NFL weekend more than Patriots-Colts
Lost amid the hype about the Colts-Pats matchup this weekend is the unusually high number of rivalry games across the NFL. In one sense, it's like the interleague matchups in baseball, when teams with postseason history (Mets/Red Sox) or regional rivalries (A's/Giants) square off -- while others simply don't have suitable dance partners, because a) they don't have a great postseason history (Jaguars), or b) they don't have a natural regional rival (Saints).
Nevertheless, there are at least 10 games laden with historic background or regional bragging rights in Week 10. So let's rank 'em, 10 to 1.
10. Jacksonville at New York Jets. The last time New York advanced to the AFC Championship Game (1998), they had to beat Jacksonville to get there. Still, the Jets have an aversion to the Super Bowl, and have not made an appearance since the NFL-AFL merger. Neither have the Jags. These teams have little history, but at least they have each other.
9. Detroit at Minnesota. The Lions and Vikings have played each other 96 times (with the Vikings winning 60), but neither team has ever won the Super Bowl. They're like the Rangers-Mariners of the NFL.
8. Tampa Bay at Miami. The Dolphins are considered by many to be one of the great organizations in NFL history, which makes sense till you consider they haven't won a Super Bowl since the 1973 season -- or been to one since 1984 (when they got throttled by the Niners). Tampa, meanwhile, was the poster child for NFL futility for many years. But hey, at least they've won a Super Bowl since the Nixon administration -- something that can't be said for their Florida counterpart.
7. Dallas at Green Bay. It must be easy for television producers to work certain events. A Red Sox-Yankees game? Cue the clips of Babe Ruth, Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone, Dave Roberts and David Ortiz. A Cowboys-Packers game? Cue the clip of Bart Starr sneaking into the end zone behind Jerry Kramer during the Ice Bowl in 1967, with Vince Lombardi in his black Russian hat, breathing car exhaust from the sidelines.
6. Denver at Washington. When the Broncos lost three Super Bowls in the 1980s, they spread the love around, losing to the Giants, Niners and Redskins. But it was the loss to Washington that was historic as Redskins Doug Williams became the first (and to date, only) black quarterback to lead his team to the title. Yeah, I'm sure no one has ever mentioned that factoid to Jason Campbell, the Redskins' current quarterback.
5. Kansas City at Oakland. Man, remember those classic matchups between these old AFL rivals? Yeah, me neither. Still, there's been a lot of bad blood between these divisional rivals over the years, perhaps most notably when Marcus Allen was mothballed by Al Davis before heading to Kansas City and winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award.
4. Cincinnati at Pittsburgh. The Bengals have only played in one playoff game since 1990, a 2005 loss to the Steelers. In that 34-17 loss, the Bengals lost Carson Palmer on the first play of the game, when defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen (a 1994 Bengals draft pick) dove at the quarterback's legs. Bengals fans saw their best team in years torpedoed by that injury. Then they watched the Steelers become the first sixth seed in NFL history to win the Super Bowl. In the ensuing years, Cincinnati sent players to various courts across the land, while Pittsburgh won another Super Bowl. This week they play for first place in the AFC North, in Pittsburgh, where some Steelers fans will undoubtedly dust off their von Oelhoffen jerseys.
3. Buffalo at Tennessee. I'm not a fan of the Bills or Titans, but I'll always remember where I was when the Music City Miracle went down: I was in the bathroom of a bar in Killington, Vt., when the bar exploded with shouts of "go, go, go." I thought I was being spied on. Once I rejoined the masses, I saw replays of the lateral pass from Frank Wycheck to Kevin Dyson.
2. New England at Indianapolis. Given recent history, it'd be easy to rank this No. 1 on the list of rivalry games this weekend, but frankly, both these first-place teams are headed to the playoffs, so it's not a must-win for either squad. Thanks to the NFL's balanced schedule, if the Pats and Colts finish in first place in their respective divisions, they'll face off again in 2010. Knowing these teams (who've played each other in the playoffs three times since 2003), they'll probably meet again before that.
1. Baltimore at Cleveland. Early reports said this game might be blacked out in Cleveland, but the fans' unwillingness to spend a Monday night with Eric Mangini doesn't diminish the hatred between the new Browns and the old Browns. You don't have to spend money to hate someone. The Ravens are 4-4 (1-3 in the AFC North) and a loss to the Browns would devastate their playoff chances. Cleveland (1-7) has little to play for, which is why this game could be interesting. Remember last year when the Browns stunned the Giants on Monday Night Football? The Browns probably do; they haven't won many since. Misery loves company, and the new Browns have the opportunity to soil the old Browns' season.
Cameron Martin is a contributor to Page 2. He previously worked for the Greenwich (Conn.) Time and The (Stamford, Conn.) Advocate, and has written online for CBS Sports and Comcast SportsNet New England. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.