We all know that there are two different types of rivals in the NFL: Those that are within the division and those outside of the division.
We’ve already covered the division foes over here at Bucs Nation, so we thought we would get the entire staff to dish on who they think is the biggest rival outside of the division.
Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s find out who stacks up the most.
Bailey: If Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski don’t live up to the high expectations during their time in Tampa, I’ll be inclined to say the Patriots are the Bucs’ biggest non-NFC South rival for eating up all of the duo’s prime years... Just kidding, of course. And while it’s tempting to choose a former NFC Central foe, I’m going to have to go with what feels like the obvious pick: the Philadelphia Eagles.
Tampa Bay and Philadelphia have had their share of battles over the years, with the first coming in 1977. The Bucs’ first-ever playoff win came against the Eagles in 1979, but the rivalry really took off in the early 2000s. The Eagles knocked the Bucs out of the playoffs in both 2000 and 2001, with both meetings taking place at Veteran’s Stadium—”The Vet”—in Philadelphia, turning the building into a kryptonite of sorts for Tampa Bay. The Bucs lost there again during the 2002 regular season. Warren Sapp talked in the Bucs’ “America’s Game” documentary about his hatred for the Eagles, especially after that particular loss, which was the Bucs’ fourth straight in the series.
But that’s where the tide turned, as they beat the Eagles in that season’s NFC Championship Game to advance to their first Super Bowl, which of course they won. That meant procuring a Lombardi Trophy before Philadelphia ever did, which felt good, didn’t it? Not to mention, that was the last game ever played at The Vet, and it included the most iconic moment in Tampa Bay’s history—Ronde Barber’s NFC title-clinching pick six off of Donovan McNabb. Just this past weekend, the team had a “rewatch party” online for its fans. That didn’t sit well with one particular writer up in Philly...
After the Bucs finally got over the hump and beat the Eagles in that championship game, they continued to have some memorable moments in the series. There was the 2003 season opener in which they helped open Lincoln Financial Field on Monday Night Football by beating the Eagles 17-0. Then, there was Matt Bryant’s 62-yard game-winning field goal in the 2006 meeting between the two teams. More recently, there was Jameis Winston’s five-touchdown game in Philly (2015) and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s four-score game to give the defending champion Eagles their first loss of 2018. The all-time series has been a back-and-forth affair, keeping this rivalry fresh despite the infrequency of the meetings. And off the field... Don’t get me started on Philly fans. You all know.
Ben: I am going to have to go with what I thought was the obvious answer. My choice is the Philadelphia Eagles. However, I can understand any other team in the NFC East.
The Bucs have made the playoffs 10 times since they joined the league in 1974. They have played against the Eagles four times. Their record against the Eagles in the playoffs is 2-2 including a 27-10 victory at Philadelphia during the Bucs only Super Bowl run.
During the regular season, these two teams have matched up 15 times. The Eagles lead the series 8-7. Back in 2012, the Eagles shocked the Bucs with a late comeback including a game winning touchdown as time expired. That served as payback for Matt Bryant’s game winning 62-yard field goal to push the Bucs past the Eagles in 2006.
In the 2012 matchup, the Eagles led until the start of the fourth quarter. The Buccaneers scored straight touchdowns giving them an 11 point lead. The Eagles then went onto score two straight touchdowns including the game winning touchdown pass from Nick Foles to Jeremy Maclin as time expired. In the 2006 matchup, the Buccaneers led for almost the entire game. But with 46 seconds left, Donovan Mcnabb hit Brian Westbrook for a 52-yard touchdown to give them their first lead. However, thanks to the Bryant 62-yard field goal, the Buccaneers were able to retain the lead and win the game. These two games are just an example of how memorable the rivalry is.
Although the Bucs don't play the Eagles during the regular season in 2020, there is a legitimate shot that these two teams could meet in the playoffs (if there is a season). The Eagles have a 2-5 record against Tom Brady and one of the wins was the Super Bowl LII victory in Minneapolis. Hopefully, if the Bucs face the Eagles in the playoffs this season, the Bucs can tie the series at 10-10.
Chris: When thinking of rivalries outside of the NFC South, you’d be hard pressed to find any Bucs fan who doesn’t list the Eagles, Rams, or any of their former NFC Central opponents. However, I wanted to look at it from a more modern perspective since the playoff losses from days past happened decades ago. Unfortunately, when looking at rivalries in the modern era, it is difficult to find any team that the Bucs have shared a similar amount of wins with.
The fact that the Bucs have not seen much success recently has led the idea of a rivalry to be looked at as, “who have the Bucs played often in recent history?” When looking at this, I would say that the New York Giants fit perfectly into this slot as the Bucs seemingly play them every year based on both teams appearing quite low in their division standings.
