The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints will meet on Sunday for the first of two times in the 2020 season as they kick off one of the NFL's most underrated rivalries.
There are quite a few claims to best rivalry in the NFL and we aren't going to make that argument here. But there's not one that can top Atlanta-New Orleans for its uniqueness.
Unlike most in the NFL, this is a rivalry that doesn't have its roots in football. It's much bigger than that.
New Orleans used to be the heart of the Deep South back when the Mississippi River ruled over the economy. But Atlanta has taken and held onto that title now for over 100 years.
Before we dive into the football aspect of the Falcons-Saints rivalry, one of the other aspects that makes it special is that the two cities don't really compete in any other sports.
Yes, they both have NBA teams, but the Pelicans and Hawks are in different conferences and rarely face off, not something many other rivalries can claim. It's truly a rivalry where it's just about football.
The rivalry began in 1967 when the Saints expansion team entered the NFL, just a year after the Falcons came to Atlanta. In 1970 both teams were placed into the NFC West and they've played each other twice a season every year (except for the strike-shortened 1987 season) ever since.
While there's been plenty of memorable moments on each side of the rivalry, the biggest point of contention didn't take place on the football field, but instead in the marketing and sales rooms.
When Atlanta announced it's new stadium would be called Mercedes-Benz Stadium, New Orleans fans took offense to that. And for good cause. The Saints had been playing their home games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since 2011 when the German auto maker bought the naming rights.
Now can any other rivalry in the NFL claim that? A dispute between the two buildings that host their home games?
Of course, as has been the result more often than not in this rivalry, Atlanta won again as The Superdome in New Orleans will no longer be sponsored by Mercedes Benz when the naming rights agreement ends in July 2021.
For the record, the Falcons lead the all-time series 53-49.