvin.
- *The games between these teams, including six NFC Championship games, and three consecutive contests in the early 1990s (won by Dallas in 1992, 1993 and San Francisco in 1994) , always showcased the cream of NFL talent and coaching genius. These were two of the last great teams of the days before the NFL imposed a salary cap, eventually leading to major rebuilding as these franchises had to cope with the new rules.
- *In the 1970 NFC championship game, Dallas used two touchdowns in the third quarter to take control of a tie game. The Cowboys held on for a 17-10 victory and their first berth in the Super Bowl. It was the last NFL game played at Kezar Stadium, with the 49ers moving to Candlestick Park in 1971.
- *The two teams met again in the NFC title game in 1971, this time at Texas Stadium. The game turned on a critical error by 49ers quarterback John Brodie, whose ill-advised screen pass deep in his own territory was intercepted by Cowboys defensive end George Andrie to set up a second quarter touchdown. San Francisco never recovered, and Dallas suffocated the 49er offense the rest of the way in a 14-3 victory en route to the world championship in Super Bowl VI.
- *The rivalry essentially began during the 1972 divisional playoffs, when the 49ers were close to sealing a win against the defending Super Bowl VI Champion Dallas Cowboys. In his earliest come-from-behind moment, Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach came off the bench to relieve rival quarterback Craig Morton to throw two touchdown passes in the last 90 seconds to defeat the 49ers in San Francisco 30-28.
- *Signature moment: In the best known game between the two teams, the 1981 NFC championship Game played in Candlestick Park in San Francisco, the 49ers quarterback Joe Montana completed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Dwight Clark with 51 seconds left in the fourth quarter, which gave the 49ers a 28-27 lead that proved to be the final score of the game. Montana's pass was a high and desperate heave as he was about to be forced out of bounds, and Clark made a spectacular leaping grab at the back of the end zone. Clark's catch was captured perfectly by a photographer and placed on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and the play has since been known in NFL lore as simply The Catch and set San Francisco on the path to become the "Team of the 1980s".
- *A decade later for the 1992 NFC Championship and the right to go to Super Bowl XXVII, in a hard-fought battle on the very same field, it was the Cowboys emerging victorious with a 30-20 win against the 49ers, clearing the way for Dallas to win the first of their three championships in the 1990s. The two teams met again in the 1993 NFC Championship Game in Dallas, where the Cowboys dominated the 49ers to a 38-21 win en route to winning back-to-back Super Bowls.
- *After the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVIII, the Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson was fired and replaced by Barry Switzer. In the meantime, San Francisco president Carmen Policy vowed to rebuild the defense to dethrone the Cowboys and signed big-name free agent defensive players such as linebackers Ken Norton, Gary Plummer, and Rickey Jackson, defensive end Richard Dent, and cornerback Deion Sanders. With Dallas retaining most of their roster, the showdown between the two teams became the biggest story in sports in 1994. During the 1994-95 regular season, the 49ers beat the Cowboys 21-14 in a regular season game en route to the best record in NFL and the home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
- *Signature Moment: On January 15, 1995, the two teams met once again in the NFC Championship Game, the Cowboys determined to win an unprecedented three Super Bowls in a row and the 49ers vowing to foil their plan. The 49ers forced three quick turnovers and built a 21-0 lead seven minutes into the game, before a determined Cowboys team fought back to reduce the lead to 10 points seconds before the halftime. Then the 49ers quarterback Steve Young connected on a 28-yard touchdown pass to find diving Jerry Rice in the back of the end zone as the time expired in the first half. The 49ers eventually won the game 38-28, ending the Cowboys' two-year reign as the Super Bowl champions, before eventually winning Super Bowl XXIX.
