We've had an interesting discussion developing in Johnnysixnut's FanPost about the Cardinals and how they should be the 49ers new, official rival. As the discussion went along, these3words mentioned the idea of developing a list of our top 5 rivals. His list included Dallas, Arizona, Oakland, Seattle and Chicago.
He also mentioned simply declaring some random team our rival. I actually found that rather amusing. I actually think we've sort of done something along those lines with things like our Panthers Watch. After all, we basically declared war on them for the bettering of the 49ers 2010 draft pick. It's not quite like developing a perpetual rivalry, but still fun nonetheless.
While folks consider new rivals, I definitely think it would be fun to discuss current rivals. And when in doubt, it's always fun to come up with "Top 5" style listings. In looking at the 49ers current rivals, my list would be a mix of old and new rivals. After all, we do all consider the Cowboys our rivals, but it certainly hasn't been quite like it was back in the 90s.
1. Arizona Cardinals
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. Oakland Raiders
4. Green Bay Packers
5. Dallas Cowboys
A few thoughts on each team after the jump.
Even without Darnell Dockett and Vernon Davis mouthing off at each other, I think this has developed into a very solid rivalry. When both teams were squarely in re-building mode, the NFL seemed to be doing everything they could to turn this into a rivalry. How many random MNF pairings have these two teams had? In the end, as divisional rivals, it's certainly worked out well as a rivalry. The 49ers won both games last season, but the Cardinals had the last laugh in winning the division. Now that Kurt Warner is retired (take a hint he who shall not be named!), the Cardinals come even further back to Earth and this should be an intense pair of games.
Back in 2006, when Alex Smith was under the tutelage of Norv Turner, the Seattle Seahawks were the team to beat in the NFC West. While the Seachickens won the 2006 NFC West title, the upstart 49ers scored a pair of victories over them, including the highly entertaining Thursday night affair in Seattle. While the rivalry took a back seat with the 49ers dip, the games remain intense. The Seahawks likely cost the 49ers a playoff spot last year with a 20-17 victory up in Seattle, which I would hope the 49ers will not soon forget. Even if the Seahawks do fall apart with age problems (and Pete Carroll problems), both those games will be incredibly tough for the 49ers.
In reality, I view this as a fan rivalry more than team rivalry. The teams square off in the preseason, but don't see each other in the regular season frequently enough for it to be a big time rivalry. And yet, the intensity and animosity between Raiders fans and 49ers fans can be a beautiful thing to behold.
Green Bay Packers
I move the Packers ahead of the Cowboys because of the more recent issues (late 90s playoffs), and also the fact that we might finally see some kind of Alex Smith-Aaron Rodgers duel develop. Who knew it would only take 5 years for it to happen. The 49ers and Packers put together a fun little game last fall, and will face each other again the first week of December. I don't think there's quite the hatred there was back in the 90s, but I think this rivalry could be on its way back.
The Cowboys will always be rivals and will remain on any rivalry list until the day I die. And yet, it's just not what it used to be. The rivalry dates back many years, and we all root against the Cowboys. However, for now, the rivalry has taken a back seat to some of the team's bigger rivals. In reality, barring some big issue between the two franchises, I'd imagine it will take playoff games to get this rivalry going again.