This year’s London Games is just over a week away and we know that with each NFL season that passes, especially with the games played in London, that a new wave of American Football fans come along.
For those who aren’t so close to the game or just taking their first steps we’ve got the perfect London Games preview for you courtesy of AFD’s Managing Director Gur Samuel. He gives us the lowdown on the teams, who to look out for, and how much has changed since the first game in 2007.
- Three of the teams will make their London debuts this Autumn – what do you rate the chances of the debutants in winning their first games here?
Truthfully, I’m not sure how much of an impact the move has! Even teams that have made the trips several times, such as the Jags, Dolphins and Rams, have to deal with the same jetlag and logistic issues. It’ll come down more to the teams themselves – and it’s still too early to know exactly who will be good and who will be bad! I would possibly give the Ravens the best chance of the three new comes, but the Browns were certainly no slouch against the Steelers despite the narrow loss! The Cardinals possibly have the toughest challenge as they’ll likely be without starting running back David Johnson.
- The London Games is now in its 11thyear, how much has the series and the game changed since that first one back in 2007?
The London Games have certainly changed a lot. One of the biggest changes has been the shift away from the NFL highlighting the “razzmatazz” – fewer “fan engagement” events, smaller tailgates etc – and towards just promoting the games themselves. I feel that’s in recognition of how much more knowledgeable about the sport British fans are than they were back in 2007, and there’s no question in my mind that that’s a direct result of the NFL’s ongoing commitment to playing more and more games in London.
- From the draft all the way to preseason there are a lot of changes to the sides. There will be some new faces coming to London, who are you most excited to see play for the first time?
Unfortunately one of those faced would have been David Johnson! But an injury on opening Sunday has meant he’s unlikely to be healthy enough to play in London. So him aside, I’m excited to see what rookie Browns QB DeShone Kizer can do, as he impressed me in his debut last week. Leonard Fournette, who the Jaguars drafted fourth overall, is another player I’m excited to watch. Many were disappointed that they didn’t get to see Sammy Watkins play when the Bills were over in 2015 as he was injured at the time, but now that he’s on the Rams, we’ll finally get a chance to watch him play this year – if he stays healthy!
- And any ‘old’ faces that should turn heads?
While his debut for the team didn’t go the way he was expecting, Adrian Peterson is still a huge name that people will be looking out for, and after having a monster game for the Vikings back in 2013, it’ll be interesting to see what he does when the Saints are over in Week 4. Sam Bradford had a bad game for the Rams in London in 2012, but has looked much better now with the Vikings, so I’ll be looking to see how he does in the final London Game of the season!
- Of the match ups between the teams, which of the four games are you most looking forward to seeing and why?
I was not expecting to pick this match, and it’s still too early to tell because you never know which Week 1 performances are “legit” and which are flukes. But if I was going off of Week 1 performance alone, I’d say Vikings @ Browns. Cleveland played the Steelers much closer than many people expected, while the Vikings looked great on Monday Night Football. If they can both maintain that level of form, then this could be a very exciting match!
- The Jags have a new coach in Doug Marrone but he’s no stranger to London is he? Can you tell us more about his past life here?
Well, Doug Marrone has coached in various London games, having been part of the Jaguars coaching staff since 2015 before taking over the head coach role at the tail end of last year. He was also the offensive coordinator for the Saints when they made their London debut in 2008, the second game in the series. But his biggest connection to London came as his final days a player! Before he entered coaching, Marrone spent the 1991 and 1992 seasons in the World League of American Football (later re-named NFL Europe) for the London Monarchs, in which he was part of the championship winning team in ’91!
- Of the eight teams here in London this year, do you see any have the goods to be Super Bowl contenders?
It’s still very early in the season, but Minnesota seem to have the pieces in place. They got off to a very hot start last year, but ran out of steam after the first third of the season. In Week 1, Sam Bradford already seemed to be playing better than he did last year, and Dalvin Cook gave the team the kind of rushing performance they sorely lacked once Adrian Peterson went down to injury early in the year.
- If you could pick any match up to watch in London next season what would it be?
It’s always tricky to predict because you never know who’ll be coming over (except the Jags!) So I’m going to play it safe and pick a Jags game, and with them scheduled to host the Eagles in 2018 – a team with a large UK fanbase but who are one of the few teams not to have played in the UK before – I think it would be great to see Philly in the UK!