As Carolina Panthers fans, we all circle a couple of dates on our calendars as games that we look forward to most. After 20 years of existence and fandom, which team do you look at as our “Rival Game”?
For me, it starts and ends in the NFC South. The Dirty South.
One of the neo-divisions of the NFL since realignment, these four teams have always duked it out like envious siblings. There has been a constant displacing of the Divisional King almost every season, and geographically, there is good reason to dislike these three southern foes.
New Orleans is the farthest away from us, but whenever the Panthers take on the Saints, there’s bad blood. Whether it was the great Sam Mills pulling on a Panthers’ jersey after his years in The Big Easy or the recent Steve Smith vs. Roman Harper melee in Charlotte, these two always fight it out with one another.
The Saints have enjoyed the most sustained success of late. It’s always fun to try an unseed the top dog in your division.
Tampa Bay for the longest time was our default rival due to the fury that both teams played with against one another. Whether it was the battle of the kickers when Todd Sauerbrun called the Gramatica brothers “idiots”, and a fight nearly ensued between them prior to their next meeting. Maybe it was the brutal memory of Dante Wesley taking a cheap shot at kick returner Clifton Smith.
Games against Tampa truly require fans to throw the record books out the window, and to sit back with your popcorn and favorite adult beverage. Entertainment level is a 10/10.
Atlanta is our closest rival, just three-and-a-half hours down I-85.
The Falcons and Panthers don’t like each other. Atlanta was the main team in this region, outside of the Redskins 20 years ago. Lots of anger and competitive play boils over when these two teams engage. The Falcons are the only team the Panthers don’t have a winning record against in the NFC South (14-23).
There are a couple of other teams that can be tossed into the arena for discussion.
The Washington Redskins, due to the diehard fans that are in the Carolinas prior to 1995. Carolina’s only Super Bowl opponent, the New England Patriots, have shared a few epic games with us as well. San Francisco 49ers could get a vote due to the early battles in the 90’s when they were both in the old NFC West. Carolina was often a thorn in San Francisco’s side as the underdog and the rivalry has been sparked back up after last season’s split.
For me, I say it’s the Falcons.
There’s just that emotional and deep-rooted desire to watch the Panthers destroy them physically, mentally and emotionally. Every time the two teams play, I see the black and red on the opposing sideline and wish nothing but a physical manhandling of their team.
I’ve always hated the “Dirty Bird”, never liked their quarterbacks and am not a fan of the Georgia Dome.
What’s your take Cat Crave Nation? Who do you think is Carolina’s biggest rival?