Will the real rival of the New England Patriots please stand up? Back when Peyton Manning was doing his thing for the Indianapolis Colts, they were the biggest adversary for the Patriots. Then, for a few years when Rex Ryan and the New York Jets were relevant in the AFC, they were the Patriots’ chief rival (remember the New Post’s Star Wars-themed back page leading up to their 2010 Divisional Round game?).
Since Manning has moved on to the Denver Broncos and Ryan’s Jets have taken a turn toward the dark side, the Baltimore Ravens are currently the biggest rival for Bill Belichick‘s Patriots. What makes this rivalry, or any rivalry in sports history great? Well, first, meaningful games. Over the last four postseasons, the Ravens and the Patriots have clashed against one another three times. In that time frame, only the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals have met more than once in the playoffs and that was only in the Wild Card round.
The second thing a great rivalry needs is some parity and these two squads have delivered on that. The Patriots took all three regular season meetings in the last four seasons, but have won only once in their three playoff meetings, all at Gillette Stadium. The parity reigns and the memorable moments still linger. We all remember Ray Rice‘s 83-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage in the 2009 AFC Wild Card Round, Sterling Moore stripping Lee Evans, Billy Cundiff‘s ensuing 32-yard miss as time expired and Justin Tucker‘s controversial field goal in the 2012 regular season.
All those reasons for the Patriots-Ravens clashes are great, but what makes this matchup the finest rivalry is that the New England Patriots have is hatred. It is what separates the top-notch rivalries from the ones that come and go. Hatred is why the Patriots-Jets rivalry worked so well and why Patriots-Ravens stands on top now. It seems like every week leading up to the New England-Baltimore showdown, Terrell Suggs claims he hates Tom Brady. And I am sure Brady feels the same way even if he will not admit it to the media. Imagine the firestorm that would blow up if Brady said that? I almost wish he did, adding fuel to the already sizable fire.
Now once again, these teams will meet in the regular season, but if history tells us anything, this Sunday’s game will come down to the wire and then they will renew their rivalry next month.