Top 15 best NFL rivalries in league history: all-time ranking

Top 15 best NFL rivalries in league history: all-time ranking

Kevin Omuya, Jackline Wangare
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:06 PM

The National Football League (NFL), established more than a century ago, has developed into the most prominent American football league and one of the top sports leagues in the world. The NFL kept track of several historical events as it took decades to solidify its place among the finest sports leagues. With sport comes competition, so who are the most prominent NFL rivalries in history?

Biggest NFL rivalries in league history
Photo: (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Among these events are the league's multiple expansions to its current 32-team size and, most significantly, the merger of the National Football League and its rival, the American Football League. The merger created the Super Bowl, the most popular sporting event in America.

Top 15 biggest NFL rivalries of all time

It is difficult to distinguish between some of the greatest rivalries in NFL history since there are so many games with that level of intensity. However, according to the latest statistics, the top 15 best NFL rivalries of all time are ranked here.

15. Buffalo Bills vs Miami Dolphins

NFL rivalries
James Cook #28 of the Buffalo Bills carries the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium. Photo: Bryan M. Bennett
Source: Getty Images

The rivalry's ferocity was stoked by the Dolphins' 20-match winning streak in the 1970s. The clubs have also faced off five times in NFL playoffs, with the Bills having a 4-1 advantage, including an AFC Championship Game triumph in 1992. The exciting thing is that both teams share rivalries with the New England Patriots.

14. Miami Dolphins vs New England Patriots

best NFLrivalries
New England Patriots defensive back Myles Bryant (27) returns a kick during a game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadiumhoto: Fred Kfoury III
Source: Getty Images

When Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was hired as the Dolphins' head coach in 2005, the rivalry between the two teams heated up significantly. Both teams are the only ones to go undefeated in the post-merger era, with the Dolphins doing so in 1972 and the Patriots in 2007.

13. Baltimore Ravens vs Cincinnati Bengals

best NFL rivalries of all time
Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks to pass against the Baltimore Ravens during the first quarter in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Paycor Stadium. Photo: Dylan Buell
Source: Getty Images

The Bengals vs Ravens rivalry began when the Ravens relocated to Baltimore. Since then, the rivalry has heated up as longtime Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis was hired as the Bengals' head coach. The two rivals have played twice annually since 1996.

12. Indianapolis Colts vs Houston Texans

best rivalries in sports
Sam Ehlinger #4 of the Indianapolis Colts is tackled by Jonathan Greenard #52 and Jonathan Owens #36 of the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Photo: Justin Casterline
Source: Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans are two teams in the AFC South Division of the National Football League. The two teams have had some exciting matchups in recent years, with the Colts winning the last three games.

Both teams have strong defences and powerful offences, making for an exciting matchup when they face off. The Colts have one of the best quarterbacks in the league Andrew Luck, who can make plays on the ground and in the air.

The Texans have their star quarterback Deshaun Watson, known for his strong arm and ability to extend plays. Both teams have had their share of injuries in various seasons, so it will be interesting to see how they fare against each other.

11. Buffalo Bills vs. Tennessee Titans

sports rivalry
Dennis Daley #71 of the Tennessee Titans defends against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. Photo: Cooper Neill
Source: Getty Images

The Bills and Tennessee have had successful seasons, but the Bills have been on a roll lately. They have won their last four games and have the second-best record in the AFC East. Tennessee has not been as successful this season, but they have a strong defence and a solid running game. It should be an exciting game, with both teams looking to prove something.

10. New York Jets vs New England Patriots

sports rivalry
Hunter Henry, #85 of the New England Patriots, defends Greg Van Roten, #62 of the New York Jets, at Gillette Stadium, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Photo: Maddie Meyer
Source: Getty Images

The two teams have been competing against one another since 1960, when they were both in the American Football League (AFL), even before the NFL merger.

