When it comes to NFL rivalries, any given team's three divisional opponents are the most obvious choices. Philadelphia Eagles fans can debate which rival they hate the most out of the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys, or the Washington Redskins. Or maybe they hate all three equally. It's hard to go wrong.
What isn't so obvious are the football rivalries that occur outside of the division. So with that in mind I ask: which NFL team is the Eagles' biggest non-division rival? After thinking about it, I came up with some top choices and the reasoning behind them.
Super Bowl XXXIX will forever be a huge disappointment. After three straight years of heart- breaking NFC Championship Game defeats, the Eagles finally got over the hump and made it to the big game. Philadelphia battled it out with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick but ultimately fell short. If Eagles fans could pick any AFC team to win a Super Bowl against, I can't see how it wouldn't be the Patriots. (Enter line about the spy gate conspiracy theory.)
Let's not forget that this is the team who played a part in the Giants somehow winning two Super Bowls in the recent past.
From a player and team perspective, the Eagles and Patriots seem far from bitter rivals. The teams participated in joint training camp practices last year and will likely do so again this offseason. Belichick is friends with Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who just so happens to have been born in New Hampshire. Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie, a Boston native, is also from the New England region.
Pennsylvania's AFC NFL franchise is a major annoyance for some Eagles fans. They're the PA team with the rings and trophies to show for their success while the Eagles are empty handed. The geography is a big factor here too. West PA is Steelers territory, while the Eagles influence is strong in the east. Central PA seems to be an annoying mixture of both worlds.
Fun fact: the franchises actually merged into one team in 1943. Due to many players being called to duty in World War II, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh merged to form the "Phil-Pitt Combine". This unified team was unofficially referred to as the "Steagles".
This choice features some recency bias. New Orleans ended the Eagles season in the first round of the 2014 NFL playoffs. In the offseason they signed Jairus Byrd, whom Eagles fans coveted, and traded up ahead of Philadelphia to draft WR Brandin Cooks, a popular Eagles draft target. The Saints also choose to employ former Dallas Cowboys Rob Ryan. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Eagles and Saints meet up again in the 2015 playoffs.
I've been convinced that the Chicago Bears are a secret member of the NFC East. Except for a break in 2012, the Eagles have played the Bears every year since 2007. The Eagles were 1-4 in the first five games. Playing Chicago was often an annoying experience. Losing to Jay Cutler was flat out demoralizing. Not to mention the surface of Soldier Field was always a joke.
The Eagles finally got their revenge in Week 16 of last season when the Eagles knocked the Bears' teeth in. Chicago had a chance to clinch the NFC North with a win over Philadelphia and the Eagles really had nothing to play for. That didn't matter, because as Chip Kelly said, "We're from Philadelphia and we fight." The Eagles won 54-11 and showed what a Chip Kelly team looks like when it's firing on all cylinders. The crowd was chanting "We want Dallas!" half-way through the game. A highly satisfying win over a previously frustrating opponent.
So who do hate the most? Did I miss anything? Is there any team that you hate for a more specific reason?(Hat tip to r/Eagles for the idea.)