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Ranking the Chiefs’ biggest NFL rivalries

No matter when or where they’re played, these matchups just mean more to Chiefs fans.

NFL: SEP 22 Ravens at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Editor’s note: For the next two weeks, it’s NFL Rivalry Week at SB Nation. We’ll have articles taking a look at the Kansas City Chiefs’ most hated opponents.

Rivalries in professional football come about under a variety of circumstances. Some are based on the fact that their franchises have played against each other for a long time — some since the 1930s. Others exist simply because two good teams often clash in the postseason. Either way, a true rivalry game feels noticeably different than any other contest.

For the Chiefs, there are some obvious historical rivals — and then there are fresher rivalries that are born from battling other elite teams. Of course, you know which of these is which, but here are six current rivalries ranked by their present strength:

1. Baltimore Ravens

Strength of rivalry: Trending upward

Baltimore Ravens vs Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

One consequence of the Chiefs’ recent dominance over the AFC West is the lack of a competitive, back-and-forth rivalry in the division. That’s why I believe the biggest rival the team currently has is the Ravens — even though Kansas City has won the matchup in each of the last two seasons.

There is a reason ranked this rivalry as the league’s biggest going into 2020. The two teams are clearly the elite teams of their conference. Baltimore’s fans may have a bad taste in their mouths following their 2019 postseason loss, but their record-breaking 14-2 regular season was no fluke. They’ve established themselves as AFC contenders for the coming season and beyond.

The MVP season of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson wasn’t a fluke, either. He dethroned Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes as reigning MVP — and still has a lot of room to improve his game. The two have each won the award once — and their individual battle for that accolade in future seasons will only add to the rivalry.

In Week 3, Kansas City will be traveling to Baltimore for Monday Night Football. It will be the first nationally-televised game of the Mahomes vs. Jackson series — and also the first one away from Arrowhead Stadium. Another exciting contest will bring their individual rivalry one step closer to becoming this generation’s Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady.

2. Denver Broncos

Strength of rivalry: Trending upward

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Speaking of Manning... as a Chiefs fan, the Broncos were my most hated opponent while he was their quarterback. Their dynamic offense neutralized what we considered an elite defense, dominating the Chiefs with a 7-1 record during his era.

But now, the tables have turned. The Chiefs are now the team with an unstoppable offense — and they’ve won the last nine matchups. In their two 2019 games, the Chiefs outscored Denver 53-9, which indicates the competitive gap between the franchises is large.

But I believe Denver has a franchise quarterback in former Missouri Tigers signal-caller Drew Lock — and they must believe it, too, because they have stockpiled young, dynamic playmakers at their other offensive skill positions. It won’t be long before Chiefs-Broncos games consistently become exciting shootouts that will be nerve-racking — but fun — to watch.

3. Las Vegas Raiders

Strength of rivalry: Trending slightly downward

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

As a Chiefs fan, it’s hard not to give the Raiders a higher spot on this list. During the 1990s, former head coach Marty Schottenheimer instilled hatred for the silver and black into the team and its fans — and the Oakland Coliseum didn’t get any more hateful than it did when the Chiefs came to town. But the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas could make things different.

What we expect to be a more corporate atmosphere at Raiders home games in Allegiant Stadium will likely hamper the intensity of the annual matchup. No more Black Hole filled with upraised middle fingers for Chiefs players to confront. No more outdated facilities for teams and media. No more dirt infield to complain about playing on.

To me, all of that will take away from the essence of Chiefs vs. Raiders — and it doesn’t help that lately, the team has been mediocre. That being said, Las Vegas head coach Jon Gruden is determined to build a contender. I believe they’ll eventually get there — which will obviously ramp up the longstanding historical rivalry.

4. New England Patriots

Strength of rivalry: Trending downward

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

While the battle between all-time great head coaches Andy Reid and Bill Belichick will continue, the Patriots’ loss of quarterback Tom Brady will take a lot of the juice out of this seemingly-annual matchup; in recent years, Mahomes challenging Brady as the league’s best quarterback has been the driving factor in this rivalry.

But on Sunday, the Patriots did their part to restore some of the excitement when they signed former NFL MVP quarterback Cam Newton. However you felt about New England a week ago, they automatically got better with the chance that a healthy Newton could return to his elite level of play.

If that happens, the Patriots have a chance to return to Super Bowl form — and stand in the Chiefs’ way on their quest for a repeat. But with Brady out of the picture, the long-term rivalry has taken a blow.

5. Los Angeles Chargers

Strength of rivalry: Trending downward

San Diego Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

I’m sure I’m not the only Chiefs fan who loved to hate former Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. His on-field antics with referees and opposing players made it easy to root against the veteran gunslinger — but his never-give-up mentality and willingness to make any throw made him a respected rival, too. While the Chiefs have dominated the series recently, Rivers has still managed to come into Arrowhead and ruin a few games.

Now that he has signed with the Indianapolis Colts, it will be truly odd to see another quarterback take snaps for the Chargers in 2020. Once Los Angeles solidifies the quarterback position, they could be competitive — but Rivers’ absence will take a lot of the fun out of their games against the Chiefs.

6. Houston Texans

Strength of rivalry: Trending slightly upward

Divisional Round - Houston Texans v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

This isn’t a rivalry because the Chiefs play the Texans so frequently. Instead, it’s the career-long competition that will exist between Mahomes and Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Since they were drafted two spots apart in the 2017 NFL Draft, they will always be compared to each other.

Unlike Baltimore, Houston is not yet a solidified AFC contender — in fact, they may have become worse this offseason. But for as long as he is their quarterback, Watson’s talent will make them a threat to the Chiefs’ AFC supremacy.

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