The NFL is returning to London!
Fans will be allowed back in stadiums, a new 17 week season awaits, and Covid has been traded to the Jets for future considerations.
Everything is getting back to normal right?
We don’t know a lot, but we do know that London is calling Atlanta for a 2021 game.
So who are they playing? When? Where? What’s the deal-lio, yo?
We’ll try to break it down for you, as London is calling you Atlanta!
In your face world! The NFL is coming for you!
American football fans around the globe were giddy like kids at Christmas, after the league announced that we can expect more NFL International games over the next few years.
London’s Tottenham stadium will be the first to host a game in 2021, with more venues and teams to be rolled out later this year.
All 32 teams will have to play at least 1 international game once over the next eight years.
According to the league it will look for “up to four neutral-site games per year in a country outside the United States will focus initially on Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America and the United Kingdom. In addition, interested clubs can continue to volunteer to play home games internationally, as is currently the case.”
When the games will be played and where is anyone’s guess, but we can make some inferences based on previous outings.
Canada has previously hosted NFL regular season games, and they did not go well.
Given that Toronto is only a 90 minute journey to Buffalo, it was assumed that Canuckleheaded fans would fill up the stadiums with maple pride.
They did not.
Toronto is a fickle city, and one Ernest Hemingway once described as a ‘fistulated asshole.’
If the Blue Jays are doing well, the Maple Leafs show a semblance of pulse, or a waft of warm air hits Ontario in October, Canadians make other plans.
Previous NFL games were beset by fan apathy, low turn out, snarky broadcasters, and truly bad playing conditions.
The Rogers Centre/ Skydome is a decaying downtown edifice whose turf has ruined more professional athletes careers than a Kardashian.
The Rogers family themselves are snarky snake billionaires with a grasp on the throat of Canadian media, and none too pleased with the NFL for turning down previous franchise opportunities.
If Canada does host NFL games, they will need to not be held in Toronto or Vancouver, where fans already have a taste of ‘American sports.’
When the NFL says ‘South America’, we assume that the NFL means ‘Mexico’, given that Mexico has hosted previous NFL games.
Although Mexico is considered to be in North America, you can forgive sports fans for not giving a hoot about geography.
It’s highly unlikely that South America would host anything other than a vaccination drive, as Covid has torn through the region like Derek Henry playing ‘Red Rover.’
One can’t imagine Argentina, Peru or Brazil hosting a regular season NFL game given the security, testing, and kidnapping threats that exist in those regions.
Previous Mexico City NFL games have been well attended, but also fraught with peril.
These games cost the NFL the most in safety and security of ANY NFL game, not to mention the flurry of items tossed on the the field and hundreds of laser pointers aimed at QBs eyes.
Only the Raiders seem to do well in Mexico, which is fitting.
To Americans, Europe is a big country.
Not only did they save it in WW2, but they also kicked the Germans out of it.
They might be totally insulted to learn that not only IS Germany IN Europe, but that the Germans may actually host an NFL game.
Germany has a massive NFL fanbase, and it truly is their time to host a game.
American football has been a popular sport in the country since American GI’s were stationed there after the war. The game grew in appeal, and Germany boasts one of the best American football development program on the continent.
The only issue that might interfere is time. With a 6 hour gap between the states, a 1pm EST game wouldn’t kickoff until 7pm in Germany, making it a bit of a later prospect.
The games will still be awesome, and it will be great to see what Germany can offer as hosts.
The UK has established itself as the de-facto home of the NFL outside of Europe, so what’s changed?
Covid obviously, but there is also a Wembley issue.
The Jacksonville Jaguars contract with Wembley has expired, and they also lost their pitch for a new downtown stadium. Will Khan take out his wrath, or find a new way?
By all accounts Wembley is keen to reopen the NFL despite Tottenham making the stadium push for future games.
Other stadiums that host Liverpool and Manchester United are also keen to refit their homes to potentially fit the NFL in for future years.
While the NFL may never establish another franchise in the UK, we may start to see games hosted around the country, as well as Scotland and Ireland in the mix.
With the big game announced for 2021, loads of questions have emerged.
When will the Falcons being playing at Tottenham, and who?
We have our thoughts here.
October 2021 has 5 potential Sundays to offer as one of the London games.
Previously, the NFL has tried to keep the International Games earlier in the season to balance out the byes, and fit the games within the busy hosting schedule of the city of London.
October 2021 has Sunday October 3, 10, 17, 24 & 31st as options for the London games, with each Sunday having a 20% chance of hosting the game.
With Week 1 of the NFL due to begin on Sun Sept 12th, that would make October 3rd part of the Week 4 schedule. Given Covid, rules, travel and more this might be more unlikely.
One of the biggest factors in choosing the date of the London game is time.
Clocks ‘fall back’ in October, with the US and UK having a gap of about a week when the clocks are only 4 hours apart.
The NFL has capitalised on this in the past, as this hour means a huge difference to the body clocks, and broadcast clocks of international timings.
UK clocks change on Sun Oct 31st, and US clocks on Sun Nov 7th. This means that there would be only a 4 hour gap on the 31st, making it the most likely date to host a game.
Sunday October 31st is Week 8 in the NFL, which is a tad late for a UK game, so we are not keen on it, especially with Diwali (Indian Festival of Lights) set to take over central London less than a week later.
Prediction: Sunday October 17th (Week 6)
The Atlanta Falcons will be playing a ‘non-divisional’ opponent for their 2021 game, which means that there are only 5 teams that they could potentially play.
These teams are Detroit, New England, NY Jets, Washington or Philly, each with an even 20% chance of being chosen.
Detroit last visited London in 2015, where they took an epic beating at the hands of Alex Smith and the Chiefs. The Lions aren’t really an international fan draw, and with so many changes in the organisation, an unlikely pairing for this match.
Washington is rebuilding not only as a team, but also as a franchise. With owner Dan Snyder under the microscope for being a bit naughty, it’s unlikely that the league would want him to travel internationally, where the foreign press would be keen to address his ‘reputation’.
The Eagles were only here in 2018, with Carson Wentz carving out a win over the hapless Jaguars. Very doubtful that they would be back here again this soon.
New York Jets and New England Patriots are the other teams that could be London bound.
Jets owner (and former UK Ambassador-Woody Johnson) is back home & working in the vaccine factory, so he might be inclined to not let his team back to his former home. The Jets last played in London in 2015, beating the Dolphins in a Wembley stinker.
Bill Belichick and the boys haven’t played in London since 2015, when a guy named Tom Brady was still at QB.
The Patriots have shed a lot of weight, personnel and allure as of late, with the team missing their first playoffs in decades.
Given that they are the only team with ‘England’ in their name, they would be odds on favourites to make the crowds happy, and sell tickets.
Boston is the closest US city to fly to London, so that 5 hours might seem like nothing compared to West coast jaunts.
After all, who wouldn’t want a Super Bowl matchup in England?
Let’s do it!
Prediction: New England Patriots
We think the 2021 NFL London will be…the Atlanta Falcons hosting the New England Patriots at Wembley on Sunday October 17th, 2021
In closing, we have no idea what is really going to happen.
Covid is still on the field, and despite vaccine efforts, we still don’t know what the NFL could look like for this season.
Commissioner Goodell has promised that we will have ‘100% capacity’ at all stadiums, but that could be about as accurate as our predictions.
Watch this space as we will have full details on who is playing the Atlanta Falcons here as soon as we know it. London is calling Atlanta!