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The NFL returns to Wembley for first of four games on Sunday

HOME: Twickenham will host NFL games

IT’S BACK! The National Football League (NFL) is making an imminent return to England and come tomorrow afternoon, Regent Street will be packed of supporters excited about the first of four Sunday games to be staged in London.

The International Series is getting bigger and more extravagant, but is it actually getting better Sceptics would argue that it is getting worse, with the teams who are not actually that good, being asked to play in London, which is affecting the final product on the field.

WEMBLEY

Of the eight teams travelling this year, only one made the play-offs last year. If you take out the Miami Dolphins, British fans will see the 1-15 Cleveland Browns, the 3-13 Jacksonville Jaguars and the 4-12 Los Angeles Rams.

The 'bigger', more successful teams like the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks have no intention of making the trip because they know it can seriously hamper their chances of playing football in January, especially if you are the 'home' team. After last year, home teams are currently 6-10-1 in London and it's unlikely that's going to improve any time soon, when three of the four teams this year are the aforementioned Browns, Jaguars and Rams. The fourth is the Dolphins, though they asked to move the game back to Miami due to their opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers having to be switched to Week 11 due to Hurricane Irma.


CROWD PLEASER: Fitzgerald is one of the stars of the NFL

Since 2007 only once has a team who have been chosen to play at Wembley (or now Twickenham) for one of their eight regular season home games, has made it to the post-season in the same year. That was the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015.

How many teams will leave London destined for the play-offs? One? Three if we are lucky. Four at an absolute push.

When it comes down to it, the NFL sends over their weaker teams and expects fans to be grateful for what they are getting.

The NFL, to their credit, have no power over how well a team does. When it was announced that the Arizona Cardinals were playing in London, it looked excellent on paper.

Quarterback Carson Palmer ended the season in excellent fashion, running back David Johnson is arguably the best in his position, while wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is sure to be in the Hall of Fame once he hangs up his cleats.

INJURED

Defensive stars Deone Bucannon and Tyrann Mathieu are worth the ticket price alone.


DEFENSIVE: Mathieu

However, the Cardinals have looked awful after their opening two games and Johnson picked up a wrist injury in the opening week and will be out until December at the earliest.

Last season, Odell Beckham Jr and the New York Giants played at Twickenham. Beckham is the current face of the NFL, and there he was in England. But, he was clearly injured and you sense the only reason he played was because of how much the marketing machine was behind him in the build-up to the game.

Now don’t be mistaken, if you are a fan of one of the eight teams that are flying over, this is a dream come true. Many NFL fans will never get the chance to see their team play live in the United States so having them come to you is perfect - unless you don’t live in London.

FANS

While it’s the capital of England, not every NFL fan lives there. Many are having to spend hundreds of pounds for travel and accommodation. While it costs significantly less than flying to the States, why not play games in arenas such as Old Trafford or the Millenium Stadium in Wales? That way, the NFL would be taking the sport on the road and attracting more fans across the UK. What we have now is a monopoly in London, with Wembley, Twickenham and in a few years time Tottenham’s White Hart Lane, all hosting games.

FRANCHISE

When it comes down to it, London is the biggest market. Marketing and revenue is everything to the NFL in regards to the International Series.

The league is in it for the long haul, with at least two games a year to be played at Tottenham’s new ground between 2018 and 2027, two games per year at Wembley until 2020 and international games at additional locations in London until 2025.

The end goal for the NFL is a London franchise, regardless of how illogical it sounds. The league are adamant this is what the fans want, when in truth what they really want is the NFL experience brought to London. That is what they are paying for. Whether they get it this year remains to be seen.

DATES AND DETAILS FOR THE BIG GAMES

September 24: Baltimore Ravens – Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley

October 1: New Orleans Saints – Miami Dolphins at Wembley

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