Here it is then – perhaps the most anticipated game in London’s 11 years as an NFL host. The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles going up against the Jacksonville Jaguars in their second home – Wembley Stadium.
As always the city is brimming with jerseys and woolly hats in the colours of every franchise, but a lot of Eagles fans have made the 3,500-mile trip from Philly, and the Jags are always well represented in London. This is their fifth appearance in the English capital.
For the Eagles this is a brand new experience. In one hour they’ll become the 29th NFL team to turn out in London. Just the Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans are left. Traditionally teams have struggled when visiting London for the first time. Of the 16 franchises to have played just one game here, nine have lost, two have tied and just five have won.
If you want to read our in-depth preview of where this game will be won and lost you can do so here, but here’s the long and short of it: we’ve got two teams who came into the season among the Super Bowl favourites, but both find themselves struggling at 3-4. In other divisions defeat here would probably spell disaster, but the Jags’ AFC South and Eagles’ NFC East are the two weakest in football. That said, a win here in London could be exactly what each side needs to get their season back on track. We’re not going to call it a must-win, just a really-would-be-very-nice-to-win. Bit less catchy, I know.
The game may well hinge on which Blake Bortles shows up. If he plays like he has in October – which is statistically the worst quarterback in the league – Jacksonville barely stand a chance. However, if he plays like he usually does in London we’re in for a treat. The Jaguars have averaged 36 points per game in London over the last three seasons, winning each time. Last year Bortles threw for 244 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions in a 44-7 mauling on the much-fancied Baltimore Ravens.
Another key will be whether Carson Wentz can take advantage of Jacksonville’s depleted secondary. Second team All-Pro corner AJ Bouye is out, as are Tylar Hatmon and DJ Hayden. That leaves Jalen Ramsey back there with three undrafted rookies. Ramsay can’t cover everyone at once, and you’d back one or both of Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery to have a big day.
My prediction? I’d have to go for the Eagles, simply because I think they’re the superior team, and you can’t rely on London Bortles showing up, especially behind a porous offensive line.