- *In the following season, the Cowboys once again jumped to a 8-1 start, while the 49ers stumbled to a 5-4 record, losing quarterback Steve Young and fullback William Floyd to injuries, before the anticipated regular-season rematch between the two teams at Texas Stadium where the Cowboys were considered heavy favorites. On the first play from scrimmage, San Francisco quarterback Elvis Grbac, making only the fourth start of his career in place of injured Young, completed a short slant pass to Jerry Rice for a 81-yard touchdown. Rice, who lined up as a slot receiver, was covered by linebacker Darrin Smith on the play, which drew much criticism for the Cowboys coach Barry Switzer after the game. Rice finished with five catches for 161 yards for the game, and the 49ers coasted to a 38-20 rout of the Cowboys. The two teams would not meet for a fourth consecutive NFC Championship matchup as San Francisco was eliminated by the Green Bay Packers in a Divisional Playoff Game.
- *Although the two teams no longer met in any NFC Championship Games after 1995, the fierce rivalry continued into the subsequent years. On November 10, 1996, the Cowboys traveled to Candlestick Park. The Niners led 17-10 with 6:30 left in the fourth quarter; at this point Troy Aikman, throwing a pass deep in the Niners' red zone, was intercepted by Marquez Pope, but on the ensuing Niners possession Elvis Grbac was picked off by middle linebacker Fred Strickland. Aikman then connected with tight end Eric Bjornson for the game-tying touchdown, and in overtime Chris Boniol kicked the field goal of a 20-17 Cowboys win.
- *In the 2000 season, Terrell Owens, then a member of the San Francisco 49ers, tried to re-ignite an old rivalry between two rebuilding franchises in what was best known as the Star Incident. In a game at Texas Stadium, Owens, after scoring a 2nd touchdown, ran out to midfield as he did the previous TD and posed on the Cowboys' star logo, before being blasted off the Cowboys logo by former safety George Teague. In an instant, he became public enemy number one in Dallas, but ironically, 6 years later, he is currently a Dallas Cowboy and was quoted that he will now embrace the star.
- *Signature Moment: In the two teams' most recent meeting on September 25, 2005, the Niners stormed to a 31-19 lead with 40 seconds left in the third quarter. But the Cowboys exploded down field and Julius Jones rushed in a touchdown at the opening play of the fourth quarter. Drew Bledsoe then led a late-game drive and following the two-minute warning fired a 14-yard touchdown strike to Keyshawn Johnson, followed by another Bledsoe-to-Johnson pass for the two-point conversion and a 34-31 Cowboys triumph.
- *The teams met 5 times in the playoffs between 1969 and 1978:
- *Signature moment: In the 1974 NFC Championship game, the Rams drove to the Vikings' 1 yard line only to have their right guard, Tom Mack, called for illegal procedure. TV replays showed that Mack did not move a muscle but the penalty stood and on the next play from the 6 yard line, the Vikings intercepted a pass in the end zone. The Vikings won, 14-10.
- *Signature moment: After 3 frustrating playoff losses in the cold and snow of Minnesota in 1969, '74, and '76, the Rams finally had home field advantage for their 1977 divisional playoff game vs. Minnesota. The Rams had soundly defeated the Vikings 35-3 during the season, but as luck would have it, Los Angeles was greeted on this December day by some of the heaviest rains in years. Normally conservative Viking coach Bud Grant opened up his offense early, knowing the field condition would go from bad to worse as the game wore on. Backup QB Bob Lee (starter Fran Tarkenton was injured) led two early touchdown drives (one after a Ram fumble), and the Rams could not move the ball on the quagmire of a field. They finally scored late in the game but lost, 14-7.
- *Signature moment: 1978 NFC Divisional playoff: After 4 losses to Minnesota, the Rams finally defeated the Vikings in a playoff game, scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half to win 34-10. This would be hall of fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton's last game; Tarkenton was 18 of 37 for 219 yards and had one touchdown (to Ahmad Rashad) and two interceptions.
- *First met in 1952
- *13-13 series tied (San Francico leads layoff series 4-3)
- *Signature moment: The Giants and Niners have had seven playoff meetings over the last 25 years. In 1981 and 1984, San Francisco beat the Giants, both times at Candlestick Park (38-24 and 21-10 respectively), as they were in the midst of their 1980s dominance while the Giants were still rising to glory. However, New York exacted revenge in 1985 and 1986 at Giants Stadium, 17-3 in 1985 and a resounding 49-3 rout in 1986 as the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl that year. However, the 49ers would have their own rout in the 1993 playoffs, crushing the Giants 44-3.
