Carolina Panthers

Does playing the Saints make it personal for Panthers fans? Survey says ...

Carolina Panthers fans should be more pumped for this weekend’s playoff game than for any game since Super Bowl 50.

After all, it’s not just the Panthers’ first postseason game since the big one, it’s a playoff game against their favorite team’s No. 1 rival.

Wait, No. 1 rival? Who decided that?

In this case, two college professors, or rather their survey results, posted at KnowRivalry.com, which ranks the Saints as the Panthers’ top rival.

The survey, which can take about 10 minutes, asks some probing questions, the kind that makes an adult appreciate the confidentiality an online poll offers.

After all, if you happen to work for a Saints fan, do you really want her to know that you think less of her character because of that?

But if a Panthers fan thinks that Saints fans are more suspect in character, more obnoxious, more arrogant and yet less tolerant than other NFL teams’ fans, this survey is a chance to let off some steam in the privacy of his own internet connection.

The survey even asks if knowing that a person rooted for a Panthers’ rival would make it more difficult to have an intimate relationship or consider that person for marriage.

Those seem like some deep-rooted anxieties. But come Sunday, who doesn’t want their closest friends and loved ones screaming along with them at the TV?

The poll results are probably not that surprising to loyal Panthers fans. The Saints (along with the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina’s No. 2 rival) have played in the same division since the Panthers’ inaugural season, when the trio were part of the old NFC West.

So, Panthers fans have had a long time to build opinions about the Saints and their fans.

The poll doesn’t just rank the rivalries in order, it also assigns a “rival points” score to each matchup based on fan input. Atlanta is actually not a close second; its 28.98 rival points fall well below the Saints’ 39.18.

The New England Patriots, who beat the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2003, round out the top five. Success does breed resentment; The Patriots are the NFL’s most-hated team, at least as of a year ago, according to the survey.

David Tyler, a Western Carolina University assistant professor of sport management, and his Northern Kentucky University colleague Joe Cobbs, an associate professor of sports business, have spent more than eight years studying sports rivalry.

Most of the results for the NFL were gathered in mid-2015. But Tyler said in an email last year that the site continues to collect data and the researchers hope to do so indefinitely to see how the rivalries shift over time. Results at KnowRivalry.com aren’t posted until they’ve been analyzed.

Tyler said the information can be useful to marketers, sponsors, event planners and TV execs.

There’s one number that Sunday’s game could change: How the Saints fans view the rivalry with the Panthers.

Carolina is a very distant runner-up with 14.23 rival points to the Falcons, who rate 64.68 rival points.

That’s quite a spread. So maybe those Saints fans really are a bit arrogant.

But Falcons fans rate their rivalry with the Saints even higher, at 74.25, compared to 15.20 for the Panthers.

When the rival points for the Falcons and Saints are added together, that rivalry rated as the league’s fiercest, according to data on the site. The Falcons and Saints have played in the same division since 1970.

Follow Mike Reader on Twitter.

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