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NFL Rivalries and the Role of the Divisions

The article which gets everybody to argue about Peter King more than anything else.

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

In his week ten predictions, Peter King over at selected the 49ers to be the victors against the Rams to the tune of 31 to 14. What really got me thinking, though, was his brief write up of the game:

Not much drama in the outcome, so a little history lesson. The Rams and Niners have met 124 times. Series is tied 61-61, with two ties. The Rams won 10 in a row in the '70s, Niners 14 in a row in the '90s. In the last 26 meetings, it's 13-13. Point is, this rivalry's down now, but it's been a great and fun one over the years, dating back to the Kezar-Coliseum days. Jeff Fisher: Can you get it back to being that good?

Fooch's note: The 49ers and Rams have actually played 125 times and the 49ers lead the series 62-61-2

For some reason, I have been turning this over and over in my head all week. I couldn't figure out why. It wasn't just the coincidence of the whole thing. I mean, it is pretty crazy how close it has been. But that wasn't it.

Then it hit me: these two teams have played 125 times. Let that sink into your bones. 125 times.

One hundred twenty-five times.

That's just crazy.

I really like to study NFL history. Specifically, 49er history. Okay, so pretty exclusively 49er history. There is just a wealth of information to draw upon. Part of that is the charm of the NFL. Football is the greatest sport, and while still young compared to Baseball, it has a massive history. Another part has to do with the fact that the 49ers team is one of the best of all time. The amount of talent that has come through this city is almost beyond imagination.

One aspect of the game that makes this history so compelling, though, is divisional play - particularly the rivalries that stem from divisional play. The quotation above is an acutely strong reminder of how enabled NFL history is by the divisions. It seems like every year, some journalist floats the idea that the NFL should change the playoff structure - possibly by eradicating the divisions. While this notion has some merits, I don't think they are considerable enough that it would be worth it. The divisions simply have created too many awesome stats like the one above.