- *Signature Moment: In January 1991, the two teams met once again in the playoffs. Unlike their previous meetings, this game would determine the NFC Championship, and thus the right to advance to the Super Bowl. During the season, both teams started out 10-0 and, after each suffered their first loss the week prior, met on Monday Night Football; the 49ers won a defensive struggle 7-3. The 49ers were coming off back-to-back Super Bowl victories, had home-field advantage, and were the favorites to win. However, Matt Bahr would kick five field goals for the Giants, including the game-winner as time expired, and the Giants won 15-13 in a game best remembered for a vicious hit by Leonard Marshall that all but ended the 49er career of Joe Montana, who would play in only one game the next two years (he would start his final two seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs). It would be the only time during the rivalry that the road team won a playoff game.
- *Signature Moment: The teams had another classic match in San Francisco in the first round of the 2002-03 playoffs. Despite an inconsistent 10-6 season, the 49ers had made it to the playoffs by winning the NFC West, but the wild-card Giants (also 10-6) were favored to win, this despite a 16-13 loss to the Niners in the season's opening game. The Giants stormed to a 38-14 lead deep into the third quarter on four Kerry Collins touchdown throws, an Amani Toomer rushing score, and a Matt Bryant field goal, and it looked like the oddsmakers were right. But the Giants defense, which had been highly ranked all year, began to collapse, and with two quick touchdowns (a Jeff Garcia 26-yard strike to Terrell Owens and a 14-yard Garcia rushing score) and two successful two-point conversions (both off Garcia bullet passes to TO), followed by a field goal, the Giants lead was suddenly down to 38-33. With one minute left to play, Jeff Garcia hit Tai Streets for a 13-yard touchdown pass to take a 39-38 lead; at this point Owens and Giants safety Shaun Williams got into two brief but ugly scuffles that led to Williams' ejection from the game. Giants QB Kerry Collins led a furious drive to put the Giants at the Niners 23-yard line with six seconds left for a shot at a game-winning field goal. After a botched Trey Junkin snap, holder Matt Allen attempted a desperate pass down the field, which fell incomplete. Confusion briefly reigned as most in attendence, including the FOX Network's broadcast team of Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and Cris Collinsworth thought a pass-interference call would be made; instead the Giants were flagged for illegal men downfield. The call ended the game, a bitter defeat for the Giants, and for the Niners, the second biggest comeback victory (24 points) in NFL playoff history.
- *First met in 1977
- *7-7 series tied (Playoffs tied 2-2)
- * This is a relatively new rivalry in the NFL. The Eagles won several straight games in the early 2000s, including two playoff wins in Veterans Stadium which ultimately cost Tony Dungy his job as Buccaneers head coach at the conclusion at the end of the 2001-02 season. Philadelphia won the next meeting in the regular season of the following year, only to be defeated by Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship game in the final game at The Vet. Since that game the series has been reversed, with Tampa winning both subsequent meetings between the two teams.
- *Signature moment: In 1979, Tampa Bay had its first winning season and earned a trip to the playoffs, where they upset the Eagles in the divisional round for their first playoff win.
- *Signature moment: On January 12, 2002 the Eagles crushed the Buccaneers at Veterans Stadium in the Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs, 31-9, one year after having defeated them 21-3. It would prove to be the last game Tony Dungy coached as head of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
- *Signature moment: In the last game ever to be played at The Vet, the Eagles once again faced the Bucs, this time in the NFC Championship game on January 19, 2003, trying to advance to their first Super Bowl since Super Bowl XV. Instead, Tampa Bay won its first playoff road game in franchise history. The Eagles scored less than a minute into the game thanks to a long kickoff return followed by a Duce Staley touchdown run. Tampa, behind the strength of its league-best defense, rebounded and won the game 27-10, with Ronde Barber's 92 yard interception return for a touchdown late in the 4th quarter being the clincher. The Bucs went on to defeat Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII. The teams opened the following season against each other in the first game for the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Once again, the Bucs walked away victorious, winning 17-0.
