London Calling in 2019

2 Jan 2019 – Updated following NFL confirmation of home team opponents.

The NFL has released the names of the home teams for the 2019 NFL International Series games and we have: the Jags, Raiders, Rams, Chargers and the Bucs. All of these bar the Bucs were to be expected as part of current deals with the NFL on the recent or upcoming franchise moves (Rams and Chargers to LA, Raiders to Vegas) or the Jags long-term commitment to London up to 2020. Four of the five match ups will be in London (2 at Wembley, 2 at the new Spurs stadium) with the fifth in Mexico City.
The question now is who will they play and there are some pointers here and we can take an educated guess to narrow the field down a bit. Let’s work on the assumption that the NFL will not select any direct divisional games, there have only been 2 of these since 2007.
Then look at how the fixture list pans out during the 2019 season.
AFC East vs AFC North AFC East v NFC East
AFC West vs AFC South AFC North vs NFC West
NFC East vs NFC North AFC South vs NFC South
NFC West vs NFC South AFC West vs NFC North

Plus games where 1st place plays 1st place across the divisions in each conference (and so on 2nd plays 2nd etc.).
That gives quite a list of possibilities so (and here comes a big assumption) let’s second guess the NFL that they will seek to include teams who have not recently been involved in the International Series. (Updated plus we now have confirmation of the home team opponents for 2019 season).
2018 Eagles, Titans, Seahawks
2017 Ravens, Saints, Dolphins, Cardinals, Vikings, Browns
2016 Colts, Giants, Redskins, Texans (Mexico), Bengals
2015 Jets, Bills, Lions, Chiefs

If you plug all that in then this is what you get in terms of possible opponents:
Jags – Chiefs, Jets,
Chargers – Packers, Steelers, Texans
Rams – Bengals, Bears,
Bucs – 49ers, Texans,
Raiders – Bengals, Bears, Lions

(Update – this narrows the field considerably, perhaps more-so  than i should, but let’s go with it.)

Out of those I think there are a few more assumptions which could be made which will help us further. The Packers have never played in London so ink them in, and I think it will be the Raiders playing in Mexico. As the Raiders played Texans in 2016 in Mexico I doubt this would be the match up again and the Texans may well be London-bound. I also doubt the NFL would put high profile match ups in a London slot (casts doubt on a Rams v Bears) Finally the International Series is usually a mix of inter- and intra- conference games. Taking all that into account I think this gives us:
Chicago Bears @ Oakland Raiders (Mexico City)
Green Bay Packers @ LA Chargers (London)
Cincinnati Bengals @ LA Rams (London)
Three down and two to go. The Texans have also never been to London so this leads me to:
Houston Texans @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (London) (Although I’d also love the 49ers in this slot)
One left (Jags) and this is a straight 50/50 toss up Jets or Chiefs, so let’s go Gang Green:
New York Jets @ Jacksonville Jaguars (London)

What do we think of those as the potential 2019 NFL International Series? From the perspective of London games would love to see Packers  over for the first time and the Texans with Deshaun Watson, and the Jets with Sam Darnold. Four of these sides would also have new Head Coaches. I’d be certainly in the queue for tickets. Can’t wait to see what the actual fixtures look like!

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