What NFL Teams Have Never Played?




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In this article, you’ll discover the NFL teams that have never shared the field before. We’ll dive into the history of the league and unveil the intriguing teams that have yet to face each other. By the end, you’ll have a clearer picture of the unique matchups that have yet to happen in the NFL. So, let’s explore the uncharted territory of NFL games that have never been played!

What NFL Teams Have Never Played?


In the vast world of the National Football League (NFL), where each team battles it out on the field vying for victory, it may come as a surprise that certain teams have never played against each other. In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind this phenomenon, explore the exceptions and interconference matchups, discuss the impact on fan experience, analyze the NFL scheduling process, and speculate on potential future matchups. So, let’s dive right in!

Reasons for Teams Not Playing Each Other

Geographical distance

One of the primary reasons why certain NFL teams have never played each other is the vast geographical distance between them. Teams from different divisions or conferences are often separated by hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. For instance, it is unlikely that a team from the AFC East, such as the Miami Dolphins, would travel all the way to the NFC West to play the Seattle Seahawks. This logistical challenge limits the opportunities for matchups between teams from distant regions.

Conference alignment

Conference alignment plays a significant role in determining which teams face off against each other. The NFL is divided into the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC), each comprising four divisions. Teams within a division primarily compete against one another, with only a limited number of games allocated for matchups against teams from other divisions in the same conference. Consequently, if teams belong to different conferences, they may never cross paths in the regular season.

Scheduling conflicts

Scheduling conflicts can also disrupt potential matchups between NFL teams. The league’s scheduling process is an intricate and highly-regulated affair, involving numerous factors such as stadium availability, television broadcasting agreements, and team requests. This complex web creates challenges in aligning team schedules, resulting in missed opportunities for certain teams to face each other.

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Exceptions and Interconference Matchups

Special events and games

While regular-season matchups may not always facilitate meetings between certain teams, the NFL does organize special events and games that bring together teams from different conferences. For example, the annual Thanksgiving Day games often feature interconference matchups that captivate football fans across the nation. These special events provide opportunities for teams that rarely cross paths to compete against each other.

Super Bowl matchups

The pinnacle of NFL competition, the Super Bowl, also serves as a platform for interconference matchups. The Super Bowl brings together the champions of the AFC and NFC, hence ensuring that every few years, teams that have never played during the regular season face off in this historic and highly-anticipated game. These Super Bowl matchups not only showcase the best teams from each conference but also provide memorable moments for football aficionados.

Pro Bowl and preseason games

The Pro Bowl, an annual all-star game featuring players from both conferences, is another avenue for teams to interact. While not a regular-season matchup, the Pro Bowl allows players from different teams to compete alongside each other, fostering camaraderie and creating opportunities for players to face off against teams they may never encounter during the regular season. Additionally, preseason games can also provide occasions for teams from diverse conferences to compete.

Expansion Teams

Introduction of new teams

The introduction of expansion teams into the NFL can disrupt the historic matchups between existing teams. When new teams join the league, the schedule must be adjusted to accommodate them, resulting in changes to established rivalries and the allocation of games. This process often leads to certain teams not playing against each other until the new teams have settled into the league and rivalries have developed over time.

Initial lack of matchups

When an expansion team is first introduced, there is often a lack of historical matchups with existing teams. For example, when the Houston Texans joined the NFL in 2002, they did not have any previous encounters with teams such as the Dallas Cowboys or the New England Patriots. The absence of these matchups initially deprives fans of the excitement and anticipation associated with traditional rivalries.

Building rivalries over time

However, as time progresses and new teams adapt and grow within the league, rivalries start to form. Through repeated encounters and memorable games, the initial lack of matchups fades away, and new rivalries emerge. For instance, the Texans and the Patriots, who initially had no prior history, have developed a competitive and compelling rivalry over the years. These newly-established rivalries contribute to the ever-evolving landscape of the NFL.

What NFL Teams Have Never Played?

Historical Perspective

Longest time without playing

In terms of historical perspective, some teams have gone an astonishingly long time without playing each other. The longest recorded gap between meetings occurred between the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals, who played their first match in 1930 but did not meet again until 2003. This 73-year-long hiatus is a testament to the complexities of scheduling and the rarity of certain matchups.

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Teams that played recently

On the other end of the spectrum, there are teams that have recently played against each other for the first time in their history. For instance, the Los Angeles Rams faced the Baltimore Ravens for the first time in 2019, despite both teams having a long-standing presence in the NFL. These recent matchups highlight the constantly evolving nature of the league and the opportunities for teams to face off against one another.

Significance of long-standing matchups

While the absence of certain matchups may not significantly impact the overall league dynamics, long-standing matchups hold special significance for fans and the NFL community. Rivalries such as the Green Bay Packers versus the Chicago Bears, commonly known as the “oldest rivalry in the NFL,” provide a rich history and tradition that are cherished by fans and add to the fabric of the sport.

