Week 4 of the NFL season features several prominent divisional matchups, starting with the oldest rivalry (Bears-Packers) and Thursday night and continuing with several key matchups today.
Which rivalries are the best? Well, to answer this, I tried to come up with an objective way to look at it. Every fanbase is going to say that their rivalry is the most important. Here are the categories I came up with, to try to measure the rivalries:
- Length of division rivalry (to try to measure historic rivalries);
- Overall record of division opponents head-to-head in division games, since 1960 (to measure how close the rivalry is in the win column);
- Percentage of close games, since 1960, in division games (to measure how competitive the games have been);
- Percentage of upsets, since 1978 (pro-football-reference.com has point spread data since the 1978 season so we can measure how often the underdog won, an indicator of the “unpredictability” of the rivalry);
- Number of postseason matchups between division rivals; and
- Closeness in standings, since 2002, to measure how close the rivals tend to be from an overall competitiveness standpoint in recent years.
Here are the Results:
It’s not as old of a rivalry as many others, but despite that, is tied for the most playoff matchups (4), is 2nd in close game percentage (64% have been decided by 8 or less), and is top ten in both head-to-head record closeness and standings closeness.
#2 NEW YORK GIANTS-PHILADELPHIA
The Eagles-Giants is one of the oldest division rivalries (dating back to 1933, when divisions were introduced) and is in the upper half in every category. These teams are in close proximity, and have fan bases that intermix, and it also provided us with one of the craziest endings in NFL history (The Miracle at the Meadowlands).
#3 KANSAS CITY-OAKLAND
The premiere AFL rivalry, this one has continued to provide exciting moments, even when the teams were down. The underdog has won 43% of the games since 1978, among the top ten in that category, and this one also ranks in the upper half in every category.
#4 MIAMI-NEW YORK JETS
This one might not flash into your mind, but it has given us some iconic moments, from the Marino fake spike to the Monday Night Miracle. and ranks this highly because it is #1 in the upsets category, with an incredible 49% (basically half) of all games being won by the underdog. Last week’s victory by the Jets was just the continuation of a long theme in this rivalry.
#5 ATLANTA-NEW ORLEANS
Another underrated one, the leading Southern NFL rivalry often sees the Falcons and Saints near each other in the standings, and features lots of upsets and close games.
This one would be higher in the rankings except, well, sorry Washington fans, but the Cowboys have dominated this series (62% win percentage). It ranks in the top 5 in upsets and inside the top 15 in all other categories.