These clubs' meetings have produced some noteworthy incidents, such as Mark Sanchez's notorious play on Thanksgiving in 2012 while playing for the Jets. New York Jets and New England Patriots have been among the top best rivalries in sports for a long time.

9. Atlanta Falcons vs Carolina Panthers

best rivalries in sports
Cam Newton, #1 of the Carolina Panthers, drops back to pass against the Atlanta Falcons at Bank of America Stadium, in North Carolina. Photo: Lance King
Source: Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers are two of the most competitive teams in the NFL. This season, the Falcons have a 5-9 record and the Panthers have a 5-8 record.

The Falcons have won three of the last four matchups between the two teams, including an impressive 38-25 win in Week 14. The notable athletes that will face off in the rivalry include Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Luke Kuechly.

8. Seattle Seahawks vs San Francisco 49ers

best NFL rivalries of all time
San Francisco 49ers against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 30-23. Photo: Michael Zagaris
Source: Getty Images

Even though the Seahawks and 49ers didn't start playing each other in divisional games until 2002, their rivalry has been one of the most heated in football since it began in 1976.

The matches were less exciting during most of the 2000s due to the Niners' failure, but once former Jim Harbaugh and his aggressive coaching style arrived, things with the Hawks heated back up. 

Harbaugh had previously coached against Pete Carroll while the two were in the Pac-12 increased the tension.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers vs Dallas Cowboys

best NFL rivalries
Dallas Cowboys vs Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2021 preseason at Tom Benson Hall Of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. Photo: Emilee Chinn
Source: Getty Images

Success has defined this rivalry throughout several eras; the teams have faced off in three Super Bowl title games. The "Steel Curtain" Steelers teams of the 1970s defeated the Cowboys twice, in 1976 and 1979; Dallas got back at them in 1996 by winning Super Bowl.

This has developed into one of the most notable and intense non-conference rivalries in the NFL due to renowned players and coaches like Troy Aikman, Chuck Noll, "Mean" Joe Greene, Emmitt Smith, Lynn Swann, and Franco Harris competing against one another over the years.

6. Detroit Lions vs Green Bay Packers

NFL team rivalries
D'Andre Swift #32 of the Detroit Lions runs against Oren Burks #42 of the Green Bay Packers to score a touchdown at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Nic Antaya
Source: Getty Images

This rivalry dates back to 1930 when the Detroit Lions were still known as the Portsmouth Spartans. The Packers-Lions game is the NFL's longest-running rivalry; the clubs have faced off twice a year since 1933; that's a pretty good way to incite resentment.

Between these two teams in 2015, one of the wildest finishes in NFL history occurred when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers helped his team rally from a 20-point deficit to win. That win culminated in an unbelievable 61-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to Richard Rodgers with no time remaining.

5. Washington Redskins vs Philadelphia Eagles

biggest NFL rivalries
Boston Scott #35 of the Philadelphia Eagles is tackled by Jonathan Allen #93 of the Washington Football Team at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. Photo: G Fiume
Source: Getty Images

With two fan bases who hate one another and a history of close games and serious injuries, this rivalry, which dates back to 1934, has been one of the most heated in NFL history.

The rivalry was best exemplified in a 1990 contest known as "the Body Bag Game" because so many players had to leave the game injured. However, the rivalry between the teams hadn't diminished in the slightest and had grown more intense when they joined the NFC East.

4. Oakland Raiders vs Kansas City Chiefs

sports rivalry
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton (54) stops Las Vegas Raiders Josh Jacobs (28) in an NFL game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. Photo: Scott Winters
Source: Getty Images

Since 1960, when they played in the same division of the AFL, the Chiefs and Raiders have had one of the NFL's longest-running and most heated rivalries. Due to the great devotion of both sets of supporters, the atmosphere in the stadium is almost as intense as it is on the field.

Due to the Raiders' dominance over the Chiefs during the 1970s and 1980s, Kansas City got back at Oakland in the 1990s, going 18-3 against Oakland.

