Sam's Commentary

December 13, 2016 Commentary Archive

Jaguars vs. Ravens, London 2017

by Sam Kouvaris
Posted December 13, 2016 ===========================================================================

While we know the Jaguars will be playing in London next year and through 2020, tomorrow morning the NFL will announce the Jaguars opponent and the other three games to will be played in the UK.

Looking at the Jaguars home schedule for 2017 it will be a surprise if their opponent next year at Wembley is not the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are one of eight teams in the league that have not played a London game and Owner Steve Bisciotti has said he's anxious for his club to participate in the International Series.

"I would absolutely love going to London," Bisciotti said last year. "I think it would be great. Hopefully it would be the time of year that we could get a lot of fans over there, whether it be near Christmas or near Thanksgiving, or September when the weather is still beautiful, even in the U.K. I'm all for it. I think it would be a blast."

Next year's home and away opponents are already set, with the exception of the last place teams in the AFC East and West (Jets and Chargers for now.) With the Ravens on the schedule as a visitor in 2017, they're the logical opponent to play in London next year.

Since the Jaguars are London's "home" team, Owner Shad Khan has said they'll always play at Wembley Stadium with its 90,000-seat capacity. Traveling to London to play a home game currently accounts for nearly 20% of the Jaguars yearly revenue through sponsorship and ticket sales.

It's possible the Jaguars will play a second game in London in the future as the visitor but not in 2017. The league is expected to announce two games at Wembley and two at Twickenham Cricket Field for next year. In 2018, two games will by hosted by Tottenham Hotspurs' new home field White Hall Lane.

When the Jaguars/Ravens game will be played probably won't be announced until March or April with the release of the full NFL schedule. They've played in the middle of the season with a bye week following, but this year's game against the Colts was in week four. The Jaguars organization seemed to like that with better weather and the early season trip. Indianapolis didn't take their bye the week after London as teams have done in the past, so the Jaguars will study that as a possibility instead of taking their bye after the first quarter of the season.

Since the International Series was started in 2007 the Ravens haven't been involved. The others teams are the Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans.

This year the Browns are expected to host a game in London with Miami and New Orleans facing off in a third contest. The fourth game will no doubt involve at least one of the other teams that have never been overseas.

With financial help from the league, Khan has said the list of teams wanting to play in the UK has grown. "It used to be nobody wanted to go. Now everybody wants to be a part of it," he said earlier this year.

The league is looking to expand its reach globally, and returned to Mexico for the first time in a decade this season. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Jaguars at some point were a "visitor" for an International Series game in Germany or Spain, two destinations Khan has mentioned in the past. They won't give up another home game in Jacksonville according to team president Mark Lamping.

In each of the last three seasons the NFL has had three games in London to sold-out crowds. With four games in 2017, the league will have played 21 games there since the inaugural one in 2007.

"London staging a fourth NFL game is fantastic news -- not only for the millions of sports fans who get to enjoy our iconic stadiums -- but also because it confirms our status as the go-to choice for hosting the world's biggest sporting events," said Mayor Khan.

American football in the U.K. is booming. Sunday television audiences have more than doubled, and the Super Bowl audience has increased more than 75 percent. According to internal NFL research, the U.K. has almost 4 million avid fans, with a growing fan base of more than 13 million.

Critics of the International Series liken the NFL games in London to "circus performances and ice shows." In the UK they, "cheer for punts and kicks more than touchdowns" one critic wrote. That might have been the case early in the series, particularly when the league played preseason games in London but no longer. The fans at Jaguars games, originally just NFL UK fans glad to be at a live game, have warmed to the Jaguars as their home team. The Jaguars home black is the predominant jersey at the games.

The NFL is scheduled to make the announcement before 10AM on Tuesday, December 13.


Commentary by Sam Kouvaris

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