Poll: Who was Pats’ biggest rival during the glory years?
For two decades, the New England Patriots dominated football unlike anything we had even seen and likely anything we will ever witness again. Year after year, there they were in the AFC Championship Game. Most of time, it went there way, with a few notable heartaches along the way.
About the only thing that was lacking during those glorious 20 years was a true rival. And hey, I guess that comes with the territory. When you win more than anyone else, it's hard to have a rivalry with another team that just quite isn't on your level. Also not helping matters was the fact the AFC East was a dumpster fire for much of the 20 seasons, so despite seeing teams twice a year, it usually ended with the Pats coming away with five or six wins vs. the division.
There were certainly the familiar faces in January, the Colts, Broncos, Ravens and Steelers, who would pop up in the playoffs every few years. Though, I would argue only the Broncos and Ravens ever struck fear into Pats fans. Yes, I know there was that one AFC Championship Game at the RCA Dome in Indy that didn't go too well, but New England got the better of the Colts enough times to make up for it.
What about two matchups in the Super Bowl against the Giants? Is that enough to constitute a rivalry?
Frankly, I think the closest thing Brady, Belichick & Co. ever had to a rival during all those years wasn't a team, but instead one guy. No, I'm not talking about the blowhard coach in New York, I mean Peyton Manning.
Manning was just 6-13 in 19 career tries against the Pats. As previously mentioned, Manning and Indy really only bested the Pats once when it mattered during that first dynasty - that being the '06 AFC Championship Game in Indy where New England blew a 21-3 halftime lead.
But remember those Broncos teams of the early 2010's? Manning's bunch singlehandedly delayed the start of the second Pats' dynasty by a couple years and I'd argue there was no more helpless feeling for a Patriots fan during that 20-year stretch than when the Pats had to travel to Mile High in the playoffs. You just knew it wasn't going to end well.
Who do you think was New England's biggest rival?