The 2000s were marked by the Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning rivalry, three playoff games and an inordinate number of regular-season matchups despite both teams being moved to different divisions in 2002. The Colts have lost all six meetings this decade but dealt a significant blow to the Patriots by giving the NFL information that led to the 'Deflategate' scandal. Although he’ll never say anything inflammatory before the game, Brady assuredly can’t wait to try and stick it to the team whose claims have led to so much personal angst and tarnished the reputation of a future Hall of Fame selection.
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Goodell’s decision to skip attending his first regular-season opener in September since becoming NFL commissioner was further affirmation that he is Public Enemy No. 1 in New England because of his anti-Tom Brady rulings in the 'Deflategate' scandal. Goodell’s handling of the matter also has caused a chill in his once-close relationship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Even though a U.S. District court overturned Brady’s four-game suspension, the Patriots are still on the hook for a $1 million fine and will lose 2016 first- and 2017 fourth-round draft picks. The venom toward Goodell will grow even more if the league wins its upcoming appeal and Brady is forced to miss games in 2016.
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Brady and Manning are not only linked as the top quarterbacks of their generation but as being arguably the top two passers in NFL history. The fact both have faced each other 16 times has added fuel to the debate about which one is better. New England holds an 11-5 edge in those matchups, but Manning has kept Brady from reaching two more Super Bowls by beating the Patriots in AFC Championship Games while quarterbacking Indianapolis and Denver. Brady and Manning are slated to meet yet again Nov. 29 when the Patriots head to Denver.
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New York Jets
Bill Belichick has built a Pro Football Hall of Fame resume with New England, but he also made NFL history with the New York Jets. Belichick was the coach there for just one day in 2000 before resigning and leaving to New England. The animosity between the two franchises has only grown since, reaching the point that both sides filed tampering charges against the other within the past year regarding cornerback Darrelle Revis (the NFL fined New York $100,000; the Patriots were cleared). The Jets (3-1) will play their first games against New England (5-0) with Todd Bowles as coach on Oct. 25 and Dec. 27.
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Ryan started publicly calling out the Patriots when he became the New York Jets coach in 2009, famously proclaiming he wasn’t hired to kiss Bill Belichick’s 'rings.' Belichick has since won another piece of Super Bowl jewelry while Ryan never got the Jets beyond the AFC Championship Game before getting fired at the end of last season. Ryan, though, is still talking – and talking and talking – while swinging away with a new division rival in Buffalo. The Patriots at least temporarily muzzled Ryan again in Week 2 when Tom Brady passed for 466 yards – the highest total against the Bills in that franchise’s history – in a 40-32 road win.
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Although the franchise has denied involvement, released emails from the 'Deflategate' investigation showed there was contact between the Ravens and Indianapolis before last season’s AFC Championship Game that alluded to alleged improprieties with the kicking balls used in Baltimore’s second-round playoff loss to the Patriots. Tensions were already high between the Ravens and Patriots from four playoff meetings in the past six seasons and Baltimore coach John Harbaugh saying New England’s Super Bowl titles were 'stained' because of the 'Spygate' scandal. Baltimore outside linebacker Terrell Suggs expressed his feelings for New England players by describing them as 'arrogant f****' after beating the Patriots in the 2013 AFC Championship Game.
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New York Giants
The Giants have proven the biggest obstacle to New England winning 'only' four Lombardi Trophies during the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era. New York posted one of the greatest upsets in NFL history when ruining New England’s bid for an unprecedented 19-0 season with a victory in Super Bowl 42. Four years later, another jaw-dropping fourth-quarter completion by Giants quarterback Eli Manning helped doom the Patriots' title hopes again. While nobody knows whether there will be another rematch in Super Bowl 50, the Giants and Patriots will meet for the first time since Super Bowl 46 on Nov. 15 at MetLife Stadium.
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While blossoming into arguably the NFL’s best cornerback, Sherman also emerged as one of its top trash-talkers. That reputation exploded on Oct. 14, 2012 when Sherman mockingly asked Brady, 'You mad, bro?' following Seattle’s comeback victory over New England. The last time the two teams met, it was Sherman who was left pouting as Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler’s goal-line interception preserved New England’s 28-24 victory over Seattle in Super Bowl 49. Barring a Super Bowl rematch, the Patriots and Seahawks are next set to play again in Foxboro during the 2016 season.
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Mangini may no longer be an NFL head coach but the Patriots will never forget that while with the New York Jets he was the one who alerted the league to New England’s illegal taping of opponent signals. The Patriots and coach Bill Belichick were levied six-figure fines and the team was stripped of a 2008 first-round draft choice. 'Spygate' also was cited by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as to why the league’s punishment for 'Deflategate' eight years later was so harsh. Mangini is now defensive coordinator in San Francisco, which is slated to host the Patriots for a 2016 matchup.
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New England’s 'us-against-the-world' mentality was further fueled by what the organization and its faithful view as unfair media coverage. The Patriots were understandably furious that the NFL and ESPN refused to refute inaccurate information leaked to reporter Chris Mortensen about the PSI reading of footballs tested at halftime of the New England-Indianapolis AFC title game. Indianapolis-based reporter Bob Kravitz also was vilified by Patriots fans after breaking the initial news of a 'Deflategate' investigation. Some even crossed the line by making threats against Kravitz and his family as well as making anti-Semitic comments through social media.