- *Signature moment: In a Week 7 match-up of the 2006 season, the Buccaneers led at home 17-7 after three quarters (with the Bucs' two touchdowns coming on interceptions by Ronde Barber, but the Eagles took the lead 21-20. With only 4 seconds remaining, kicker Matt Bryant gave Tampa Bay a 23-21 win with an amazing 62-yard field goal.
- *First met in 1932 (as Boston Braves and Chicago Cardinals)
- *Washington leads series 72-44-2 (no playoff contests)
- *The Cardinals were part of the NFL/NFC East from 1950 through 2001, meeting the Redskins twice a year in that span.
- *Signature Moment: The Cardinals moved from Chicago to St. Louis for the 1960 season and their first meeting with Washington came in St. Louis on November 6 of that year. The Cardinals stormed to a 23-0 halftime lead and added three more touchdowns in a 44-7 runaway highlighted by three John Roach touchdown throws and two rushing scores by John David Crow. The win ignited a four-game winning streak over the Redskins by the Cards.
- *Signature Moment: The Redskins were hammered in the 1960s by the Cardinals, but come the 1970s the 'Skins dominated the rivalry with 14 wins in 20 matchups. The games themselves, though, were almost always closely-fought affairs, and on November 11, 1979 the Redskins pulled out a 30-28 squeaker at RFK Stadium. The 'Skins behind two Joe Theismann touchdown throws stormed to a 27-7 lead, but in the fourth quarter the Cardinals erupted with 21 points, leading 28-27 before Mark Moseley's game-winning field goal for the 'Skins.
- *Signature Moment: The Redskins won all but three matchups in the 1980s; the final Cardinals win that decade came in Washington's first ever trip to Phoenix on September 25, 1988. The now-Phoenix Cardinals trailed 14-9 at the half but took a 23-14 lead in the fourth. Mark Rypien threw a touchdown to Anthony Allen for a 23-21 Phoenix lead, but the Cards iced the game on a 45-yard fumble-recovery touchdown by Cedric Mack for a 30-21 final.
- *Signature Moment: The 1990s was a dead-even 10-10 split between the two clubs, and in 1996 a pair of hard-fought games ensued. On November 10, 1996 the Cardinals rallied from down 34-20 in the fourth with two Boomer Esiason touchdown throws as Esiason threw for 522 yards, then the third-highest passing yardage game in NFL history. In overtime Kevin Butler, replacing regular kicker Greg Davis on the Cardinals roster, missed a 48-yard field goal try. Scott Blanton then kicked a 36-yard field goal for the Redskns but it was called back on a holding penalty, and Blanton missed the 46-yard retry. Butler then tried a 32-yard field goal but it was blocked by the Redskins, but the Redskins were flagged for being offsides, and Butler finally nailed the game-winning kick in a 37-34 Arizona win. The loss sent the 7-3 Redskins on a tailspin; on December 15 they were only 8-6 entering Arizona while the Cards were 6-8. The Redskins again blew a big lead but a Blanton kick late in the fourth put them up 26-24, but yet again Butler came through with a 28-yard field goal and a 27-26 Arizona win.
- *First met in 1952
- *4-12 Detroit leads series (Detroit leads championship series 3-1)
- *Signature moment: During the 1950s the Browns and Lions were two of the NFL's dominant teams. Four times they faced each other off in the NFL Championship Game. These games helped establish Cleveland's Otto Graham and Detroit's Bobby Layne as top-notch NFL players. The rivalry is not so big any more, but the two teams traditionally play each other every year in the pre-season.
- *First met in 1960 (Became interconference, or AFC-NFC, in 1970)
- *15-14 Dallas leads series (Pittsburgh leads Super Bowl series 2-1)
- *Signature moment: The Cowboys and Steelers are two storied franchises, and among their many games, the two teams have faced each other in a record 3 Super Bowls, more than any other pair of teams. Both teams had outstanding defenses during the 1970s, with nicknames like the "Doomsday Defense" for Dallas and the "Steel Curtain" for Pittsburgh. The Steelers also had all-time greats on offense like Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris and Lynn Swann, and Dallas featured players such as Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, and Randy White. Pittsburgh beat Dallas 21-17 in Super Bowl X in 1976, and won the 1979 rematch in Super Bowl XIII 35-31 in one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. Both teams remained playoff contenders in the 1980s but disappeared from the championship stage. In the 1990s both came back strong, and 17 years later, Dallas finally got payback for its earlier losses with Super Bowl XXX in 1996. Cowboys cornerback and Super Bowl MVP Larry Brown's 2 second half interceptions turned the tide of the game and gave Dallas a closely fought 27-17 win over Pittsburgh. The Cowboys and Steelers are only two of three teams with a record number five Super Bowl championships.