Unfortunately for this rivalry, the Bucs have not won many games against this team as of late, with their last win coming almost 3 years ago. However, these games are often quite close, with the exception of 2015 which saw the Bucs losing by 14 points. In reality, the recent rivalry with the Giants can be summed up as heartbreaks, especially with the most recent matchup that saw Daniel Jones lead the NY football Giants to a very narrow victory (the missed field goal didn’t help either).
Even if we do want to look more to the past, the Bucs lost their most recent playoff game to this team. I can call it the past however as the most recent playoff game for the Bucs came during the 2007 season. Even when the Giants are seemingly written off before the game, they always seem to wind up on top. Whether the Bucs decide not to show up, or the Giants decide to play their hearts out, the result is often the same, a big ol’ L. This is pretty obvious to spot, especially as the all time record against the Giants is a measly 7-16.
Fortunately for Bucs fans, the Giants have found their way onto the 2020 schedule, let’s all hope that they can turn it around this year. Although, the Giants have proven to be Brady’s kryptonite in the past, Eli Manning’s retirement may finally remove the curse.
David: Can I just say it’s the NFC East? In my lifetime, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost seven of the twelve playoff games they’ve appeared in. Five of those losses have come to NFC East opponents. Of course, immediately every Bucs fan will think of the Philadelphia Eagles, and for good reason. The Bucs also lost to the Dallas Cowboys in 1982, the Washington Redskins in 2005 (and we know other reasons why we ‘Don’t Like’ the Redskins), and the New York Giants in the 2007 playoffs.
If I’m forced to narrow it down though, I’m going with the Giants, not the Eagles. Why? Well, because the Bucs have some highlight moments against the Eagles to go with some of the struggles. Against the Giants though?
Since moving to the NFC South in 2002, the Buccaneers are a combined 2-7 against the Giants in regular season games. 2-8 if you count the playoff loss. The Bucs have lost seven of the last eight, with their last win against this team coming in October of 2017.
The Bucs get another crack at New York in 2020. So maybe things can change a bit, but for now, I think we’d be hard pressed to find another opponent outside the NFC South who’s given the Bucs so much trouble.
Evan: For me, it has to be the Detroit Lions — even though they are one of the league’s perennial bottomfeeders.
But the Bucs still have a losing record when it comes to their all-time series against the Lions, despite their yearly suckery. Detroit is 31-28 all-time against the Bucs and are 5-3 in the last eight meetings.
One of those meetings is the infamous of clash in 2010 that saw Kellen Winslow Jr. get flagged for a phantom offensive pass interference call on what would’ve been a touchdown. The referees nullified the score and the Bucs would go on to lose that game.
What makes that call so significant is a) that game took the Bucs out of the playoff race and b) it wasn’t the right call - the league even sent the Bucs the usual apology letter during the week after the game.
Therefore, the Bucs missed the playoffs and still haven’t returned to the postseason since 2007.
And all of this is without even discussing the old days of the NFC Central, when Barry Sanders used to make just about every highlight-reel run against the Bucs. I mean, seriously, 60% of every highlight tape features the Bucs.
It’s the Lions, without a doubt.
Gil: Eagles. Packers. The Bucs have have played some incredibly memorable games against them. By definition, Tampa Bay’s rival can be technically anyone they play against in the league. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers have managed to string together many years of poor football so it is hard to determine who exactly their true rival is.
However, if you factor in the games played against, the most trash talking done off the field (see: Twitter), on-field spats, etc., you can understand why the Saints are the Bucs biggest rival. More so now that they are in the same division.
Of the teams the Buccaneers have played the most, New Orleans and Tampa Bay have played each other 56 times. That ranks them third among teams the Bucs have played most. The Bears are first, then the Lions in second, the Vikings fourth, and Packers fifth.
Their record against New Orleans isn’t all that great, though. They are 21-35 against the Saints with just four wins against them since 2015. If you wanna go back further, they even managed to put together seven straight losses before then dating back to 2011. But that doesn’t mean this matchup is not worthy of being labeled as a big rivalry.
But they have played the Saints close when they have faced off. Since 2006, the Bucs have played New Orleans to 17 one-score games out of 27. That margin of nearly 63-percent of games played resulting in one score ranks near the top in that span. In those 17 games decided by one score, Tampa Bay is 8-9 against them.
Then you have the bickering. Saints head coach Sean Payton’s awkward postgame handshake with then Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter, the huge fight in the Superdome, the spats in 2011 between LeGarrette Blount and Will Smith, Cam Jordan’s words on Twitter towards Donovan Smith’s extension, and so on.
Yeah, it’s been fun.
