Welcome to Revenge Week at SB Nation NFL, where we are celebrating the dish that’s best served cold. You can keep up with allour latest revenge content here.
Everyone loves a classic case of bad blood.
Football is a contentious and confrontational sport by design, but things get ramped up when two of the competitors just plain don’t like each other. You know if Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib are playing each other, you better tune in to see the inevitable chain snatching.
That skirmish started because a player was disrespected and thought he needed to defend his pride. That’s the same dynamic that fuels so many other NFL feuds.
It’s why Jets running back Le’Veon Bell will want to show out when he plays the Steelers this season, and Ravens safety Earl Thomas will get a chance to make the Seahawks pay for not giving him an extension.
Right now, we’re not talking revenge on a former team, though. Charles McDonald already broke down the best of those matchups on the 2019 schedule. Instead, we’re focusing on the best beefs between two players — or maybe a coach and a player — this upcoming season.
Here are the battles in 2019 that have too much animosity for you to miss.
Aqib Talib vs. Michael Crabtree (Rams-Cardinals, Weeks 13 & 17)
The aforementioned chain snatching feud is back on the menu.
Arizona scooped up Crabtree in early August and that’s perfect because it puts him back in the NFC West. That means two (possibly high tension) December matchups against the Rams, and the possibility of another matchup or two with Talib.
Crabtree and Talib got along during joint practices between the Ravens and Rams last year, and they reportedly squashed their beef at a go-kart track earlier in 2019. So maybe it’s done. We’ll see if December football can ramp things back up to their old chain-snatching ways.
Richard Sherman vs. Michael Crabtree (49ers-Cardinals, Weeks 9 & 11)
Talib isn’t the only one who has had problems with Crabtree. Sherman had some harsh things to say about the receiver years ago. Back then, Sherman was a member of the Seahawks and Crabtree with with the 49ers.
The peak of the rivalry came on Jan. 19, 2014. In the NFC Championship, Sherman deflected a would-be game-winning touchdown away from Crabtree, resulting in an interception that sent the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.
Then he tore into Crabtree, calling him a “sorry receiver.”
Things never got quite that contentious between the two again. They only played each other two more times in 2014 and then Crabtree left the division to join the Oakland Raiders. They haven’t seen each other since and Sherman’s rant to Erin Andrews came to define the feud. It pushed Sherman into superstardom and Crabtree’s star has since faded.
A couple more matchups after five years away could stoke those old flames.
A.J. Green vs. Jalen Ramsey (Bengals-Jaguars, Week 7)
Ramsey has annoyed plenty of players in his career in Jacksonville, but nobody has blown their top quite like Green.
In a 2017 game between the Jaguars and Bengals, Green had finally had enough. After about two quarters of getting antagonized, the receiver was set off by one more push from Ramsey. Green choked, tossed, and punched the cornerback and both players were ejected.
Green was suspended for a game, and apologized for losing his cool.
A.J. Green — “I apologize to my teammates, Mr. Brown, and everybody, because that is not who I am. It just got the best of me today.”
— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) November 5, 2017
But Ramsey only tried to further stoke the flames. He reportedly tried to find his way to the Bengals’ locker room after the ejections. Days later, he told reporters that Green was “soft,” “weak,” and not “mentally strong.”
Ramsey has provoked what sometimes feels like half of the league in the couple years since. The fight was out of character for Green, though. He’s generally a mild-mannered, quiet player who hasn’t had problems with anyone else.
Green’s even dismissed the idea that he and Ramsey have a problem.
“There’s no real beef,” Green told PFT Live. “There’s no real beef off the field. There’s just two competitors. Got in the heat of the moment. Stuff happens. When you’re playing, it’s sports man. You know, tempers go crazy sometimes, and sometimes you can’t control emotions. I couldn’t control mine that day. [I’ve] got to do a better job of that.”
Does that mean part two will be less contentious? Maybe. But Ramsey’s still going to be someone who talks trash constantly, and you have to imagine Green badly wants to avenge his frustrating first performance against the cornerback.
You shouldn’t expect another brawl between the two, but this midseason clash will surely have some heat.
Baker Mayfield vs. Kliff Kingsbury (Browns-Cardinals, Week 15)
Most of the time a coach vs. player beef wouldn’t be that exciting to watch — not so when Mayfield is involved, though. He’s the type of player who will air his dirty laundry out in the open.
After all, the iciest death stare of the 2018 NFL season came from none other than Mayfield and was directed at his former coach, Hue Jackson.
So don’t be surprised if Mayfield has even more attitude reserved for another one of his former coaches: Kingsbury. He probably has even more reason to have a chip on his shoulder when facing Kingsbury than he did with Jackson too.
Jackson was fired by the Browns before joining the Bengals — which somehow pissed off Mayfield. In the case of Kingsbury, it was Mayfield who was spurned.
In 2013, Mayfield walked on to Kingsbury’s Texas Tech squad and earned the starting job for the opener of his true freshman season. By the end of the year, he was the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, although an injury cleared the way for Davis Webb to steal his starting role.
The situation rubbed Mayfield the wrong way and he left Texas Tech to join Oklahoma.
