Finally, after a prolonged wait and much speculation, NFL UK fans now know what teams will be coming over to the UK for the 2016 International Series Games. In case you missed it, here is the lineup in full:
02.10.16 Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars (Wembley)
23.10.16 NFC East team @ St. Louis Rams (Twickenham)
30.10.16 Washington Redskins @ Cincinnati Bengals (Wembley)
For the first time, we have the Redskins, Colts and Bengals all making their appearances at in the UK for the first time since the International Series started in 2007. There is also the inclusion of a new venue: Twickenham. The formula for the second game would see one of the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys returning to the UK, the Philadelphia Eagles making their first appearance, or the Redskins being the first team to play back-to-back game in London. So, if you’re absolutely stuck and can only make one game next year for whatever reason, here is my opinion on how these games rank in terms of watchability. It is always a tough ask to predict something that is a year away, as we all know in the NFL, things change in a heartbeat, so I am going to look at how the team’s are faring now, what shape they should be in this time next year, and general excitement surrounding the franchise. Feel free to totally disagree with me – hit me up on Twitter with your criticisms (@DavidVenables1). Let’s get to it!
1. Redskins @ Bengals
It is against my better judgement to put this game at the top of the list. Typically, the last game in the International Series has been a one sided affair, with the Jaguars getting stuffed twice in consecutive years (vs the 49ers and Cowboys), and then the Detroit Lions taking a beating from the Kansas City Chiefs this year. In fact, all three games have seen one team put 40+ points on the other. However, this game may be closer than a lot of people may think. The Redskins provide an interesting scenario. Will they be playing their second game in London in 2016? Will Kirk Cousins still be a quarterback in 2016? Will they be coming in off the back of making the playoffs in 2015? There are a lot of unknowns about the Redskins, and that makes for a intriguing build up to the 2016 game. The Bengals are a cert for the playoffs this year, and should win the AFC North. The Bengals will continue to build around A.J Green, Tyler Eifert and Andy Dalton in 2016. Seeing as it is the first time either franchise is appearing in the UK, there will be a great deal of excitement for this matchup, and so ranks as my must-see game next year.
2. NFC East Team @ Rams
The intrigue here certainly comes from the unknown. We could have one of two historic franchises returning to London, in the Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants. We could have a first timer in the Philadelphia Eagles making an appearance in London for the first time. We could have the Washington Redskins being the first team to play back-to-back games in London. We won’t know for certain until the end of the year, so that’s another thing to watch for the rest of 2015. The Rams’ last appearance in the UK was a shambolic hammering at the hands of the New England Patriots in 2012. They will be hoping that the inclusion of young talents Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley can boost their performance in 2016. One guaranteed first? The use of Twickenham, the home of English rugby. Will it provide a better game day experience and atmosphere for the fans? How will it stage an NFL game for the first time? Lots of questions remain to be answered, making match number 2 highly interesting.
3. Colts @ Jaguars
Another game with another great quarterback coming to do battle on Wembley’s turf. Andrew Luck will bring the Colts to the UK for the first time for a divisional matchup against YOUR Jacksonville Jaguars. The atmosphere may be the best at this game, with the Jags hoping to capitalise on the momentum of their win against the Buffalo Bills this year, while being a rivalry match. The Colts have struggled this year for various reasons, but they should still win the AFC South, still make the playoffs, and should be better in 2016. Will head coach Chuck Pagano be with them? Time will tell. I will go on record and say that, on paper, this is the best lineup of games that the International Series has given us. The more games the merrier, naturally, but it’s the strength and intrigue surrounding these matches that provide the real spark. All we can do now is wait for next October. See you in 2016.