The NFL in London has become a wonderful tradition, to the point that the league appears to be serious about considering a permanent, UK-based team. This likely won’t happen quickly, and the NFL has already been experimenting with London activity for years at this point. But just last fall NFL executive Vice President Mark Waller was quotes as saying “the fan growth feels definitely right” and there were a lot of positive indicators for the NFL. Indeed it’s beginning to sound as if the end of the NFL’s current collective bargaining agreement in 2021 could bring about negotiations for a London franchise.
As we await that kind of move, however, the annual London schedule remains a thrill for American teams and European fans alike. And it just so happens that the slate of games for the fall of 2018 looks about as good as it ever has. So I just wanted to do a quick look ahead at some of the action to come.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Oakland Raiders – Tottenham Stadium, October 14
The Seahawks are just coming down from an extended era as one of the NFL’s strongest teams. Their vaunted “Legion of Boom” defense is definitely on the decline, but the team still has a hard-nosed culture that makes it fun to watch, and quarterback Russell Wilson has become an annual MVP candidate. The Raiders, meanwhile, are going to demand a lot of attention this season because of the return of Jon Gruden to the sideline. A former Raiders coach and a Super Bowl winner as the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gruden has become particularly familiar to fans through an extended run on television. He’ll probably be a lot of fun with the London media, and the hope for those who just want to watch good football will be that he’ll help a fairly talented roster find the success that eluded it in 2017. The real thrill in this matchup might actually be the venue though. The NFL has noted that the reason it scaled back from four to three games for this year’s London schedule was in part to ensure the new Tottenham Stadium would be ready – and it should be spectacular.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Jacksonville Jaguars – Wembley Stadium, October 21 (or 28)
American football at Wembley is basically a time-honored tradition at this point, and the Jaguars have made themselves a second home in London. That was something of a joke for a while, but the Jaguars have become a very tough team. Boasting a terrific young running back and an up-and-coming defense, the team made a deep playoff run last season and will be a fun group to watch in 2018. And then there are the Eagles, who are flying high heading into the season. The Eagles won it all in February, and did so with the longest odds among recent Super Bowl winners. That actually seems to imply they weren’t expected to win yet and could still have room to improve, which ought to be scary for the rest of the league. Based on pure quality, there’s potential for this to be the best game in London in years.
Tennessee Titans vs. Los Angeles Chargers – Wembley Stadium, October 21 (or 28)
This final game is arguably the least exciting on paper, but could feature two teams capable of surprising fans in 2018. While not a juggernaut by any means, the Titans snuck into the postseason in 2017, ending a lengthy playoff drought in the process. The Chargers probably underachieved on the season, but still finished 9-7 (the same as the Titans) and have a talented roster, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. If nothing else it ought to be a close contest, and could wind up being something of a shootout, which is always fun for fans.
All in all it’s an exciting schedule of events for an annual tradition that’s only getting better.