“When I got hurt, there was no communication between me and my coach,” Mayfield told ESPN. “When I got healthy, I didn’t know why I wasn’t playing right away. At that time, we were losing a couple games in a row. I was still clueless as to why I wasn’t playing. That was really frustrating for me because I started the first five games and we won. So, I just didn’t really know exactly what he was thinking or what the situation was.”
Between 2015 and 2017, Mayfield was a three-time All-Big 12 selection and beat Kingsbury’s Texas Tech teams three times along the way. He wound up with a Heisman Trophy, was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and enters his second season with the Browns with expectations sky high.
There’s not a lot of reason for Mayfield to harbor hard feelings, because things certainly worked out well for him post-Texas Tech. Except, this is Mayfield. He feeds off of revenge. There’s no doubt he will jump at the chance to stick it to the coach who he thinks didn’t believe in him.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Terrell Suggs (Steelers-Cardinals vs. Week 14)
Suggs and Roethlisberger battled in the AFC North for 15 years. Now Suggs will don a different uniform for the first time in his career after joining the Cardinals on a one-year deal.
In December he’ll get another chance, likely his last, to bring down Big Ben.
Both players have experienced success in their long history of Ravens vs. Steelers matchups. Suggs has sacked Roethlisberger 17 times, more than any other player. Roethlisberger’s 13 victories in the regular season — and two more in the playoffs — against Baltimore are the most any player has ever had against the franchise.
The (presumptive) final chapter will look a lot different with Suggs wearing red. And the ill will between the two players is closer to a case of frenemies than true rivals.
“I think there’s a lot of mutual respect there between each other,” Roethlisberger said during the 2018 season. “There’s a little bit of talking on the field — I wouldn’t call it trash-talking — but there’s some mutual respect trash-talking, if you will, that goes on. It’s a special rivalry he and I have.”
Suggs hasn’t been as effusive when talking about Roethlisberger, but he was friendly enough to swap jerseys with the quarterback after their last duel of the 2018 season. Over the years, he’s called Roethlisberger a “rat bastard” with “Jedi mind tricks.” He’s also warned everybody not to fall for the quarterback’s supposed injuries.
But hatred has never really been the backbone of their grudge. Both players will be 37 for their Week 14 game, and even if it’s not quite as spicy as other feuds, it’s one we should all appreciate getting to see one last time.
Richie Incognito vs. Yannick Ngakoue (Raiders-Jaguars, Week 15)
The silly rivalry that’s brewing between the Bills and Jaguars is great fun. However, one of its most unfortunate chapters came shortly after their postseason meeting in January 2018.
After the Jaguars’ win, defensive end Ngakoue accused Bills offensive lineman Incognito of saying “some weak racist slurs” during the game. Other Buffalo linemen denied the accusation and an NFL investigation concluded it had no proof slurs were said.
A few weeks later at the Pro Bowl, Ngakoue and Incognito reportedly cleared the air.
So maybe they buried the hatchet. Or maybe the two will play with a little extra edge when the Jaguars and Raiders meet in December.
Sean Payton vs. Marcus Peters (Saints-Rams, Week 2)
The Great Gumbo Grudge started in November 2018 when the Saints picked on Rams cornerback Peters in a 45-35 win. The New Orleans offense couldn’t be stopped, but it was receiver Michael Thomas, especially, who couldn’t be contained.
Peters was in coverage for seven of Thomas’ 12 receptions and gave up 146 of the receiver’s 211 yards. That included a 72-yard touchdown for Thomas in the final minutes that put the game on ice.
Payton told reporters that Thomas burning Peters was exactly how they drew it up.
“That was the plan,” Payton said, via the Los Angeles Times. “They were going to travel Marcus to him, and that was fine by us. We thought we really liked that matchup — a lot.”
Peters responded by telling reporters he looked forward to a potential rematch:
“Tell Sean Payton keep talking that shit, we’re going to see him soon,” Peters said. “You feel me? I liked what he was saying on the sidelines too. So I’ll tell [him] ‘Keep talking that shit and I hope you see me soon. You feel me? And then we’re going to have a nice little bowl of gumbo together.”
Peters got his wish when the Rams and Saints faced off in the NFC Championship Game. In the second meeting, he gave up only two receptions for 28 yards, although the Rams floated several different cornerbacks over to cover Thomas. Still, when presented with a clear opportunity for an “I told you so,” Peters opted against it.
Marcus Peters: “I don’t even like gumbo. I was just bullshitting y’all.”
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) January 21, 2019
[infomercial voice] But wait, there’s more!
The next chapter of this particular rivalry is great because it’s not just Peters vs. Payton. It’s also the whole damn city of New Orleans vs. the Rams.
The Saints would’ve been in Super Bowl 53 if it weren’t for an atrocious missed call. Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman clearly got away with a pass interference penalty that — if called — would’ve set up the Saints to run out the clock and kick a game-winning field goal. Even the Rams admitted it should’ve been a penalty.
Instead, Los Angeles got the chance to force overtime with a field goal of its own and eventually won.
Saints fans had a big, angry parade and went so far as to file a futile lawsuit against the NFL for the result. Payton — who said the blown call was the most obvious pass interference penalty ever — led the charge for a rule change that will now let coaches challenge interference penalties.
There will be fireworks when the rematch happens in Week 2. There will also be a chance for the Saints to get some vengeance. But Payton and Peters are at the root of it all.