James: Look, while I respect the opinions of my colleagues here, there is only one right answer here. There were some great games between the Bucs and Packers (whom I still despise to this day) as well as memorable games against the Rams, Bears, Vikings, Redskins, and Giants. However, Filthadelphia is in a league all its own.
The playoff losses to the Eagles were some of the most gut-wrenching and psychologically damaging in my life. And let me tell you, being on a church youth group retreat with your born-and-raised Philadelphia loving pastor while the Eagles were kicking the ever loving snot out of the Bucs and sending Tony Dungy packing is no vacation. (Side note; to be fair, after the 2002 NFC Championship, that same pastor immediately called me and congratulated myself and my dad on getting the monkey off our back and seeing our team go to the Super Bowl. He’s a rare breed - a nice Eagles fan.)
There are even stories (maybe true, maybe something that we can never truly prove) that there were Eagles fans mocking Bucs receiver Joe Jurevicius who played in that NFC Championship while his newborn son was fighting for his life in an intensive care unit.
At the end of the day, the rivalry between the Bucs and Eagles got very serious, very fast. And it certainly didn’t end with the Bucs closing down the Vet then kicking off Philly’s grand opening of Lincoln Financial with a loss on Monday Night Football in 2003.
Remember Ronde Barber getting the best of Donovan McNabb again in October of 2006? When Ronde had two pick sixes? I was watching the game in a local restaurant next to a group of guys - one of which was an Eagles fan - and as I screamed “Go Ronde! Go Ronde! Go Ronde!,” I overheard the Eagles fan say “That dumba** Bucs fan is cheering for a replay.” His friend was quick to point out that no, Barber had indeed just returned his second interception of the game for his second touchdown of the game. If the two pick sixes weren’t enough to jog your memory, maybe this will be; one of Gene Deckerhoff’s most famous calls came at the very end of the game and went a little something like this;
“The kick is up and it iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis GOOD! GOOD! GOOD! GOOD! BUCS BEAT THE EAGLES! MATT BRYANT IS MY HERO!”
Yes, that was the game won off the leg of Matt Bryant with a 62-yard field goal at the end of regulation.
Icing on the cake? Well, that comes courtesy of a crybaby Eagles reporter just this past weekend;
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' lame attempt to troll the Eagles: https://t.co/spNaOKHgte— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) June 20, 2020
Yes, even eighteen years later, Reuben Frank is still so offended and such a crybaby that he had to write about the Bucs hosting a watch party for that NFC Championship game with commentary from Scott Smith and Ronde Barber. It wasn’t even a troll by the Bucs. It was simply something fun for the fans with never before heard insight by the man who ran 93-yards from Philadelphia to San Diego.
Rent free in the minds of Eagles fans for the rest of time - and it’s because of the most bitter non-divisional rivalry for each of those squads and their fans.
Jon: The correct answer here is Philadelphia. I still have some of the old NFC Central foes — the Packers, the Bears, the Vikings, the Lions — more often than not holding a special place in the part of my brain where I get happy if they’re doing poorly.
However, everyone else has picked the Eagles, so I will go with the Indianapolis Colts, and more specifically the Colts’ 2003 Monday Night Football comeback over the Bucs. It makes your blood boil just thinking about it, right? Good. That means I’m right. The Bucs haven’t really been contenders since, and I trace it all back to that 38-35 loss.
Kyle: As much as I want to try and be different here, there’s only one option that truly feels viable and that’s the Philadelphia Eagles. The New York Giants were up there but it just doesn’t have the same pizzazz. The one way beatings of the 2010’s from Hakeem Nicks on Aqib Talib just don’t hit the same as the back and forth match-ups that Tampa Bay has had with the Philadelphia Eagles.
When it comes to a rivalry, I can’t help but feel that certain opponents just don’t qualify being as in my eyes, you have to compete to be a true rival. The Buccaneers and the Eagles have it all. They have the historical moment (Thanks Ronde), they have the playoff match-ups (2-2) against the Eagles and they have the regular season match-ups (7-8, Eagles taking the cake there).
Big moments swing both ways in games with Ronde Barber’s pick six, Hakeem Nicks trying for 200 yards in a game, Matt Bryant sending an absolute nuke in for a win and just the nastiness that the fan base in Philadelphia brings overall. The stigma that follows the Eagles team and fans nationwide is felt in Tampa Bay. There’s just something about beating a Philadelphia team that makes you feel good inside.
For the Buccaneers, the next chance at facing Philadelphia could very well be in this years playoffs as Ben said. How sweet would that be, honestly? Evening up the series at 10 a piece but with the ultimate swing game being a victory for the good guys with the new look uniforms and fresh face behind center? Rivalry renewed.
Who is the Bucs' biggest non-divisional rival?
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