The 2018 NFL London International Series came to an end at Wembley on Sunday with a visit from the reigning Superbowl Champions Philadelphia Eagles taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars, themselves only a few minutes away from this being a re-run of last years final showpiece.
When announced earlier this year as the final match up, it looked on paper the best of the three games, with no offence to the four other teams who featured in London. But as the NFL being what it is, no one can predict what form teams will arrive in and what precedes the season so far. Neither the Jags nor the Eagles have hit the heights of last season, but both sides are not yet out of the hunt to make the play offs and with half the season still remaining there’s plenty of time to put a sequence of results together.
The game itself didn’t quite live up to the expectations of earlier in the year, littered with interceptions and sacks for both quarterbacks. Blake Bortles is definitely having struggles this year with a lack of protection from his offensive line and with less receiving options than he had last year is making for a tough year for the Jags to get anything going.
Carson Wentz has gone back in as the Eagles main man after his back up Nick Foles led the team to Superbowl glory after Wentz’s unfortunate ACL injury and pulled out some big throws to get his team down the pitch and record a more comfortable 24-18 win than it might have been.
With the Eagles picking up wide receiver Golden Tate in a trade deal with the Lions, it might be the link to repeating last year’s triumph and their schedule after the bye week where they face 3 NFC East games out of the next 4, will go a long way to defining where they will end up by the end of the year.
The Jags themselves are not out of contention, but know they need to string together a good set of wins before the divisional rivals disappear into the sunset. It does appear though that head coach Doug Marrone is not convinced that Bortles is the man to get the franchise to the post season given the fact Bortles was benched in the game prior to Wembley.
A record NFL London crowd of 85,870 shows the game is showing no sign of interest waning with all three games selling out in record time and now 29 of the 32 teams have visited London at least once. After the announcement today that there will be 4 games in London next year, 2 for Tottenham and 2 for Wembley, expectation is that the remaining 3 franchises will be in the mix to appear in those 4 games.
With the increase to 4 games, we are looking at half a home season for the first time and another step by the NFL on their way to a full 8 game home season. The support for the game in this country suggests we will get to that point in the coming years and probably sooner rather than later, and then will come the question, London’s franchise a relocation or a brand new team on our shores. With New White Lane almost ready to house an NFL team with it’s own pitch and purpose built changing rooms, you can’t fail to ignore it’s going to happen and each year it moves one step closer, best start thinking of some names and uniform colours…………………………