The NFL is officially transitioning into a 17-game length season next year. The games will consist of the usual scheduling format and the additional game will be against a rotating opposite conference’s team that finished in the same place in their division (example: the Chiefs and Packers both won their division and will play each other next season).
Everyone knows this is just another way for the owners to milk their cash cow since the NFL is a ratings king. However, if they really wanted to make some money off of the extra game, there’s a better solution: create more rivalries. There are teams that only get to play each other once every four years that should be playing each
other on a yearly basis. They could market the games as an event and create some pride within the players and hatred amongst the fan bases that would make the league even more entertaining. Take a look at what the Big 10 Conference does in football: it feels as if every conference game has some sort of rivalry name with an awesome trophy to go with it (my personal favorite: the winner of Minnesota-Wisconsin gets Paul Bunyun’s Axe.).
We deserve those types of games in the NFL. It could be an event! College football already has “rivalry week” and it’s wildly successful! Here are some proposed yearly rivalries and trophies that should happen with the new 17-game season.
Houston Texans vs Dallas Cowboys- Rodeo Rivalry
It’s a game that should happen every year in the state where football is king. You have the Dallas Cowboys, the most iconic brand in the NFL with 5 Super Bowls to show for it, and the Texans, the youngest franchise in the league since their move to Houston in 1999. There needs to be a rivalry we see every year that can easily be fueled by the Cowboys having “big brother syndrome,” looking down on the Texans for being seemingly irrelevant. You could even play this at a neutral site- maybe at the University of Texas or Kyle Field in College Station.
Trophy: Golden Lasso
Los Angeles Rams vs Los Angeles Chargers- Battle for the Beach
It was incredibly fascinating watching the Rams and the Chargers both being featured at the same time on HBO’s Hard Knocks last year, because even though they were in the same lavish city in the same brand new Atlantean-level palace, they were drastically different: the Rams having a college-like environment, where the system implemented by McVay was a Hollywood-style glamorous camp, whereas the Chargers felt much more gritty. Now that there are two teams in LA, where the city cares much more about Dodger baseball, Lakers basketball, and UCLA-USC, the residents need a reason to feel a need to take a side, and a yearly rivalry could fix that.
Trophy: Actual-sized surfboard that looks like a football
New York Giants vs New York Jets- The Snoopy Bowl
(This is already the name of the rivalry given they share Metlife Stadium, where the logo is Snoopy). It’s plain and simple. They’re the two teams in the biggest market with allegiances you get at birth. We need it every year. Maybe the winner can earn the midfield logo the next year since they use the NFL Shield at midfield currently.
Trophy: Trophy of Snoopy eating a “Big Apple”
Philadelphia Eagles vs Pittsburgh Steelers- The Keystone Classic
Just take a look at Flyers vs Penguins in the NHL; the two Pennsylvania cities with rabid fan bases hate each other. The Steel City vs the City of Brotherly Love! Pierogies vs Philly Cheesesteaks!*
*The only argument against this would be that it could potentially be TOO hostile, which is even more of a reason that this needs to happen.
Trophy: Golden Statue Figurine of William Penn
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Miami Dolphins- The Sunshine Showdown
There would be fans in sun hats and flip flops drinking mimosas in every square inch of the stadium. It would be an absolute must for Tampa to bring back the orange creamsicle uniforms to truly capture the essence of just how “Florida” of a yearly game that would be. Even though there’s three teams in Florida, there doesn’t ever feel like a sense of hostility exists between the teams. Let’s change that.
Trophy: Golden Statue of an Orange Tree
Atlanta Falcons vs Jacksonville Jaguars- The Cocktail Classic
It just makes total sense due to the “World’s Largest Cocktail Party” in college football is the heated Florida-Georgia rivalry. I don’t think the Jaguars necessarily have any animosity towards anyone, so let’s give them something to play for.
Trophy: Silver Cocktail Glass
Baltimore Ravens vs Washington Football Team- The Beltway Battle
The Ravens have only played the Football Team 7 total times! These are two teams that are about an hour away from each other with two very distinctive cultures. We need to ramp up some hatred between the two. Give me the cheesy “House Divided” flags you get at sporting good stores that families put in their front yards when one spouse roots for the opposite team.
