Following the conclusion of the NFL’s venture to England this season with Sunday’s Browns-Vikings game, Cleveland’s first appearance across the pond, only six NFL teams haven’t made the journey across the Atlantic. According to the league, the NFL wants to have those six teams play in London during the 2018 season.
Alistair Kirkwood, the managing director of NFL UK, said as much during
an interview with ESPN.
“[There is] a desire to try to get the other six teams that haven’t been over as well,” Kirkwood said when asked about the 2018 slate of overseas games. “It’s not the be-all and end-all, but you kind of like to get closer to have all 32 teams over. That seems like a really nice narrative.”
The London schedule for 2018 is supposedly going to be released in December, months ahead of the league’s full schedule release next spring.
Four of the six teams that haven’t played in London are NFC teams – the Eagles, Packers, Panthers, and Seahawks. They’re joined by a pair of AFC teams in the Texans and Titans. However, the Seahawks and Texans have played outside of the country – the Seahawks had a game with the Bills in Toronto during the 2012 season, while the Texans played the Raiders in Mexico City during the 2016 season.
So, how will these six teams get to London in 2018? The Los Angeles Rams are a potential match for the Eagles, Packers, and Seahawks, since they’ll be giving up a home game to play in London next year (and in 2019) and will be hosting the Packers and Seahawks (and potentially Eagles) next season.
The Packers have stated that they won’t be giving up a home game to go to London, meaning that they’d be the visiting team if a London trip was in their future.
Packers president Mark Murphy has said the team would like to play in London but would not give up a home game to do so because of the economic impact on the NFL’s smallest city. Also, all Packers home games are sold out on a season-ticket basis.
Green Bay has road games with the Rams, Seahawks, and potentially Eagles in 2018.
The Texans and Titans have home games against each other, which could work out well for either side, and both also play the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road. The Jaguars have played in London every year since 2013, and one would expect them to play there again next year. The Jags also have a home game with the Eagles on their slate next season, in case that’s the route the league wanted to take.
The tricky team to get to London in 2018 will be the Panthers. The only team that hasn’t been to London that they host next season is potentially the Seahawks, while the only teams they visit that haven’t been to London are the Eagles and potentially the Packers (who won’t be giving up a home game).
There will be at least four games in London next season – two at Wembley (one of which will be hosted by the Jaguars), “at least” two at Tottenham’s new stadium, and between zero and two at Twickenham in the final year of the three year deal between the NFL and the English Rugby Football Union. The Rams, Chargers, and possibly the Raiders will all also be hosting games next season, though the Raiders could once again play host to the Mexico game, as they did in 2016 and will again in 2017.
With all of these wrinkles, it’ll be tough to get those six teams over to London with the Jaguars, Rams, and Chargers all playing host to at least one game. The schedule would need to be expanded to six games in order to accommodate everyone.
Here’s how the schedule could look, attempting to check every box the NFL desires while also only bringing teams to London once.
Texans/Titans vs Jaguars
Packers vs Rams
Texans/Titans vs Chargers
Eagles vs Buccaneers
Panthers vs Browns
Seahawks vs Raiders
See how not ideal that is? The Browns gave up a home game this past weekend to make their England debut, and I really don’t think they’d be jonesing to do it again. The Bengals gave up a home game to “host” the Redskins in London last season, while the Dolphins gave up home games in both 2015 and 2017, and I don’t think either of those teams would be willing to do it again in 2018.
Anyway, to get the remaining six teams over to London this season, the NFL is going to have to twist some arms – or try to get them all over by 2019 instead of 2018.
Or hey, here’s a crazy idea – stop trying to force teams to play in London if they don’t want to.