It’s been a long time coming. The Eagles are one day away from making the long flight across the pond to face the Jacksonville Jaguars in London. The Birds will become the 29th NFL team to play a game in London after this weekend, but their opponents know this trip all too well.
The Jaguars have played in London five times and have a 3-2 record in that span. It’s no coincidence however that their last three games have all been wins against teams who really had no business taking an L on that trip. A 44-7 blowout was brutally dealt to the Baltimore Ravens, who underestimated the preparation aspect of the journey, while wins over the Colts and Bills highlighted the progress that the Jags had made.
The bottom line is this. While the team is desperate and quarterback controversy has once again reared its ugly head, the Jaguars have the upper hand here for two reasons.
The Jaguars make this trip every year. They know the perfect schedule by now of when to arrive, when to do the traditional ‘sightseeing’ and how many practices to hold. Sleep patterns, diets, practice times and schedules all play into this.
Do their opponents adjust fully to the UK timezone, or instead work off of a 5 hour time difference, holding a practice at 3PM (9AM EST) and consequently sleeping later. I don’t know about you, but if I had to make a nine hour flight and show up to work the next day on a totally different timezone in a new city filled with thrills, culture and everything you could ever want during a weekend away, it’s hard to avoid distraction and stick to a routine. Not only that, but I would also be very cranky and a little lackadaisical going to work.
The Jaguars have this schedule down to a T because of their familiarity with London. They arrive early, get acclimated with their surroundings and have a schedule designed with the perfect balance in mind.
2) The rise of the game.
Due to the Jaguars being rammed down the throat of English fans for so long, they’ve been forcibly adopted as the nation’s team to an extent. When the games first started being played in London, nobody really knew how to react. They’re Soccer (Sorry English fans) orientated groups who are used to chanting and singing. The NFL is a very different environment that used to be alien. Now however, fans understand the importance of noise to rattle an opposing offense or silence to help their own…and with so many Jags fans waiting on this moment, don’t be surprised if Wembley has a ‘road game’ vibe for the Eagles.
There is good news however. Doug Pederson has been putting in the work behind the scenes.
“We had an advance team way back when the schedule came out.” The Eagles Head Coach told reporters. “Did a lot of the legwork up front behind the scenes. A lot of credit goes to them for the preparation and hard work that they’ve done.
And then really just being able to educate the players. Spent some time yesterday talking to them about this trip and giving them all the details up front so that they can put that behind them and just focus on Jacksonville this week and their preparation.
So we’re all set. It’s been a seamless process. Practice today and tomorrow here, and fly over just like we would on a normal road trip.”
Practice is going to be key for an Eagles team that is coming off of a loss to Carolina that saw them choke a 17 point lead in the fourth quarter. Getting back to basics and avoiding the noise surely has to be a priority, but Pederson wasted no time in defending his team’s focus and work ethic in weeks past.
“I thought in the last couple weeks our practices and the preparation has been really good. Guys have been focused. Guys have been detailed. I think if there is one area, I encourage the look squads to make it as challenging as possible during the week so it’s not as easy in practice.
I want to make it hard in practice so it becomes less difficult in the game. I felt like our practices, the guys’ focus, attention to detail, has been really good throughout the week.”
Trying to normalize this trip is the best thing Pederson and the Eagles could do in this situation and if we’re to go off of his word alone, that seems to be the case. Can the Eagles neutralize what’s becoming a one-sided venue? That’s down to the traveling Eagles fans and those in the UK to make their voices heard.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports