🏈 8 teams, 4 games, 2 stadiums – NFL London is back for 2019 for a tour that concludes with two fixtures at Wembley Stadium. Tickets are available.
By Jack Nevill
American Football first graced our shores with the ill-fated sojourn of NFL Europe in the 1980’s. An entertaining but doomed project, it sparked the fire of interest in the sport in this country and set the table for the international series in 2007.
12 years, and 24 games later, with mostly sellout crowds, we arrive in 2019 with four more games including two at Wembley Stadium.
Match 2 of NFL London – Sunday 3 November at 2.30pm.
Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars
The final game of NFL London 2019 sees two division rivals face off. Regular expats Jacksonville Jaguars once again sacrifice a home game to play in London, and will hope they are similarly successful this year having purged themselves of incumbent starting quarterback Blake Bortles in favour of Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. With Foles out of the side due to injury dashing rookie Gardner Minshew has excited the Jacksonville crowds, so whoever starts at Wembley will give plenty of reasons for optimism that the Jaguars can scale the heights of two years ago when they came within one play of reaching the Super Bowl.
The issues for Houston Texans can be seen from space, as superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson gets hit and sacked far too much. A new contract for standout center Nick Martin and a blockbuster trade for star left tackle Laremy Tunsil, will give hope that the issue can be fixed so Watson can thrive. The Jaguars still maintain many of the defensive pieces that made them so terrifying two years ago, and have vast experience with making the trip to London to play games. With Watson at the helm, the Texans will believe they can beat anyone at any time in any stadium, just as long as they can keep him standing.
Players to watch
Houston: JJ Watt. After repeated injuries that had pundits worrying for his long term future in the NFL, JJ Watt came storming back last year, looking very close to his old self. So much so that the Texans felt confident enough to trade fellow defensive star Jadeveon Clowney. A threat on every snap he plays, stopping Watt must be the focus for the Jaguars offensive plan.
Jacksonville: Jalen Ramsey. Cornerback has become a glamour position in the modern NFL and there are very few players who exemplify this better than Ramsey. A polarising figure, but undoubtedly an elite player, his battle with Texans wide receiver Deandre Hopkins will be the main event of this contest.
Match 1 of NFL London at Wembley – Sunday 27 October at 5pm.
Cincinnati Bengals v Los Angelas Rams
Result: Wembley’s first game of the 2019 NFL season finished 24-10 to a Los Angeles Rams side inspired by wide receiver Cooper Kupp who caught seven passes for 220 yards and a touchdown.
First up the Los Angeles Rams, Super Bowl runners-up with newly minted $100 million quarterback Jared Goff in their line-up, face-off against the Cincinnati Bengals and their brave new world.
Gone is Bengals’ long-time head coach Marvin Lewis, replaced by the young, exciting offensive-minded Zac Taylor, plucked from the staff of his opponent Sean McVay, with the idea to inject new life into veteran starting quarterback Andy Dalton as the Bengals embark on their rebuilding project.
Cincinnati Bengals may may wish to look across the field for some tips to expedite a rebuild; McVay and his staff in just their second year together engineered a scintillating Super Bowl run, the Rams falling at the last hurdle to the New England Patriots. They will be hoping to go one better this year and a win in London is a necessary step on that road. For the Bengals, wins themselves are less important as Taylor tries to build a culture for long term success – nevertheless with their experience of London games, ruling them out would be a fool’s errand. But their job at hand is easier said than done, the Rams bringing with them a host of superstars from across across the pond to start the match as heavy favourites.
Players to watch
Rams: Aaron Donald. The reigning defensive player of the year, and considered by many as the best player on the planet, will bring his usual brand of destruction to London. A truly unstoppable force on the defensive line, if the Bengals hope to have a chance Donald must be contained.
Bengals: John Ross. The fastest man in the NFL had a tough start to his NFL career, but has begun to turn the tide as Zac Taylor seems to have injected rocket fuel into his already lightning induced feet. Blink and you will miss him, he is truly a box office player.
🏈 Match 1: Cincinnati Benglas v Los Angeles at 5pm
🏈 Match 2: Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars at 2.30pm
🎟️ Tickets in advance are available via the ‘Get Tickets’ link.
🎟️ Tickets on the door for NFL London at Wembley are subject to availability. Checking the NFL UK Twitter feed before travelling is recommended.
🚊🚗 Travel tips: The closest tube station to The SSE Arena is Wembley Park which is in Zone 4 and on the Metropolitan and Jubilee Lines. It’s less than a 5//10 minute walk. Upon exiting the station via the lift or stairs, pass under the tunnel onto Olympic Way. When reaching Wembley Stadium (do not walk up the ramps) turn right. Wembley Arena is situated across the road. Car parking is also available. See this venue guide for full travel options.