It is theme week at SB Nation: over the next two weeks, the entire network will look at rivalries and how they shape sports. Today, we will therefore take a look at how fans across the NFL view their relationship to New England.
For the past two decades, the New England Patriots have been the class of professional football. Led by head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, they won six Super Bowls and captured 17 of 19 possible division titles since 2001. In an era built around the principles of parity — see: salary cap and free agency — the Patriots did what no other organization in the NFL was able to do: build a dynasty and enjoy sustained success.
With Brady leaving the organization in free agency to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, however, the tide might be turning. While there is no telling whether or not their dynastic run will come to an end without the greatest quarterback the league has ever seen, the Patriots could very well eventually lose the status they have built over the years as the league’s public enemy number one. If other teams enjoy more success, they will become more hated.
For the time being, however, New England still sits atop that mountain. The latest numbers compiled by SB Nation’s Reacts survey confirm this. Fans across the league were asked who they would view as their respective teams’ biggest rivals, and the Patriots were frequently mentioned regardless of divisional affiliation: one in four NFL fans sees Belichick’s club as a rival, with the raw numbers themselves painting an even clearer picture.
Take the Patriots’ three division rivals as an example. While fans of the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets see Brady’s departure as a “hope-infusing moment” for the AFC East, all three of them still see New England as their teams’ top rival: 61 percent of participating Bills fans answered the Reacts question accordingly, as did 63 percent of Dolphins fans and 70 percent of those supporting the Jets.
The numbers don’t look much different when expanding the scope and going outside the Patriots’ division. 62 percent of Baltimore Ravens fans participating in the survey named New England as its teams biggest non-division rival, with 57 percent of Houston Texans fans and 43 percent of Kansas City Chiefs fans sharing the same opinion. Meanwhile, 47 percent of the New York Giants also called the Patriots their top rival from outside the division.
The Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts, however, take the proverbial cake: while 89 percent of Colts fans see the Patriots as their non-division rival — which is hardly a surprise considering the history between the two organizations that once both played in the AFC East — a whooping 93 percent of Broncos fans picked New England in this category. Needless to say, therefore, that Brady’s departure has so far not had much of an impact on how the Patriots are viewed around the league.
If you are interested in participating in our NFL Reacts survey, please click here!