- * The rivalry has always been about streaks. The Cowboys won seven meetings 1965-72. The Steelers' win in Super Bowl X started a five-game Pittsburgh run 1975-82 and included Super Bowl XIII's shootout win. The Cowboys then authored a four-game streak that included Super Bowl XXX 1991-97, a streak ended in October 2004 in Pittsburgh's 24-20 triumph amid the opening victory surge of Ben Roethlisberger.
- *First met in 1968 (Cardinals/Chiefs), 1996 (Rams/Chiefs)
- *6-1-1 Kansas City leads series (no playoff contests, these are only possible in Super Bowls)
- *The Governor's Cup is awarded for the team that won the pre-season match up, but can also be awarded to the team that wins during regular season play. During pre-season play Kansas City leads the series 18-12-1 (14-6-1 vs. the Cardinals, and 4-6 vs. the Rams).
- *Signature moment: In the early 2000s, the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs both possessed two of the best offensive squads in the league, which led to many shootouts between the two teams. The Chiefs' hiring of former Rams coach Dick Vermeil ignited the rivalry further, as he would face off against his old coaching buddies, including his offensive coordinator of "The Greatest Show on Turf", Mike Martz. It is interesting that the lone St. Louis victory in the series came in 1986, the Cardinals very last year in Missouri. St. Louis has never won before or since that date.
- *First met in 1970
- * 6-4 Giants lead series (No playoff contests, these are only possible in Super Bowls)
- *Signature moment: The two teams' first meeting came in the 1969 preseason, but the game was played at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut, as the teams' home fields, Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium were used exclusively for baseball during the exhibition season. The Jets, the reigning Super Bowl champions, treated this game as being more important than Super Bowl III seven months earlier, feeling that they needed to prove a point to their NFL brethren that the Jets, not the Giants, ruled the Big Apple. Joe Namath threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first quarter as the Jets routed Big Blue, 37-14. Partially as a result of the loss, Giants owner Wellington Mara fired coach Allie Sherman at the end of the preseason.
- *Signature moment: In 1974, with the Jets and Giants both in the midst of horrible seasons (the Giants were 2-6 and the Jets 1-7), the teams once again met at the Yale Bowl (now serving as the Giants' home while Giants Stadium was under construction). Led by new quarterback Craig Morton, acquired from the Dallas Cowboys earlier in the season, the Giants held a 20-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter before the Jets drove to the Giant 5-yard line. With the 70,000 fans in attendance and the Giant defense expecting Namath to pass, the gimpy-kneed Jets icon called his own number, limping around left end on a bootleg for the touchdown that tied the score and sent the game into overtime. The Giants had the first crack at victory in sudden death, but Pete Gogolak missed a 42-yard field goal wide left, although the Hungarian kicker swore that he made the kick. The Jets didn't miss their opportunity, as Namath hit Emerson Boozer, who slipped into the left flat behind linebacker Brad Van Pelt, for the touchdown that gave Gang Green a 26-20 victory. The victory launched the Jets on a six-game winning streak that allowed them to finish the year at 7-7, while the Giants began a six-game losing streak that saw them finish the season at 2-12, the worst record in the NFL. This game meant that the Giants had the dubious distinction of being the first team to lose in overtime in both the postseason (The Greatest Game Ever Played, the 1958 NFL championship game against the Colts) and the regular season, as overtime was first played in regular season games in 1974 (a week two matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos ended in a 35-35 tie).
