Patriots, Cowboys face off in clash of teams everyone else loves to hate

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 11: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots directs the offense during the NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on October 11, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 11: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots directs the offense during the NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on October 11, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys will duke it out on Sunday in a battle between two of the NFL’s most popular – and most despised – teams.

Earlier this year, CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin shared the results of a poll that reportedly asked over 13,000 fans to identify their least-liked teams across all four professional North American sports leagues as well as Division-I college football and basketball. Only two teams received a double-digit percentage of the vote when it came to professional football, and those two teams are set to play each other this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

The New England Patriots led all teams with a whopping 34.7% of the vote for being the “biggest pest” in the National Football League. The Dallas Cowboys finished in second-place with 13.3% of the vote. For what it’s worth, the Philadelphia Eagles were third with 9%, the Pittsburgh Steelers were fourth with 8.6%, and the Green Bay Packers were fifth with 6.8%.

Add the percentage totals for the Patriots and the Cowboys together, and “survey says” that 48% of sports fans identified either New England or Dallas as their least favorite franchise in the NFL. That means that nearly half of all football fans – half!!! – despise the Patriots or the Cowboys more than any other team in the league… more than their own favorite team’s biggest rivals, even.

New England also received the “honor” of finishing No. 1 overall in terms of team hate, regardless of sport. This means that more people found the Patriots disagreeable than famously unlikeable teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, Ohio State Buckeyes, and Duke Blue Devils. The Patriots were the lone double-digit percentage in that pie chart at 12.08% – the next closest teams were the Lakers at 5.93% and the Yankees at 4.66%.

But back to the NFL, and to the Pats and the ‘Boys, specifically.

These statistics obviously aren’t indisputable, and it’s true that they only reflect the preferences and predilections of those 13,000-something individuals that were interviewed… by a pest control company, no less. It’s still hard to argue that there are two more universally-despised teams in professional football today than the Patriots and the Cowboys, though.

For starters, both teams are extremely popular.

Thanks to their long-established mantle as “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys have fans from numerous places outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth area in Texas. Before technological advances like satellite television and online streaming, the Cowboys were probably the one NFL team that consistently had their games showcased in markets from coast to coast. If you lived in an area without a local team, chances are the Cowboys might have been the franchise you grew up rooting for by default.

The Patriots don’t have nearly as long a history of popularity as the Cowboys, but they do have one thing working very well for them since about the year 2000, and that’s winning. No NFL team has had the kind of unprecedented success and longevity as the Patriots have enjoyed during the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era, and it’s dramatically contributed to their overall exposure to a national (and even international) audience along the way.

Dallas and New England are also two of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. According to Forbes’ Kurt Badenhausen, the Cowboys are the most valuable team in the world regardless of sport, with an estimated U.S. value of $5 billion. The Patriots are the seventh-most valuable team in the world and the second-most valuable NFL team in that same study, checking in at $3.8 billion.

Love them or hate them, when the Patriots and the Cowboys play on Sunday, the world will be watching. Many viewers will be New England fans, many viewers will be Dallas fans, and many, many more viewers will be hate-watching one of the two teams – or maybe even both.

It also doesn’t hurt that some of the league’s biggest stars play for both franchises.

Tom Brady is probably the biggest name in the NFL, and he’s also easily one of the biggest names in American professional sports and celebrity culture. Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott isn’t quite as widely-known and followed, but his MVP-caliber level of play this season has quickly elevated his status to that of an ascending superstar. Other big names on both teams include Julian Edelman, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Stephon Gilmore.

The Patriots’ Bill Belichick is as famous for being arguably the greatest head coach in NFL history as he is for being one of the biggest curmudgeons in U.S. sports. Dallas’ Jason Garrett is also a household name across most of the country because he’s such a polarizing figure, one who constantly finds himself alternating between consideration for the NFL’s hottest of hot seats and Coach of the Year honors.

Even the owners of these two teams are celebrities of a sort. New England’s Robert Kraft was well-known before his February massage parlor scandal, but he’s especially famous now – or perhaps the better word is “infamous.” The Cowboys’ Jerry Jones is annually considered to be the most powerful person in the NFL outside of commissioner Roger Goodell himself. Together, they represent the most impactful pair of owners in the league by most estimations.

It’s not often that the Patriots and the Cowboys get to play each other, mainly because they’re in two different conferences. Unless they meet in the Super Bowl – which hasn’t happened yet – the two teams are only scheduled to meet once every four years. Dallas leads the all-time series 7-5, although the Patriots have won the last five meetings in a row since 1999 by a combined scoring margin of 123-55.

Sunday’s game should be a good one. Both teams lead their respective divisions, with the Patriots (9-1) considered to be one of the best defensive teams in the NFL this year, and the Cowboys (6-4) viewed as one of the best offensive teams in the league this season. Whichever team emerges victorious will further legitimize their status as a bonafide Super Bowl contender.

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It may be true that these two franchises are two of the most hated entities in the NFL, but they’re also two of the most loved. More than any of that though, they’re undeniably two of the best teams in the NFL this season… and for that reason alone, their head-to-head clash this weekend ought to be considered must-see TV.