3. New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys

best rivalries in sports
Dalton Schultz, #86 of the Dallas Cowboys, catches the ball for a touchdown in front of Logan Ryan, #23 of the New York Giants, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Photo: Sarah Stier
Source: Getty Images

One of the NFL's most well-known rivalries in this contest. Two of the most adored teams in the NFL, both premier franchises, the flamboyant, showy, lavish Cowboys, also known as "America's team," against the rugged, brutal, businesslike Giants. Although both clubs are members of the NFC East, their sports rivalry dates back even before the division was created.

2. Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers

best NFL rivalries of all time
Chicago Bears wide receive Jakeem Grant (17) breaks a tackle of Green Bay Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas (29) at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI. Photo: Larry Radloff
Source: Getty Images

What is the oldest NFL team rivalry? The Packers-Bears rivalry has seen the most games played in NFL history, with nearly 200 games between the teams since 1921. The historical dominance of these franchises, both division rivals, has fostered animosity between the teams among both fans and players.

These games have featured legendary coaches like Vince Lombardi, George Halas, Buddy Ryan, and Mike Ditka, and players like Aaron Rodgers, Walter Payton, Bart Starr, and Gale Sayers participating in the field antics, which included many close games and hard hits. They are among the famous NFL rivalries.

1. Cincinnati Bengals vs Pittsburgh Steelers

best NFL rivalries
Fitzpatrick #39 of the Pittsburgh Steelers intercepts a pass against Tee Higgins #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo: Dylan Buell
Source: Getty Images

Every NFL rivalry features teams that despise one another, but things take a new turn regarding the Steelers and Bengals. There is no love lost between these teams when they get onto the field, whether it was Vontaze Burfict knocking out Antonio Brown with a dirty hit in the 2016 playoffs or Kimo von Oelhoffen smashing Carson Palmer and destroying the quarterback's ACL and MCL.

Regardless of their records, these games are always intense, and more often than not, one player leaves the field on a cart. Cincinnati and Bengals are the biggest NFL team rivalries in 2023.

What is the greatest rivalry in football?

The greatest football rivalry includes:

  • Cincinnati Bengals vs Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers
  • New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys
  • Oakland Raiders vs Kansas City Chiefs
  • Washington Redskins vs Philadelphia Eagles
  • Detroit Lions vs Green Bay Packers
  • Pittsburgh Steelers vs Dallas Cowboys
  • Seattle Seahawks vs San Francisco 49ers
  • Atlanta Falcons vs Carolina Panthers
  • New York Jets vs New England Patriots
  • Buffalo Bills vs. Tennessee Titans
  • Indianapolis Colts vs Houston Texans
  • Baltimore Ravens vs Cincinnati Bengals
  • Miami Dolphins vs New England Patriots
  • Buffalo Bills vs Miami Dolphins

Which is the biggest NFL divisional rivalry?

The Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers rivalry is the longest-running and has seen the most games played of any rivalry. Since their first meeting in 1921, 184 times have passed between them. Chicago currently leads the series by six games, 92-86-6. These two groups are among the NFL's most successful organizations in recent memory.

Like in every other sport, the biggest NFL rivalries build excitement among supporters and fans who watch their favourite teams duel against one another. This makes American football the most famous sport in America, among many other factors.

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His aggressive tactics, intelligence, and vision have made him a formidable opponent on the field. In addition, Matić has played for two of the world's wealthiest teams, Chelsea and Manchester United.

Kevin Omuya photo
Kevin Omuya
Kevin Omuya is a Content Writer with 4 years of experience who joined Sports Brief in 2022. In 2019 he held a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Digital Media from KCA University.
Jackline Wangare photo
Jackline Wangare
Jackline Simwa is a content writer at Sports Brief covering sports and lifestyle topics. Previously, she worked at The Campanile by Kenyatta University and as a Content Creator (,,,