- *Signature moment: The Big Apple's two NFL teams were two of only four teams to not make the playoffs in the decade of the 1970s (the New Orleans Saints and expansion Seattle Seahawks, who did not join the NFL until 1976, were the others), but in 1981, both clubs were in position to make the post-season as the season headed into its last weekend. The Jets would only need to defeat the Green Bay Packers to reach the AFC playoffs, while the Giants would need to defeat the powerhouse Dallas Cowboys and hope for some help - in the form of a Jets victory - to make it in the NFC. In a strange twist of fate, both teams played at home on different days, with the Giants taking the field first on Saturday, December 19 in New Jersey. The Giants and Cowboys battled into overtime before New York kicker Joe Danelo nailed the game-winning field goal (after missing an earlier attempt in sudden death) for a 13-10 victory. The next day, the prayers of an entire city were answered in Queens when the Jets routed the Packers, 28-3, putting both the Jets and Giants into the playoffs. In another interesting side note, the Jets had defeated the Giants 28-7 at Giants Stadium during the '81 campaign, the teams' first meeting since the aforementioned 1974 contest.
- *Signature moment: In 1988, the Giants and Jets played on the season's final weekend (the Jets were the designated home team at Giants Stadium), with the Giants needing a victory to clinch the NFC East championship. But the Jets played spoiler by pulling off a 27-21 upset, keeping Big Blue at home for the second consecutive season after the Giants' victory in Super Bowl XXI.
- *First met in 1970
- *6-5 Oakland leads series (no playoff contests, these are only possible in Super Bowls)
- *Signature moment: The Bay Area rivals met for the first time in the final game of the 1970 season in a driving rainstorm at Oakland. The 49ers came into the game needing a victory to claim the NFC West division championship, which would be the 49ers' first in their 25 seasons in professional football (having started play in the All-America Football Conference in 1946 before joining the NFL in 1950), while the Raiders had already clinched the AFC West. Oakland scored an early touchdown and was driving toward another score when the muddy ball slipped out of the hands of Raider quarterback Daryle Lamonica and into the hands of 49er defensive back Rosey Taylor. The shift in momentum was a dramatic one, as San Francisco would score 38 unanswered points en route to a surprisingly easy 38-7 victory and the division championship. Raider coach John Madden turned to 43-year old backup quarterback (and placekicker) George Blanda in an attempt to jump-start the stagnant Oakland offense, but Blanda had a pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown by 49er defensive back Jimmy Johnson. The game ended with third-string quarterback Ken Stabler fumbling the ball away to San Francisco defensive end Tommy Hart, which turned out to be the Raiders' ninth turnover of the game.
- *Signature moment: The Raiders moved down the coast from Oakland to Los Angeles prior to the 1982 season, but in a twist of scheduling irony, they would play their first game representing the City of Angels in San Francisco against the reigning Super Bowl champion 49ers. The Raiders certainly didn't endear themselves any more to Bay Area fans by claiming a 23-17 victory.
- *Although the Raiders won Super Bowl XVIII during their second season in Los Angeles, their fortunes soon floundered, while the 49ers' took off, as San Francisco won four Super Bowls while the Raiders resided down the coast. During that time, many of the Raiders' disaffected fans switched their loyalty to the west side of San Francisco Bay, and the Raiders had a hard time capturing back some of those loyalties when Al Davis moved the team back to Oakland in 1995.
- *First met in 1977 (Seahawks were a member of the AFC West from 1977-2001)
- * 28-24 Oakland leads series (Playoff series tied 1-1, now only possible in Super Bowls)
- *Signature moment: On November 29, 1981, with many of the Raiders key defensive players injured, the Seahawks would storm out to a 24-3 lead. However, the depleted Raiders chipped away at the lead, scoring 29 unanswered points, and holding on for a 32-31 victory.
- *Signature moment: During the 1983 season, the Seahawks parlayed a season sweep of the Raiders (38-36 at Seattle and 34-21 at Los Angeles) into the franchise's first playoff berth. The Seahawks and Raiders met for a third time in the AFC championship game, but this contest turned into a rout as the Silver and Black cruised to a 30-14 victory en route to victory in Super Bowl XVIII over the Washington Redskins.
