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Bitter Rivals: Which NFL Division Harbors The Most Hate?

By Tom Pollin

July 10, 2013 9:23 am

In the NFL, as in any competitive league, familiarity breeds contempt. That contempt leads to a spike in fan interest, endless content for newspapers, websites and sports talk radio which results in sold out stadiums along with television ratings that keep the dollars rolling in so the cycle can continue.

What raises a game from just another date on the schedule to a contest that has fans ready to kick down the gates of the stadium to be part of? One incident can spark of bad blood between two teams and their fan bases but put those teams in the same division, facing each other twice every season and an intense, bitter rivalry is sure to erupt.

The NFL is entering the twelfth season since the current division alignment went into effect so it's time to rate which divisions have the best rivalry games.

 NFC South
This is another division where the cumulative age of the four teams wouldn't get them in the door of the NFL Night Club without a fake ID.

Hottest Rivalry:

Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints

Both began as NFL expansion teams, the Falcons in 1967 and the Saints in 1968. Both spent most of the 1970's and 1980's preventing the 49ers and Rams from bottoming out in last place in the NFC West. Since the 2009 season they've both been slugging it out to see who can reign supreme over the division.

An early key moment between the two came in 2006 when the Saints were returning home to the Superdome for their first game after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. They hosted the Falcons in Week 3 on Monday Night Football.

The tone for the game was set after the Falcons' first offensive drive when Steve Gleason blocked Michael Koenen's punt which Curtis DeLoatch fell on for a touchdown to make the score 7-0. That dome opening party lasted all night long as the Saints cruised to a 23-3 win.

In 2010, Saints players violated one of the commandments of football, "Thou shalt not diss your rivals logo." After a 17-14 victory over Atlanta in the Georgia Dome the Saints took pictures using the midfield Falcons logo as backdrop, then showed no shame in displaying those photos.

Last season, the Falcons had the distinction of ending Drew Brees' NFL-record streak of 54 games with a TD pass. They picked him off five times in that Week 13 game to win 23-13.

Best of the Rest:

Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This one ignited during 2003 training camp when Panthers defensive tackle Brentson Buckner claimed teammate Kris Jenkins was better than Warren Sapp. That set off replies by Sapp along with continued trash talking up to their first game of the season in Week 2.

The Panthers squeezed out a win in a tough defensive struggle 12-9. The key play was a blocked Martin Gramatica extra point attempt as time ran out to send the game into overtime tied at 9.

In 2006 Bucs quarterback Chris Sims suffered a ruptured spleen after being sandwiched by Jenkins and Thomas Davis.

The rivalry between these two is established and the animosity between the fans exists. If both can re-emerge as division contenders this simmering rivalry will boil over again.

For all the divisions

TB-Carolina. Contrived rivalry. Not much to talk about.  If anything, I think I despise the Falcons and their fans more than anything as far as the division goes since I've gone to several Bucs games at the Ga Dome and saw how Bucs fans were treated there (although the Buccaneer fans there probably deserved the treatment d/t being obnoxious). 

The Bucs currently do not have a hated or heated rivalry with any of the 3 teams. If I had to answer, the closest we have to a heated rivalry would be the doesn't come close to the Saints-Falcons rivalry though.

wreck ship:
I hate the falcons passionately. The only thing that will cure a Bucs loss is a falcon loss. The aints, like us, were bad for so long it's hard to hate them and the panthers....well it's just hard to take a team wearing silver and teal uni's seriously.
The falcant's vs. Aints imo is one of the most heated rivalry in the nfl. I hope both their starters get injured when they play each other.

Saints without a doubt in my mind, especially after bounty-gate. They got caught, own up to it. Instead all they did was **CENSORED** and complain about how they didn't do it and everything was unfair and goodell was out to get them, especially Drew Brees.

are rivalries considered for the fans or for the players?

The Falcons IMO.

Feel Real Good:
I agree with the article. Since the NFC South has existed, I think the games with Carolina in the early 2000's were the most intense the Bucs have played in.

I HAAAAAAATE the panthers. I lived in Spartanburg, SC which is where they hold training camp and their fans are friggin obnoxious. Also I hate so many current and former Panthers.

Boid Fink:
Any of the divisional teams inspired nausea、but no team sucks more than them Cowgirls.


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