The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for Fanhouse.com

Great QBs, not a rivalry

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Last Sunday night, Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels suggested that the fiercest NFC East rivalry is Dallas-Philadelphia. I guess that's because they were calling a Cowboys-Eagles game. Because a friend who lives in Philly tells me that Eagles fans hate the Giants more than anyone else. And when I began writing about the NFL, an editor critiqued a story on a Dallas-Washington game by telling me I had failed to emphasize the fierce rivalry between the two.

In other words, a rivalry is defined by the definer. This week, it's Patriots-Colts, a game being played for the 10th time in seven years. Sorry, but it's not a rivalry -- it's a game between superior teams and superior quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

What makes it special is that both teams and QBs have dominated the AFC for nearly a decade and thus meet a lot in both regular season and playoffs. It's also a made-for-TV game -- it's always played in November, "sweeps month'' for the television networks to up the ratings. At some point -- like after Brady and Manning decline and then retire -- it won't be played as often and when it is, it's likely to be relegated to September, October or December and shown regionally.

A real rivalry? How about the one I grew up with: the Giants and Browns?

It was the two best teams in the Eastern Conference, vintage late '50s and early '60s. Jim Brown and Sam Huff; Pat Summerall kicking a 48-yard field goal through the snow to set up a 1958 playoff game that got New York to what became "the greatest game ever played'' -- the overtime championship won by the Colts. It was so fierce it was worth money -- Art Modell wouldn't take Cleveland to the AFC when he was asked during the merger until the AFC owners agreed to give $3 million each to the Browns, Steelers and Colts, the three teams that moved to indemnify them for lost rivalries.

Since then, the Giants and Browns have played eight times and no one but their fans has cared.

But they do care about division games, played twice a year with something on the line.

So yes, all the NFC East teams dislike each other (or rather their fans do). Other divisions have traditional rivalries -- the NFC North; the AFC North; the AFC West, with four old AFL teams; and the AFC East, with three teams close to each other and fourth where all the folks from the other three go to vacation.

The ferocity of rivalries also change.

It would be nice if Cleveland got better so the Steelers-Browns game, with fans within driving distance, would mean something.

And we think of Chicago-Green Bay as the NFL's oldest rivalry. But Green Bay fans these days dislike the Vikings more because some guy named Brett who spent 16 years as their quarterback now plays in Minneapolis.

Those are rivalries.

Remember that when you sit down to watch Manning and Brady. Someday they'll go away and so, most likely, will their teams' rivalry.

By Dave Goldberg  |  November 13, 2009; 9:30 AM ET  | Category:  Indianapolis Colts , New England Patriots , New York Giants , Peyton Manning , Philadelphia Eagles , Tom Brady Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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