The wait for the NFL schedule is always an exciting one. The opponents for all 32 teams have been set and for the Philadelphia Eagles, there are some very interesting road games that are already poised to be exhilarating contests. One of the big questions on the lips of many is “will the Eagles play in London next season?” After talking to a source, that’s looking increasingly likely.
The Eagles are one of just five teams yet to play an International Series game and that is subject to change. There has been a recent push to get the Birds overseas and if it wasn’t for a win over the Giants last season, they would have made the trip this year. So who are the teams who could play host to the Eagles in London?
The most likely is Jacksonville. The NFL knows that star-power draws an audience. Some believe that the NFL has no reason to push teams into a tricky trip over to the United Kingdom, but it’s all a part of growing the brand. Just as teams dislike the Thursday Night Football games, concern with regards to fatigue and disruption have been raised on a yearly basis. But there doesn’t seem to be any signs of the series slowing down.
The Saints vs Dolphins blowout at Wembley averaged 386,000 viewers on BBC2 (one of the terrestrial UK channels) while just 80,000 turned into the Ravens and Jags one week later. Considering that over half a million fans poured onto Regent Street for the NFL takeover in the days leading up to the game, that number is low. The Jags are widely regarded as the team directly linked with the UK due to the fact they have played a home game there every year since 2013…the problem is, they don’t really have the “star power” or attraction of other teams.
‘Sky Sports Action’ is a new subscription based service in the UK that showcases NFL games, while one of their other subscription based channels streams NFL Redzone. The Eagles had two games showcased live as the ‘featured’ game. One against the Bears and another against the Broncos. (The following figures have been taken from a thread tracking viewing figures in the UK over at NFLuk.com)
Bears v Eagles 28,000
Broncos v Eagles 33,000
Week 6: Packers v Vikings: 54,000
Week 7: LONDON Cardinals v Rams 61,000
Week 7: Seahawks v Giants – 29,000
Week 12: Saints v Rams 40,000
Week 13: Falcons v Vikings: 66,000
Week 14: Raiders v Chiefs: 58,000
What you’ll notice here is that the most viewed games often contain stars. Jared Goff in the UK, Julio Jones, Derek Carr/Amari Cooper/Tyreek Kill, Drew Brees etc. The Jaguars viewing figures often don’t never these totals and if the NFL really wants to sell them to the UK, bringing some star power along certainly helps.
The BBC also has a weekly NFL recap show that airs directly after the weekly “Premier League” recap show titled Match of the Day. This show averages over 500,000 viewers each week.
The consensus, after speaking to a source, is that if the Jaguars resolve their quarterback problem after a season that saw them unexpectedly creep into the playoffs, interest should be at an all time high. A positioned matchup against Carson Wentz and the Eagles, a team who are rapidly becoming one of the most exciting in the league acts as the perfect opponent to draw in a growing international fanbase with one that has grown to love a “home” team.
The International Series has seen an influx in exciting and playoff teams, with four playoff franchises all playing a game in the series designed to expand the brand this year alone.
It’s not about ratings in the USA, however the NFL did try something new this year by having the Cardinals and Rams face-off at 6PM GMT, around 1PM EST. This made it much more ‘watchable’ for the US audience. Normally, fans in the UK watch the “1PM EST” games at 6PM and anything after that may as well be an all-nighter. This game particularly drew an astonishing 61,000 views on the subscription based channel.
One of the other candidates are the L.A Rams, who have also played home games in the UK in the last two season’s. Another battle between Jared Goff and Carson Wentz where both teams play on the road will not only be an interesting challenge, but one that will be sure to draw fans as two of the most exciting household names in the league do battle once again.
Finally, the Titans. The sole belief here is that the Titans are also one of the five teams not to play a game in the International Series so far. The Seahawks are also expected to play a game in the UK next year, with the Broncos being a likely opponent. However, the source stated that the most likely outcome is indeed Philadelphia vs Jacksonville.
The announcement should come on January 11th, but it’s seeming increasingly likely that the Eagles will play the Jaguars as a road game in 2018 at Wembley, with the kickoff time being at 6PM GMT/1PM EST. If the Jaguars have a new quarterback, it adds a lot of marketability to a team that have almost been forced upon the UK audience since 2013. As aforementioned, there has been a push to get the Eagles overseas in the last few years and it’s almost inevitable that the UK fans finally get their wish.
Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports