The 2017 NFL season may still be ongoing for some teams as we continue through the playoffs, but for 28 teams (by the time the weekend is over) it will be time to consign this season to the record books and start looking ahead to the 2018 season.
With this in mind, a few days ago, the NFL announced the team’s involved in 2018’s London games as part of the 2018 NFL International Series. As well as one as-yet unannounced game in Mexico – we know the Rams will be involved as part of a previous deal but do not yet know who their opponents will be – we will be getting 3 matches in London. As well as some returning teams, including regular visitors the Jacksonville Jaguars, 3 teams will be making their London debuts and I’m sure fans of the Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles will be looking forward to the chance to finally see their teams play this side of the pond.
As with last year, I have decided to take a quick look at the 3 UK fixtures to see what fans could have to look forward to. Though the announcement has come slightly later than last year – so we know the final regular season records for each team – there is still so much that could change between now and the matches, but at least we can begin to get an idea of what we may have to look forward to in October.
Seattle Seahawks (9-7) @ Oakland Raiders (6-10) – 14/10/18
Neither team will be happy with the way their 2017 seasons went and you can bet they will be looking to get back to winning ways in 2018. London has never yet seen a match between two teams with winning records.
Derek Carr may have had a down season, but with former Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden – who won Super Bowl XXXVII with the Buccaneers – returning, you would imagine that he will be back to his best in 2018 and looking forward to taking on Seattle’s Legion of Boom. UK fans will also be hoping to see 3-time Pro Bowler Khalil Mack at his very best against Russell Wilson, who always seems so be able to throw in a couple of magical plays per game.
The big draw for this game will be the first appearance of Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium. The stadium has been been designed with the NFL in mind and has a retractable artificial turf for NFL games. There will only be 1 game here in 2018 but the plan is for it to host 2 games a year going forward, a good opening game between 2 successful teams will go along way to helping secure the NFL’s future here.
Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) – 21/10/18 or 28/10/18
The only 2018 game in the UK that pits two teams who made the playoffs in 2017, this game has the potential to be one of the best games Wembley has ever seen!
Despite losing star receiver Allen Robinson to injury in Week 1, the Jags relied on a top-class defense that contained 4 Pro Bowlers to top the AFC West and get to at least the AFC Divisional Playoffs (at time of writing they are still to play their game against the Steelers). They are a team on the up and if they can get a more reliable quarterback then the sky could be the limit in 2018.
The Eagles 13-3 record was level with the Patriots, Steelers and Vikings as the best in the NFL this season, but this season will likely not reach the heights that it could have courtesy of Carson Wentz’s ACL injury in Week 14. Wentz was on track for an MVP season before his injury and the fact that they won 2 of their remaining 3 regular season games and their NFC Divisional Round Playoff game against the Falcons with Nick Foles starting under center, which shows just how good this team was this season.
If both teams can continue to play at this season’s high level and also improve on their problem areas, then this will be a match nobody will want to miss. Oh and as if that wasn’t enough, it will likely be another chance for UK fans to cheer on London-born Jay Ajayi.
Tennessee Titans (9-7) @ Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) – 21/10/18 or 28/10/18
As a Titans fan, I have been looking forward to them coming over for a while, especially in recent years as they have started to become more competitive again. Their 9-7 record may flatter to deceive somewhat (more than that in the coming days) but they are a team on the up and will (hopefully) continue to improve in 2018. When it is firing on all cylinders the Titans offense can be brilliant to watch with Derrick Henry in the backfield, 2-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and receivers Corey Davis and Delanie Walker all on the pitch. And if the receivers are having an off day, Marcus Mariota could just start throwing touchdown passes to himself again! Mariota is one of the most impressive young quarterbacks in the league in my (somewhat biased) opinion and will treat the Wembley crowd to one hell of a show with his dual-threat ability. On defense, the Titans have an impressive front 7 and a set of young defensive backs including Adoree’ Jackson and 2017 interception leader Kevin Byard who will benefit so much from their playoff run this season.
The Chargers narrowly missed out on a playoff spot this season, but quarterback Philip Rivers reminded us all of the quality he possesses in 2017, while Joey Bosa continues to impress at defensive end and was named to his first Pro Bowl this year.
This may not have the same attraction as the other 2 games, but this could also be a great spectacle between 2 improving teams. Every team who won in London this season made it into the playoffs as Divisional champions, while Jacksonville have previously use the London games to get themselves back on track after poor starts to the season. I imagine both franchises will be looking to use this game as a springboard to launch forwards in their quest for a 2018 playoff berth.
Will you be going to any of the games? Which one are you most looking forward to?