Earlier this offseason, CBS Sports ranked the top rivalries in professional football from each decade, starting with the 1960s and going through the 2010s. And while many of the rivalries from yesteryear have since expired, several traditional rivalries are still going strong as we enter the 2020 season.
With the start of the upcoming season just around the corner, we decided to rank the top five NFL rivalries heading into the 2020 season. And while some of these rivalries are no-brainers, I can assure you that at least two of them will come as a surprise.
5. Buccaneers vs. Saints
The arrival of Tom Brady in Tampa Bay is the main reason why this rivalry made the cut over the reborn Steelers-Browns rivalry. For at least the next two years, NFL fans will be treated to at least two games each year between Brady and Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who is just ahead of Brady as it relates to all-time career passing yards and touchdown passes. And if getting the chance to watch these two legendary quarterbacks twice a year wasn't enticing enough, the narratives surrounding Brady and Brees should also make for a captivating rivalry. Brady is out to prove that, even at age 43, he is good enough to lead a team to a championship, with or without Bill Belichick. Conversely, Brees, 11 years removed from his first and only NFL title, is trying to add (at least) one more championship to his laundry list of career achievements. Brees is also still in search of his first league MVP award, something that could happen if he and the Saints are able to win their games against Brady's Buccaneers.
An historically great rivalry, the fanbases of the Eagles and Cowboys downright just don't like each other. It's been that way since the 1970s, when the Cowboys had their way with the Eagles before Philadelphia flipped the script during the 1980 NFC title game. The Eagles' upset win over the Cowboys that day further elevated the bad blood between the two franchises and fan bases, and it's a dislike that continues to fester to this day.
Along with the history, these are two teams that are trying to reclaim their place as the NFL's best team. Dallas (Jerry Jones, to be more specific) is desperately trying to win their first championship since the franchise's glory years of the 1990s. Conversely, the Eagles, now over two years removed from hoisting their first Lombardi Trophy, are looking to capitalize on their Super Bowl window after falling just short of expectation the previous two seasons. The NFC East should come down to these two teams, which should make for two very compelling games in 2020.
OK, this rivalry isn't nearly as juicy as the previous two. But considering what the Titans did to the Ravens during the 2019 playoffs, along with Lamar Jackson's recent comments about Baltimore "overlooking" Tennessee prior to the Titans' 28-12 win, makes this a very interesting matchup to keep an eye on as the 2020 season progresses. If both teams are as good as advertised, the Titans' Week 11 trip to Baltimore should be one of the most anticipated games on the 2020 regular season schedule.
As is the case with the previous two rivalries on this list, the narratives in this rivalry are pretty juicy. The Titans are looking to prove that last year's playoff run wasn't a fluke, while Jackson is out to show that he can have success in the playoffs after falling to 0-2 in the playoffs as Baltimore's starting quarterback this past January.
This rivalry has a little bit of everything. One of the NFL's best rivalries from the 1990s, the Packers defeated the 49ers three consecutive times before San Francisco finally broke through when Terrell Owens caught the game-winning pass from Steve Young in the '98 NFC Wild-Card Round. The two teams went on a big of a hiatus as far as their rivalry was concerned before things started heating up again during the 2010s, when the two teams faced off in the postseason three different times. Unfortunately for the Packers, the 49ers won each game, which includes their 37-20 pummeling of Green Bay in last year's NFC title game.
If Aaron Rodgers is going get back to the Super Bowl, he will likely have to go through the 49ers, who were a few plays away from defeating the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. Rest assured that Rodgers and the Packers have already circled their Week 11 matchup in San Francisco on their calendar.
1. 49ers vs. Seahawks
The No. 2 rivalry on the list of rivalries from the 2010s, the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry is still the league's top matchup entering the new decade. Many fans forget that, had the Seahawks defeated the 49ers in Week 17 of the 2019 season, Seattle would have received a playoff bye, while the 49ers would have had to start their postseason run on the road. Instead, San Francisco hung on for a 26-21 victory, while Seattle was forced to travel to Philadelphia before bowing out to the Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs. Conversely, a well-rested 49ers team bested the Vikings before routing Green Bay for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
This rivalry is also not lacking anything as far as narratives are concerned. After falling short of their ultimate goal last season, the 49ers are hoping to finish the job in 2020 while avoiding the list of Super Bowl runner-ups that suffered a considerable decline the following season. The Seahawks, now six years removed from their last Super Bowl appearance, are hungry to make it back to the big game after falling short each of the five years. Another Super Bowl ring would do wonders for the legacies of Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson, who have largely been overlooked as far as great coach-quarterback duos are concerned.
Given their recent history, along with the fact that both teams should be among the best in football again in 2020, the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry remains the league's top matchup heading into the season. Will they be able to keep their top billing this time next year? Only time will tell.