- *Signature Moment: The Raiders traveled to the Kingdome on November 30, 1987 and pummelled the Seahawks 37-14 on Monday Night Football. Bo Jackson caught a 14-yard touchdown from Marc Wilson and rushed in two scores; he had a 91-yard rushing touchdown, but it was a 2-yard stampede into the endzone during the third quarter that has most often been reaired, as Jackson stampeded over the Seahawks' much-hyped linebacker Brian Bosworth.
- *Signature Moment: In their final matchup as a member of the AFC West, the Seahawks hosted the Raiders on November 11, 2001. The Raiders led 20-13 in the third before three consecutive Shaun Alexander rushing touchdowns wiped out any hope of a Raiders win. The Seahawks outrushed the Raiders 319 yards to 88 (Alexander had 266 of Seattle's rushing yards) en route to a 34-27 win.
- *First met in 1970
- *5-3 Patriots lead series (Giants lead Super Bowl series 1-0)
- *Signature Moment: The 1-0 Patriots and 0-1 Giants met at the Yale Bowl on September 22, 1974. Norm Snead of the Giants threw two touchdowns to Ron A. Johnson and Joe Dawkins ran in an additional score, but the Patriots' Jim Plunkett threw three touchdowns and Mack Herron ran in another for a 28-20 Patriots win.
- *Signature Moment: The 1990 season was a study in extreme contrasts, as the Super Bowl-bound Giants wrapped up a 13-3 regular season by edging the 1-15 Patriots 13-10 at Sullivan Stadium; the stadium sold out for the only time that season and the majority of fans were Giants fans. The Giants raced to a 10-0 first quarter lead, but the Patriots tied the game before Matt Bahr kicked what proved to be the winning field goal at the end of the first half.
- *Signature Moment: Roles reversed six years later. On December 21, 1996 the Super Bowl-bound 10-5 Patriots traveled to Giants Stadium but fell behind the 5-10 Giants 22-0 at the end of the first half. Drew Bledsoe threw two touchdowns and Dave Meggett scored off a 60-yard punt return as the Patriots rallied to beat the Giants 23-22.
- *Signature Moment: 2007 was a season of gigantic emotional swings for both clubs. The 15-0 Patriots sought to complete the first perfect regular season since the 1972 Dolphins by taking on the 10-5 Giants in the Meadowlands, a game in which there was debate over whether either team, having clinched playoff berths, would play their starters for any significant time, and a game provided an unprecedented multi-network simulcast on NFL Network, CBS, and NBC. Tom Brady threw a four-yard touchdown to Randy Moss and the score tied Brady with Peyton Manning at 49 touchdowns in a season and Moss with Jerry Rice with 22 touchdown catches in a season. But a taunting penalty on Moss over endzone celebration of the score helped lead to a 74-yard Domenik Hixon return touchdown on the ensuing kick. The Giants behind an inspired game by Eli Manning (three touchdown throws in the first three quarters) stormed to a 28-16 lead in the third quarter before Brady drove the Patriots to three consecutive touchdown drives - two Laurence Maroney rushing scores and the record-breaking 50th touchdown throw and 23rd touchdown catch to Moss. A Manning intercepton on the Giants' first subsequent play from scrimmage after Moss' score set up the second Maroney touchdown, but Manning drove the Giants down field for a late touchdown to Plaxico Burress; an onside kick was recovered by the Patriots for a 38-35 win and a perfect regular season. But the hard-fought loss inspired the Giants as they rode thrugh three straight road playoff wins and met the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII; the Giants smothered the Patriots offenive line repeatedly while the Patriots defense likewise kept the score limited to 7-3 New England entering the fourth quarter. The Giants took the lead 10-7 but the Patriots finally wore out New York's pass rush and Brady nailed a touchdown bullet to Moss with 2:42 to go. In the final minute Eli Manning escaped what seemed a sure in-the-grasp sack and heaved the ball where it was caught by David Tyree off the top of his helmet and despite being tackled by Rodney Harrison; Manning then found Burress for the go-ahead touchdown, and in the final 30 seconds desperation heaves by Brady to Moss fell short (one slipped out of Moss' fingers) for the 17-14 Giants win, the biggest Super Bowl upset in many years.