american football by Claude J. Easy August 13, 2021
The NFL is back in the UK this October with two games set to be held at the magnificent Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London.
The first matchup sees the New York Jets taking on the Atlanta Falcons at 2:30 pm on October 10. The following Sunday, October 17, again at 2:30 pm, the Jacksonville Jaguars face off against the Miami Dolphins, two teams that are very familiar with the trip over to London.
This will be the 14th year that the NFL London games have taken place and, along with games hosted in Mexico since 2016, they are a fantastic mechanism to expose new audiences to the NFL.
The London Games have been sell-outs year after year, showing that interest in the NFL in the UK is thriving and future locations for the International Series in Europe look likely given the growth of the game across the Atlantic.
The first matchup between the Jets and the Falcons sees two teams that struggled in 2020 facing off in what both franchises will see as a great chance to get an important win on the board.
The Jets finished a lowly 2-14 last season, whilst the Falcons only managed a 4-12 record, and both sides will be desperate to improve upon that in 2021 and make a playoff push.
This will be the 13th matchup between the teams all-time, with the Falcons having won 7 games to the Jets 5 thus far. Their last meeting came back in 2017 with Atlanta claiming a 25-20 win on the back of 254 passing yards and 2 touchdowns from then-reigning MVP Matt Ryan.
The Jets drafted former BYU QB Zach Wilson with the second overall pick in April’s draft, filling a position of need for them, and new head coach Robert Saleh will be hoping the dynamic signal-caller lives up to the hype he carries in order to build a winning culture in New York.
The selection of USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker with the 14th pick will be a big help in protecting Wilson too, joining an offensive line that already includes 2020 first-round pick, Mekhi Becton.
The Falcons also have a new head coach in 2021, with former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith taking over from Dan Quinn, and he will be thrilled to have added athletic tight-end, and 4th overall selection in the 2021 draft, Kyle Pitts to his roster.
Pitts joins former Alabama wideout Calvin Ridley as first-round weapons available to Ryan and Smith, and there will be much hope in Atlanta that they can rediscover the kind of high-scoring offense that took them to Super Bowl 51.
Atlanta will likely enter this game as the favorite, and UK bettors nationwide will be able to bet on the game live and in-play.
Comparatively, US gamblers can only bet on the game in states where gambling is legal such as New Jersey and Michigan where physical sportsbooks, that often don’t have betting apps or websites, are located inside casinos.
Falcons fans in Georgia are therefore unlikely to be able to bet on their team, whereas UK-based Falcons fans can easily access a betting site or app on their smartphone like 888 Sport, where they can place bets anytime, anywhere due to legalization across the board.
The second NFL London game of the season sees the adopted home team, Jacksonville Jaguars, taking on the Miami Dolphins. Both teams are very familiar with the trip over the pond, with this being the 5th time the Dolphins have featured in London, whilst it will be the 8th time for the Jags, the most of any NFL team.
The teams had vastly different seasons in 2020, with the Dolphins finishing with a 10-6 record under head coach Brian Flores, their first winning season since 2016. Contrastingly, the Jags held an NFL-worst record of 1-15, struggling throughout the year without a franchise quarterback.
Things are looking up in Jacksonville though, as they were able to snag highly touted Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with the 1st overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
Lawrence is a prototypical pro-style QB with great size, arm strength, and accuracy, and his winning mentality coming from Clemson, where he won a national championship in 2018 and ended with a 34-2 win-loss record, have made him one of the most anticipated players to come out of college over the last decade.
Incoming head coach Urban Meyer will be hoping Lawrence can adjust quickly to the NFL game and that having former college teammate Travis Etienne, who they selected with the 25th overall pick, alongside him in the backfield will be a big help to kickstart what was a mediocre offense in 2020.
Jacksonville only managed to post 231.2 passing yards and 19.1 points per game last season, but Lawrence coupled with the addition of Marvin Jones to a receiving corp that already includes pro-bowler DJ Chark, should help to turn that around some this coming year.
The Dolphins also loaded up in the draft, adding speed to their receiving corps in the form of Jaylen Waddle with the 6th overall pick out of Alabama, reuniting him with QB Tua Tagovailoa.
Miami was also able to add former UCLA line-backer Jaelen Phillips to their already stingy defense that allowed just 21.1 points per game in 2020, with the 18th overall pick. The Dolphins will come into the game as strong favorites and looking to win the AFC East.
Two exciting matchups await NFL fans in the UK this year, with another chance to inspire future fans and players of the game, and as ever it will be a fantastic experience for the players from all four franchises to play in an amazing arena in front of passionate fans.
It is especially rare that both the top two draft picks will be traveling over, and UK NFL fans will be in for a treat watching Lawrence and Wilson amongst a myriad of other stars of the game.