Quick. Think of the Indianapolis Colts’ biggest rival. When the schedule comes out, which game are you circling? Which one makes your stomach churn as it approaches? Which team can you not wait to trash talk when the Colts take them to the woodshed?
Who did you come up with? To name a few rivalries over the last decade, does it match or exceed any of the following?
Steelers/Ravens, Chiefs/Bengals, 49ers/Seahawks, Cowboys/Eagles, Patriots/Broncos, or Packers/Vikings.
When you think about it though, what truly constitutes a rivalry? In my mind, there are a few basic criteria that define a rivalry.
The teams meet often:
To form a rivalry, teams have to play each other often. There needs to be enough data to form this connection.
This notion seemingly eliminates NFC teams because the Colts only cross paths once every four years. This could change slightly under the new format of a 17th game because the Colts will see an NFC team three times in five years which might lead to a short-term, budding rivalry. The other factor would be whether they meet in the Super Bowl often, à la Golden State and Cleveland in the NBA finals. That is a bit far-fetched, however, so we will quickly eliminate all NFC teams.
The series must be balanced:
What does it matter if two teams meet often if one team consistently gets the brakes beaten off them? The series win totals don’t have to be identical, but it can’t be overly skewed in one team’s favor either.
When Peyton Manning was here, were any of the divisional opponents true rivals? Manning went 42-12 against the AFC South during his time with the Colts. Yes, there were times when the Titans got the best of the Colts, sweeping them once. And yes, the Texans made a last second field goal in 2006 to beat the Colts for the first time. And yes, that same year, the Jaguars mud-stomped the Colts as they were unable to bring down the human bowling ball that was Maurice Jones-Drew.
42-12 doesn’t make for much of a rivalry, though. That is an abysmal winning percentage for the rest of the AFC South against the Colts. A series has to be more closely balanced than that to qualify as a rivalry. Just hating a team for smashing you over and over won’t cut it.
The games need to have high stakes:
Not all games are created equal. No matter the opponent, a week one game just doesn’t have the right feel for a rivalry game. Teams slugging it out for the division late in the season or two heavyweights jockeying for playoff seeding create must-see TV. Something has to be on the line.
The playoffs provide the perfect breeding ground. Foes that continue to clash on their way to a Lombardi make for perfect rivals. They spend the offseason stockpiling talent and making win now moves designed to attack the other team’s weaknesses. Win or go home games will always create the level of tension needed to ripen despise for another team.
Leading into the season, I want to focus on the Colts’ potential rivals since Andrew Luck was drafted in 2012. Considering the mentioned criteria, four teams came to mind: Texans, Jaguars, Titans, and Patriots. I will take a look at each team to see if they truly qualify as a rival of the Colts.
Please share your thoughts as to whether another team needs to be considered and why. With enough reasoning, I will gladly break down another potential rival. Let’s find out if the Colts have any true rivals left.