Competitive Balance

Equal distribution of games

The NFL strives to maintain competitive balance by ensuring teams’ schedules are evenly distributed. This means that each team faces a similar mix of opponents, including both strong and weaker teams from various divisions and conferences. The goal is to provide a fair and equal playing field for all teams, preventing any one team from having an overly advantageous or disadvantageous schedule.

Impact on standings and rankings

The absence of matchups between certain teams does have an impact on the standings and rankings within the league. When teams do not face each other, the strength of schedule can vary, as some teams may face tougher opponents while others face weaker ones. This variability affects the perception of a team’s performance and can influence their ranking and playoff chances.

Unpredictability of matchups

The absence of matchups between certain teams also adds an element of unpredictability to the NFL season. When teams from different conferences or divisions finally meet, it can lead to unexpected outcomes and intriguing storylines. These matchups provide an opportunity for new rivalries to form and for teams to prove their mettle against unfamiliar opponents.

What NFL Teams Have Never Played?

Impact on Fan Experience

Disappointment for fans

For fans who support teams that have never played against each other, there may be a sense of disappointment. The anticipation of a matchup between historically significant or geographically close teams can create a buzz among fans, and the absence of such matchups can leave some feeling unfulfilled. However, the NFL offers a variety of other exciting matchups, events, and games that can capture fans’ attention and keep their excitement levels high.

Anticipation for future games

On the flip side, the absence of certain matchups can also create anticipation and excitement for future games. When teams with a storied history or intense rivalry finally meet, the anticipation builds up, heightening the stakes and making the showdown even more captivating. Fans eagerly await these rare matchups, knowing that they are witnessing a piece of NFL history unfold before their eyes.

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Creating new fan alliances

The absence of matchups between certain teams also provides an opportunity for fans to develop new alliances. When their teams don’t play each other, fans can temporarily cast aside their usual allegiances and root for a different team. This creates unique and transient fan communities that come together to support a shared cause or celebrate a particular matchup. These alliances can foster a sense of camaraderie and add to the excitement of the NFL experience.

NFL Scheduling Process

Complexity of scheduling

The NFL scheduling process is a complex endeavor, with a multitude of factors to consider. Stadium availability, broadcasting agreements, competitive balance, and logistical constraints all play a role in creating a fair and balanced schedule for all teams. The intricacies involved make it challenging to align the schedules of different teams, especially when considering the vast number of games to be played over the course of a regular season.

Considerations for matchups

When formulating the schedule, the NFL takes into account various factors that can impact matchups. While there are some standard matchups predetermined by the league based on conference alignment, others are determined by a rotating schedule formula. Prior matchups, team rivalries, and historical significance can also be considered in the scheduling process, adding to the complexity and unique nature of each season’s matchups.

Flexibility in future schedules

The NFL recognizes the importance of providing fans with diverse and exciting matchups. While certain teams may have never played, the league’s commitment to innovation and adaptability opens the door for future scheduling adjustments. The NFL regularly evaluates and adjusts its scheduling process, ensuring that teams have opportunities to face each other and that fans can be captivated by new and enticing matchups.

Potential Future Matchups

Speculations and fan discussions

The absence of matchups between certain teams naturally leads to speculations and discussions among fans regarding the potential outcomes and excitement of future games. The NFL community is filled with passionate fans who eagerly analyze team strengths, evaluate potential rivalries, and engage in debates about the likelihood of certain matchups becoming a reality. These discussions further fuel the excitement surrounding the NFL and keep fans engaged throughout the year.

Analyzing team strengths and rivalries

In anticipation of future matchups, analyzing team strengths becomes crucial. Fans evaluate players, coaching strategies, and team dynamics to predict the outcome of potential games. Additionally, longstanding rivalries may come into play when considering the intensity and significance of future matchups. These analyses and evaluations contribute to the overall enthusiasm surrounding the NFL and generate excitement for what is yet to come.

Expanding interconference matchups

As the NFL continues to evolve and explore new opportunities, expanding interconference matchups could be a possibility in the future. While maintaining competitive balance and adhering to the complexities of the scheduling process, the league could explore ways to diversify team interactions and create more opportunities for teams that have yet to play each other. This expansion could add a fresh dynamic to the NFL landscape, intriguing fans even further.


In conclusion, the NFL is a vast and dynamic league that provides fans with thrilling matchups, historic rivalries, and exciting moments. While there are teams that have never played each other, the reasons behind these missed opportunities are often rooted in logistical challenges, conference alignment, and scheduling conflicts. Nonetheless, the NFL strives to maintain competitive balance, foster the growth of new rivalries, and excite fans with a variety of events and games. So, as you eagerly anticipate the next football season, keep an eye out for those rare matchups that bring together teams that have never crossed paths before. The NFL is always evolving, and who knows what exciting matchups the future holds for our favorite teams!

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