The first NFL International Series game of the year is here. The Baltimore Ravens will face London’s adopted team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.
Both teams chose to have just one day of training in London to prepare for the game, and RealSport were with both teams to get their takes on the Wembley clash.
What do the teams make of each other?
Coming into this game the teams are in very different positions. The Ravens are 2-0 after two dominant performances, and the Jaguars are 1-1 and are coming off a big loss to the Tennessee Titans.
The Jaguars acknowledged the difficulty of the task at hand; when asked about the Ravens offense, star cornerback AJ Bouye said “they’ve got great receivers and a great quarterback. A great team all round, so we are going to have to be on our stuff.”
Evidently, the Jags feel this game won’t be an easy win. But how will they get on top of the Ravens? “I think we’ve just gotta stop their run game… and just stop Joe Flacco, not make him beat us,” said defensive end Malik Jackson. He went one step further, too, saying, “Like every week, make them one-dimensional and go out there and just try to pass rush.”
The Ravens were equally as impressed with the Jaguars, though. Newly-acquired safety Tony Jefferson said, “They’ve got a really good run game, really good running backs, they run a good offense… it’s gonna be a tough battle for us.”
The fact that the Jaguars do have a good run game, and great young running back in Leonard Fournette, is potentially worrying for the Ravens; star nose tackle Brandon Williams was ruled out for this game earlier today. That is a big hole in the Ravens defense that needs filling, but Head Coach John Harbaugh isn’t worried, “We’ve got a lot of depth at the defensive line, a lot of good players… Next man up has just gotta play well. Our guys are fired up.”
Clearly then, there is no lack of respect between these two teams, hopefully, that will make for a great game come Sunday.
What do the teams make of the UK?
Obviously, we couldn’t miss this opportunity to find out what these players thought of the NFL coming to London, and all of them had great things to say.
Malik Jackson quickly said London fans were “awesome”. His teammate Bouye had a similar opinion. When asked if he felt that the Jags were London’s team he said; “Yeah, most definitely. Like I said, come Sunday, just to see all the fans that are gonna be there.” He even said when he signed with the Jaguars this offseason he was “definitely looking forward to that.”
The Ravens seem equally excited – so excited in fact that the feeling has permeated to the team’s legends. Legendary linebacker Ray Lewis said “there is nothing better” when asked what it is like to represent both the Ravens and the NFL in London. Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden had similar opinions; “Wonderful… fantastic city, a lot of nice people… I’m honored.”
However, there was skepticism regarding a future London franchise, especially from Ray Lewis. “West coast games are already hard enough… I think the real thing should be more of a league over here… and maybe a farm league that produces the next level that goes to the league.” He’s not the first one to express this idea.
Overall, both teams seemed very excited to be in London. The players seemed excited about the opportunity and there certainly seemed to be a lot of curiosity and optimism regarding the NFL in London going forward.
Gur Samuel contributed to this article.
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