Trophy: A giant bucket (winner gets to fill it up with crabs to eat and celebrate with)
Las Vegas Raiders vs San Francisco 49ers- The Fight for the Valleys
This one just makes me sad. The Raiders-Niners Rivalry that existed when the Raiders were in Oakland and it was the Battle of the Bay was iconic, but it can’t be the Battle of the Bay any more since you know.. The Raiders are in Vegas now. But Vegas is a Valley and the 49ers have Silicon Valley, so the least the NFL could do is give us this game once a year so the hatred lives on.
Trophy: An actual-sized cannon to have on the sidelines
Denver Broncos vs Arizona Cardinals- The Retirement Rivalry
This is purely because these are two very popular areas of the country to retire in the western United States, and it would be really fascinating to see the back-and-forth between playing in the Arizona air-conditioned indoor stadium and the freezing high-altitude of Mile High.
Trophy: The Golden Golf Clubs
Kansas City Chiefs vs New Orleans Saints- The Backyard Battle
Kansas City-style barbecue and New Orleans Cajun crawfish boils. These are two of the greatest food staple cities in America that similarly value the art of the outdoor cookout. Let’s add some football between two recently-dominant teams to that divide.
Trophy: A Silver Spatula
Chicago Bears vs Indianapolis Colts- The Purple Rain Rivalry
On top of these two franchises playing around 3 hours away from each other, you also have the history of the 2007 Super Bowl game. This would add to the history, and pay homage to Prince, who had a legendary halftime performance that year in the pouring rain.
Trophy: A purple umbrella, and the end handle is shaped like Prince’s symbol
Buffalo Bills vs Minnesota Vikings- The Curse-Breaker Classic
These are two of the most unlucky franchises in all of football. The Bills went through a period where they lost four straight Super Bowls in the 90’s. The Vikings lost four in a seven year span, and have horrifying moments like Staubach’s Hail Mary, the Herschel Walker trade, “the kick”, bountygate, and other heartbreaks among other things. Even if one or both of the two teams drastically recover from their curses of bad luck, sometimes you’ve just gotta embrace your flaws and poke fun at yourself and the terrible past. Think about how electric the media would react if there was a meltdown in a game known as the “Curse-Breaker Classic.” Poetic justice.
Trophy: A plush voodoo doll of the other team’s mascot
Carolina Panthers vs Tennessee Titans- The Down South Showdown
Do Tennesseeans and Carolinas get along? I actually have no idea. I know their college teams play each other in the SEC with South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt, but I couldn’t tell you of a single game between them of significance. Nevertheless, they’re both in the south and near each other and the Panthers and Titans have both been pretty irrelevant franchises historically. Maybe a noteworthy game will create some entertainment and tension between the states.
Trophy: A golden pitcher filled with sweet tea
Detroit Lions vs Cincinnati Bengals- Battle of the Big Cats
These are just two midwestern teams with large cats as their mascots that seemingly get forgotten in their division every year amongst titans of the league. Let’s create a rivalry here! The Lions already play every Thanksgiving- imagine the fans in Detroit that dress up in actual lion attire fighting with traveling Bengals fans dressed as tigers with striped face paint on. That would provide some actual entertainment to that Thanksgiving game for once.
Trophy: A trophy of two golden big cats fighting each other on their hind legs, but the real prize is the team gets to celebrate by eating rare steaks
Green Bay Packers vs New England Patriots- The Coaches’ Classic
This is one with no geographic significance, but rather historical significance. Vince Lombardi and the Packers are the most legendary pioneers of the game- the first dynasty the sport ever saw, while Bill Belichick and the Patriots are the modern-day, most-successful dynasty of all-time. The two teams are the titans of the game and defined by the men who led them. It would be legendary to get these two teams to play in a game that honored their history on a yearly basis and instill a midwest vs northeast rivalry in the process.
Trophy: A golden figurine of a man wearing both Lombardi’s iconic hat and Belichick’s signature sleeveless hoodie
Seattle Seahawks vs Cleveland Browns- The Rock & Roll Rivalry
Unless a franchise gets put in Portland, it’s generally impossible for Seattle to have a cross-conference rivalry of geographic relevance. However, one thing that both the Browns and the Seahawks have in common is their musical connection. Cleveland is obviously home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, while Seattle is home to the birthplace of grunge and has rock roots, home to bands like Nirvana, the Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and of course, the legendary Jimi Hendrix. It may be a manufactured rivalry to try and get the people of Cleveland, Ohio to randomly hate a team from Seattle, but it would be fun to have a music-themed game once a year with graphics and field designs or even halftime performances from bands.
Trophy: An actual-sized golden Fender guitar