Rate Your Hate: The AFC North

In the fourth of Thin Air’s Rate Your Hate series, we consider the teams of the AFC North.

Which AFC North team do you hate the most?

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The AFC North (including some of its history as the AFC Central) has had a record of delivering competitive teams. With the Broncos also a regular contender, that means it has crossed paths with all four of its current members on multiple occasions, in high stakes affairs.

Baltimore Ravens

After a 45-34 victory in their first matchup in 1996, the Ravens rattled off four straight against the Broncos, including a miserable wild card playoff loss in 2000 to the eventual Super Bowl champions.  The Broncos returned serve with a pair of ow scoring wins in 2005-2006, not uncommon when playing the traditionally defensive minded Ravens. (Here’s my favorite image from that era.)  But then the Ravens attacked back again in a pair of 2009-2010 defeats that were never close.

In 2012, it appeared the Broncos finally got the Ravens off their back, with a dominating 34-17 victory, their first ever in Baltimore against this team. Unfortunately, the Ravens had the last laugh in the playoffs (Play deep, Rahim, play deep!)  The Broncos then took their anger out on the eventual defending Super Bowl champs at the beginning of next season (via seven Peyton Manning touchdowns), with the Ravens forced to open on the road due to the Orioles refusing to play nice with scheduling.  The two teams also squared off at the beginning of 2015, and this time it was the Broncos that would become eventual Super Bowl champions off a Ravens victory.

Despite a painful 0-2 playoff record, the Broncos have crawled back up to a 6-7 overall record against the Ravens.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are the only team from the current AFC North that the Broncos have yet to face in the playoffs, and to be quite frank, the history has been a lopsided affair in favor of Denver.  The Broncos hold a 21-9 overall advantage over the Bengals, and much like the Patriots, John Elway was a perfect 8-0 against the Bengals as a player.  This might explain why Bengals fans aren’t too fond of the Broncos.

Still, there are a couple memorable moments to pick out.  From a pure entertainment standpoint, nothing may be able to beat Brandon Stokley’s touchdown off a tipped ball in 2009 that turned an otherwise dreadful game into a classic.  And in 2015, after a blown call from the usually sharp Ed Hochuli robbed the Broncos of a fumble recovery, karma was restored when AJ McCarron fumbled it again, sending the Broncos to the playoffs and eventually Super Bowl 50.

The Bengals will travel to Denver Week 11 of 2017.

Cleveland Browns

The misery of Cleveland sports fans has a long and documented history, and there may be no single team that’s inflicted more upon them than the Denver Broncos.  Everyone knows about The Drive in 1986 and The Fumble in 1987.  Let’s also not forget The AFC Championship Game That Needs A “The” Nickname in 1989, either.

The Broncos have a whopping 23-5 all time advantage over the Browns, and currently hold an 11 game winning streak over them.  What you may not know about that winning streak is that it started in 1991…when Bill Belichick first became head coach of the Browns.  Therefore, while he’s pulled even against the Broncos as a Patriot at 9-9, the 0-4 mark he racked up as a Brown still ensured that Belichick has a long way to go before he can try to correct that losing record against Denver.

Pittsburgh Steelers

It’s fairly well known now that the Broncos are one of the few teams that have the Patriots’ number.  What isn’t quite as well known is that they also do regularly good against another one of the league’s marquee franchises.  The Broncos hold a 19-11-1 edge over the Steelers in their history–and there’s a lot of significant history contained.

Even in the 1970s, when the Steelers were branded a Team Of The Decade, the Broncos managed to scrabble together a 5-4-1 record against them–including a playoff win in 1977.  In fact, up to that game the record was 5-1-1–it took three straight Steelers wins, including in the playoffs in 1978, to come close, but no cigar–not even for Art Rooney.

Since John Elway first arrived in Denver, the Broncos and Steelers have been operating on a fascinating rhythm that still exists today: every Steelers victory is followed by two Broncos victories.  This includes multiple playoff clashes.  The Steelers got the upper hand in 1984 and 2005, but the Broncos struck back with a nailbiter in 1989, revenge in 1997, a dominating Demaryius Thomas play in 2011, and a bruising defense in 2015.