Just as in the other three of the “Big Four” sports, the NFL regularly features “rivalry” games – matchups that are considered important not only for regular season record, but also for their added sentiment and emotion.
Some of these matchups are great: they attract impartial observers to the mere pleasure of watching two emotionally charged teams tee off. But other matchups are downright terrible – and shouldn’t even be considered rivalries.
Sure, variables such as historical connection or playing in the same division can compose parts of a rivalry. But they don’t encompass what really makes a rivalry a true rivalry.
Let me put it this way: no one would turn on their TV at 1 PM on a Sunday to watch the Seattle Seahawks take on the Arizona Cardinals, in what would be considered an intra-divisional rivalry with some historical weight. On the other hand, everyone turned on their TV to see Tom Brady’s New England Patriots take on Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts, despite there being absolutely no historical or divisional connection between the two teams.
This is because the Colts and Patriots had a true rivalry – a matchup with recent history and relatively competitive teams. And that’s exactly what should define a rivalry.
So, tonight, for the first time in over a decade, the New York Giants take on the Washington Redskins in a true rivalry on “Monday Night Football”. It’s not that these teams have long-lasting historical ties (think Lawrence Taylor vs. Joe Theismann) or play in the same division. It’s because these teams are relatively competitive – and have a relatively competitive recent history (Week 7: Eli Manning’s last-minute comeback win just after Washington’s lead-changing TD drive). And it’s all because of the addition of Robert Griffin III.
RGIII has given the Redskin offense a dangerous new look. He’s single-handedly bolstered the offense to such a degree that it is now ranked higher than the New York Giant offense through 12 weeks. The Redskins were at best mediocre on offense for the past decade.
Moreover, RGIII’s presence as the savior of a franchise has revamped the entire team. Instead of having Rex Grossman fumble snaps and toss picks to lose games, the Skins now have a franchise QB that can help them win games. Even the defense has improved by significantly increasing its turnover output. The demoralizing poor quarterback play that has been synonymous with ‘Redskin offense’ over the last 10-15 years has been replaced by skill, excitement, and energy.
So, it’s not that the last decade hasn’t mattered between the Redskins and Giants; it’s just that the Redskins and Giants weren’t truly rivals for that period – at least not in the way “rivalry” should mean. The old LT-Joe Theismann style rivalry was on hiatus.
Now, there is a rivalry again. The Giants are 7-4 and sitting in the catbird seat in the NFC East, while the Redskins are 5-6 (good for 2nd in the NFC East) and challenging for a playoff spot. The history and the divisional matchup are both relevant again. Reel out the old black-and-white montage of leather helmets and duster-wearing coaches; crank out the famous footage, the interviews, the historic plays and events. This is back to being a great matchup – and a true NFC East rivalry.
DynamicPicks Computer Prediction:
New York Giants (-2.5) @ Washington Redskins
Projected win: New York, 55.7% – INCORRECT
Projected ATS win: Washington +2.5, 51.0% – CORRECT
Avoid taking WAS +2.5, as 51.0% is a negative long-term play.