5 greatest rivals in Atlanta Falcons franchise history
The Atlanta Falcons joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1966, first playing against some heavy hitters in the NFC West before divisional realignment occurred in 2002. In that time, the Falcons have developed a healthy rivalry were several other franchises.
5. San Francisco 49ers
Before competing in the NFC South division, the Falcons spent a majority of their existence in the NFC West, where the San Francisco 49ers were a frequent derider during plenty of glory days for the west coast team.
The Falcons possess a 31-46-1 regular-season record against the Niners, also meeting twice in the postseason, a divisional-round win in January of 1999 at the Georgia Dome en route to their Super Bowl XXXIII loss, and an NFC Championship Game loss to San Francisco, who went on to lose to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
4. Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams (located in St. Louis in 1995-2015) were another target of the Falcons during their NFC West days (1970-2001). In 78 games against the Rams, the Falcons went 28-48-2 in the regular season. In the playoffs, Atlanta beat L.A./St. Louis twice in 13 years during this millennium, blowing out the Rams in the 2004-05 divisional round and winning in upset fashion by double the Rams’ score in the wild card round in Jan. 2018.
The Rams won 10 divisional trophies during the Falcons’ stay in the NFC West, including seven in a row in the 1970s, making Atlanta a loser every year to L.A.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The first of Atlanta’s current NFC South divisional foes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers own a 28-25 all-time regular-season advantage over the Falcons.
The Bucs’ only title run, in 2002—the first NFC South realignment season—saw the Falcons come in second in the division, earning a wild card berth. While Tampa Bay and Atlanta didn’t get a chance to face off in the 2002-03 playoffs, the Falcons had to see their divisional rival win a Super Bowl—an achievement long strived for by Atlanta.
The rivalry should heat up over the next two years as Tom Brady leads the Bucs and the Falcons know the former Patriots quarterback stood in their way in Super Bowl LI.
2. Carolina Panthers
One of the biggest rivals for the Falcons are nearby Carolina Panthers, another divisional rival. The Falcons own a 32-18 lifetime record against the Panthers, initially joining the NFC West, where Atlanta already competed, and later migrating to the NFC South with the Falcons.
Both the Falcons and Panthers have represented in the NFC in the Super Bowl twice apiece in the last 21 years, and both losing to the Denver Broncos and Patriots in one of their two trips to the big game.
Panthers and Falcons have fans traveling along I85 to each other’s games and have to play twice a year.
1. New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints are the Falcons’ biggest rival, playing 101 times in the regular season during the two franchises’ existences. The Saints possess a 52-49 advantage while Atlanta has beaten New Orleans in their only playoff matchup (a Dec. 1991 wild card meeting).
The Saints entered the NFL as an expansion team a year after the Falcons, in 1967, joining them in the NFC West and later migrating to the NFC South in the divisional realignment at the same time, making these two clubs frequent enemies on the gridiron for the better part of five decades.
In the last 10 years, the Falcons and Saints have battled each other for the top spot in the division, with Atlanta winning it three times, the Saints four, and the Panthers another three. The Saints have won the last three divisional titles, though, making Atlanta target New Orleans to get back into the playoffs.
Both teams playing in SEC country, the Falcons and Saints have been heated enemies for some time, and that will likely stay unchanged in the immediate future.