In 2021, there are two NFL games slated to play in London. The first is happening this weekend as the Atlanta Falcons take on the New York Jets. Now… you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Gee, that matchup sounds awful. If we’re really trying to expand the sport, why don’t we show London the absolute best our sport has to offer?”
Yeah, that’s a good point. Since 2007, the NFL has had at least one game played in London every year, aside from 2020, for obvious reasons. Do they send good teams? Not usually. The Jacksonville Jaguars have played across the Atlantic every year since 2013. What’s up with that?
Now, naturally, you’d think that the final record of every team sent to London since 2007 has been at or near .500, but I was curious. It seems like London always gets the bottom of the barrel, so are we really sending low-end teams across the pond or is that just an assumption?
So, I accumulated the win-loss records for every team to play in London. I looked at where they finished that season and how they finished the previous season. I figured that maybe the NFL was just getting unlucky with the teams they were scheduling. Maybe these were really good teams last year that just had down seasons the following year when they played in London. The NFL can’t predict things like that when scheduling.
The win-loss record for every team the year before they were scheduled to play in London is 428-466. That’s good for a .479 win percentage — a pretty considerable dip from the .500 mark we’d hoped for. There were some ties as well, but I just figured I’d eliminate those from the equation, because ties are a sin in the world of sports. Their combined records the year in question drops to 411-481, a .461 win percentage.
So, yeah, the NFL isn’t exactly putting on its Sunday best in Europe.
That’s not all the NFL’s fault though. The home teams in London are volunteers. The teams are given huge incentives to play a home game across the pond, and that usually entices smaller-market teams that struggle to sell out in their home stadium, like the aforementioned Jaguars and Tampa Bay (pre-Tom Brady). Teams that can’t sell out their home games tend to be lower-level teams. That just makes sense. Fans don’t want to go and see their team lose. So, as long as the NFL’s policy is to allow teams to volunteer for London games, those games will remain low-level.
There isn’t much of a storyline following this Jets/Falcons game other than, “Hey, Zach Wilson sort of looked good last week against the Titans. Can he keep that up?” I doubt it. Not only will the time difference likely play a factor, but Wilson also looked like he was playing backyard ball on several plays. He was forced to improvise on more occasions than you’d like to see, and that’s a sign of a system that doesn’t play to your team’s strengths. I don’t blame Jets head coach Robert Saleh for struggling to build a system around Wilson right away. That’s a tough ask for a first-year head coach working with a rookie quarterback, but it’s going to take some time before we see some consistency out of Wilson.
The other big storyline surrounding the London game is the absence of Calvin Ridley. The Falcons’ star receiver will miss the game due to a “personal matter,” and that could open the door for Kyle Pitts to break out. Despite being the fourth-overall pick in the most recent NFL draft, Pitts has disappointed thus far this year, in terms of production. The University of Florida product has yet to record more than five catches in a single game and has not found the end zone yet in his NFL career.
This is normal though. Highly touted college tight ends tend to struggle early on in their pro careers. Remember T.J. Hockenson’s rookie year? He had a great first game, and then hibernated for the rest of the season. Noah Fant saw similar struggles. He didn’t see a single game with more than five receptions his rookie year. All that said, Pitts should be in for a monster game this weekend.
Without Ridley in the fold, Matt Ryan is going to have to rely on Cordarelle Patterson, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Russell Gage in the passing attack. I know how good Patterson has been this year, but that’s not a good group of guys. Pitts is the most talented of this bunch, and should be a nightmare matchup for the Jets. If there was ever a time for this talented rookie to break out, it’s Sunday.
Elsewhere in the NFL, Buffalo at Kansas City is the premiere matchup of Week 5. It’s a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game, and Kansas City’s reputation could be on the line here. It’s insane how quickly people are willing to forget just how good a team K.C. is. Remember when the Golden State Warriors acquired Kevin Durant and then lost their very first game of the season to the San Antonio Spurs? Pepperidge Farm remembers. They also remember all the comments from fair-weather fans saying that the Warriors were done for. All they did that season was go on to win the championship.
What about Tom Brady? He has started six seasons with a 2-2 record, but nobody thought his time in the NFL was coming to an end when he started the season slow. Who cares about these games right now? The Chiefs are one game back of the division leader. They’ll be fine. That being said, I still know that the Twitterverse will go nuts if the Chiefs fall to Buffalo. I can see it now. “Patrick MaFraud,” “Kansas City’s dynasty is over,” “Buffalo is the new K.C.”
Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah! Just calm down, okay!
I get it. Everybody is looking for reasons to hate on the Chiefs. They’re really good and have been for a few years, and nothing is better than seeing the best fall, but just because they start a season 2-3 with losses against three of the best teams in the NFL doesn’t mean they’re not Super Bowl contenders. If not for a Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumble at the end of the game against Baltimore, the Chiefs would be 3-1, and we all knew how tough an out the Chargers were going to be this year. It stuns me that Kansas City already dropped out of everybody’s top-five teams in the league.
Kansas City is a team that can score at any time from any spot on the field. Any team with that capability will always be top-ten in the NFL. Kansas City should be hungry for a second consecutive win this week, and I expect them to win. Buffalo has looked great the last three weeks, but they’ve won those games against Houston, Washington, and Miami. I wouldn’t be surprised if they come out flat against the Chiefs, and Tyreek Hill burns them for 100 yards and two scores in the first half. Can Buffalo win? Absolutely. They’re immensely talented, but if they do, don’t short Kansas City. Even with a 2-3 record, they’d still be one of the scariest teams in the NFL.