By Chris Brown
Content Producer, 105.7 The Fan
There are always a few games that Baltimore Ravens’ fans get immediately excited about when the season schedules are released. Some of these NFL rivalries change with time and fade away when players retire or move on, but some are guaranteed challenges with division teams or match-ups with perennial playoff contenders. We’ve listed off a few of these rivalries that have been (and still are) fan favorites.
Starting with the obvious… The Baltimore-Pittsburgh rivalry always gets fans in a frenzy. Tickets are always in high demand and usually go for a pretty penny. It’s not just the fans that get into it either. The hard-hitting plays on the field are what made this rivalry what it is, dating all the way back to the Baltimore Colts from the 50s through the 70s. These division opponents meet twice a year at minimum and have met in the playoffs several times as well. They play not only for the AFC North crown but also are Super Bowl contenders.
The Baltimore-Pittsburgh rivalry is more than just football. The two cities are only 5-hours apart via Interstate-70 and have eerily similar stories – their rise in the Industrial age, their decline, then revitalization.
The recent rivalry is currently changing. Players who had individual match-up rivalries, like Heinz Ward and Ray Lewis, have either retired or moved on. The players on either team are younger than they were just a few years back and may not be familiar with the historic games that have been played just in the last 10 years.
Do we really even need to explain this one? If not for Art Moddell, Baltimore would have still been calling for Robert Irsay’s head until his passing in 1997. There is still no love in Baltimore for his son Jim either, but we won’t get into that train wreck.
This rivalry doesn’t show up on the field as much as in Baltimoreans’ hearts. Many Ravens fans still feel the sting of their old team being taken from them in the middle of the night. Baltimore will forever remember seeing William Donald Schaefer making a statement to the news that snowy morning 30 years ago.
Some Baltimore Ravens fans still collect Baltimore Colts memorabilia and some still rock Johnny Unitas jerseys, but they won’t hire the Mayflower moving company. Baltimore will always refer to the current team as the Indianapolis Colts or just plain “Indy” not to allow any confusion with their cherished Baltimore Colts.
New England Patriots
The Patriot offense vs. the Ravens defense. Tom Brady vs. Terrell Suggs. Lee Evans vs. Sterling Moore. Billy Cundiff vs….. himself. The storylines from the last few meetings of these teams are classics. They’re not all positives for the Ravens but they’re classics nonetheless. Just watch the recap of the 2011 playoff game sometime, then watch the 2012 regular season rematch…it’s the same game with a different kicker. Then the Ravens rolled over the Patriots on the way to a ring on Ray’s Last Ride. Football doesn’t get much better.
San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers have rebuilt there team like Ravens west. The defensive domination was what fans expected. Patrick Willis has been referred to as a Ray Lewis style middle linebacker. They’re physical and they get results.
The quarterbacks were widely considered “game-managers” by critics before Joe Flacco was awarded Super Bowl MVP and Alex Smith was still the 49ers’ starter. The two teams have met in some national spotlight games, on Thanksgiving Day and in the Super Bowl (“The Harbowl”, “Bro Bowl”, “The Super Baugh” and the list goes on and on). The Ravens have had the better of this rivalry of late.
Not to mention the sibling rivalry sneaking it’s way into the hearts of the fans between coaches, Jim and John Harbaugh.
Who remembers when Ray Lewis and Eddie George, both drafted the same year (1996), used to clash as NFC East division opponents and a remarkable rivalry was born? The Baltimore Ravens handed Steve McNair the Titans their first home loss ever in 2000 with QB Trent Dilfer under center. The Ravens later came to town for a rematch and it was more of the same for the Titans. The Ravens went on to win the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl over the Giants. The Ravens would go on to win the next three meetings between the two teams. Domination is not a word usually used when talking about rivalries but that is what it was. The Ravens got under their skin.
These teams are less than an hour apart, but in separate conferences, so it’s purely a geographic rivalry. Neither team’s fans want to lose the game. Even though the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012, the Redskins fans could still hold their heads high and say they beat the world champs. Some Ravens fans claim to hate the Redskins because they fought so hard to keep Baltimore from getting an NFL franchise after the Colts left town. I’m not exactly sure why the Skins fans seem to dislike the Ravens, other than the fact that their games get blacked out regularly in certain counties by Ravens games. It’s still fun to enjoy the local jarring and banter back and forth.