Move over Pittsburgh and Baltimore, there is a new and nasty rivalry in town. Say hello to San Francisco and Seattle, whose rivalry is not only the Steelers-Ravens of the NFC (let alone the NFC West), but just may have taken the torch from Pittsburgh and Baltimore as the best rivalry in the NFL.
Follow me for a minute.
The Pittsburgh-Baltimore rivalry is based on two things – emulation and respect. In order for a team to emulate another franchise, it has to respect it. Baltimore saw and took note how the Steelers were going about their business in winning division titles and Super Bowls. The Ravens respected the Steelers to the point of copying their blueprint and using it to their own benefit.
Baltimore learned that in order to win in this league, you have to play sound offense – led by a strong ground game and clutch quarterback – and have a punishing, intimidating defense. As a result, the Ravens won a few division titles of their own including two Super Bowls. Baltimore has now gone from being Pittsburgh’s little brother to respected peer.
The San Francisco-Seattle rivalry is also based on emulation and respect. Since head coaches Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll (who hate each other, by the way) both arrived in San Francisco and Seattle respectively, both teams were originally built on efficient offenses led by strong games and punishing, physical defenses. Last season the Niners upped the ante on offense in developing emerging star Colin Kaepernick, which in turn led them to a Super Bowl appearance.
How did Seattle respond? The Seahawks traded for Minnesota’s playmaker Percy Harvin in exchange for their own first round and another conditional pick. Seattle is hoping that the addition of Harvin will add even more firepower to an offense that is led by another future star in QB Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch toting the rock.
Now that Seattle made its move, how did San Fran respond you ask? Simple: acquire Anquan Boldin from the Super Bowl winning Ravens for practically nothing (a sixth-round pick). Now the Niners have one of the league’s best possession receivers to go with studs Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, giving them the best receiving corps in the NFC West.
Now both the Niners and Seahawks are trying to one-up the other, which may continue into the draft.
I knew something was up after watching the second Niners-Seahawks matchup in Seattle late last season. Not only did the Seahawks curb-stomped the Niners, they let the Niners (and the NFL) know it.
After seeing San Francisco making (and almost winning) the Super Bowl, Seattle wanted to be sure it wasn’t going to be left behind. The Seahawks wanted to let San Fran know that they are not going to be the Niners’ little brothers for long.
That’s the stuff that makes great rivalries. I can’t wait for the 49ers-Seahawks encounters in 2013.