The National Football League heads across the pond again this season with four games scheduled in London and Germany. This year, the European crowd will get a couple of big NFL brands to watch in person, not just the Jacksonville Jaguars. Some of the matchups could be better, but the league also needs to get the Dallas Cowboys and some of its other more popular teams playing outside of America.
This year’s slate features three games in London during October and the inaugural game for the league in Germany, taking place in November. The Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints kick things off on Oct. 2 from Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. They’ll be followed by the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers one week later, on Oct. 9. The third game from London will be at legendary Wembley Stadium on Oct. 30, pitting the Denver Broncos against London’s favorite, Jacksonville.
If London could pick its own NFL representative, surely it wouldn’t be the Jaguars, yet Roger Goodell and the league seemingly send the Jags over yearly. This year’s game against the Broncos will be the Jaguars’ ninth trip to London, by far the most of any team in the NFL. In contrast, the Green Bay Packers are making their debut in London this season.
One of the most historic franchises in the league’s history is playing its first-ever international regular season game in 2022. It’s about damn time. It’s ridiculous how the NFL continues sending the Jaguars and other teams of that ilk to play internationally. For what they charge folks to get into games, they need to send better teams, like the ones they are sending this year.
Some of this year’s matchups leave little to be desired, but at least Europe getting more than Jacksonville and Houston. Germany will host its first-ever NFL game of any kind when the Buccaneers play the Seahawks on Nov. 13. If not for Tom Brady, this would be another dud of a game. It will likely end up in Tampa blowing Seattle out in Allianz Arena. It is a “good gesture” by the league to send Brady over during what many feel will be his final season. For real, this time.
Where big brands are concerned, the Packers and Broncos are a good start, especially with Russell Wilson making the jump to Denver in the offseason. This will be the Broncos’ ninth international game overall, but only their third during the regular season. And that number will increase for every franchise since the league now requires each team to play at least one international game every eight years.
Since Jacksonville has gone above and beyond exceeding that requirement, it might be time to leave them at home for a while. Let’s give the fans in Europe a chance to see other teams. Like the Cowboys, for instance. The last time Dallas played in London was at the height of the Tony Romo era in 2014. They beat the Jaguars (of course), 31-14. But with this new rule, we should see Jerry Jones’ organization heading over sooner than later.
Pittsburgh is in the same boat as Dallas, having not played an international game in nearly a decade. The Steelers’ last game abroad was in 2013, which they lost to the Vikings 34-27. You have two of the largest fan bases in the NFL between the Cowboys and Steelers. It’d be quite the spectacle to have these franchises face off in an international regular season game, but it’s doubtful the league would consider it.
Jones would fight that, I’m sure, especially if it were scheduled for Dallas as the ‘host’ team. That’s another issue for the home team in these games; they’re losing an actual home game. So, with the unbalanced 17-game schedule, teams are on a rotation basis each year, hosting eight or nine regular season games.
In a year when teams have only eight home games, these more prominent brands won’t be too willing to give up a home game to play internationally. So, initially, it feels like this new rule of sending teams over every eight years was desperately needed. To keep giving foreign fans the Jags, Giants (while they’re down), Texans, and even the Vikings aren’t cutting it. Yes, the Vikings should be better this year, but they aren’t on the same level as the Cowboys, Steelers, and Packers, when it comes to brand recognition.
A couple more division rivalries would also be good games to showcase to the international fanbase. The only division game in ‘22 will occur in Mexico City when the San Francisco 49ers take on the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 21. There’s always a little more intensity when division rivals get together. This one should have postseason implications attached. And these are the matchups needed for the international fan base if the NFL wants to take this expansion seriously.
It’s no secret the league wants a team based outside the United States. At this point, the question is will that be an expansion team or a current franchise relocating to Europe or Mexico? We’re getting closer to this happening each year. The NFL continues to add more games, as this year we’re up to five international showdowns. Right now, they’re getting more teams used to traveling outside the country more often. By 2030, I think we’ll have a team designated to play all their home games in a foreign country.