When the NFL announced a second game in London for the 2013 season, it seemed like a great match on paper: The Vikings, who at the time were 4-2, and the Steelers, the most successful franchise in league history. Not to mention two great playmakers in Percy Harvin and Mike Wallace.
Fast forward to today and the NFL International Series game is intriguing for all the wrong reasons. Both teams come into Wembley Stadium looking for their first win of the season. Both Harvin and Wallace are gone (to Seattle and Miami, respectively), and their former offenses are much worse because of it. Not the best scenario for the fans in England, but it’s not really a setback for future NFL expansion overseas.
I’ll explain why and explore the idea of an NFL team overseas during Week 8 when Jacksonville and San Francisco play their London game.
Undefeated, Winless Teams
Three weeks in, the league parity seems to be at an all-time high with numerous close finishes. Yet even still, we have seven undefeated and six winless teams entering Week 4. Compare these numbers to the past five seasons:
2013: 7 undefeated (Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, New England, New Orleans, Seattle), 6 winless (Jacksonville, Minnesota, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington)
2012: 3 unbeaten (Arizona, Atlanta*, Houston*), 2 winless (Cleveland, New Orleans)
2011: 3 unbeaten (Buffalo, Detroit*, Green Bay*), 5 winless (Indianapolis, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota, St. Louis)
2010: 3 unbeaten (Chicago*, Kansas City*, Pittsburgh*), 5 winless (Buffalo, Carolina, Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco)
2009: 7 unbeaten (Baltimore*, Denver, Indianapolis*, Minnesota*, New Orleans*, New York Giants, New York Jets*), 7 winless (Carolina, Cleveland, Kansas City, Miami, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Tennessee)
2008: 6 unbeaten (Baltimore*, Buffalo, Dallas, Denver, New York Giants, Tennessee*), 6 winless (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, St. Louis)
NOTE: 2008 Baltimore and Houston were 2-0 and 0-2 at the time. Their Week 3 meeting was postponed due to damage from Hurricane Ike.
To expound on these numbers a bit, the teams with asterisks (*) next to their names made the postseason that year.
Based on just the last five years of data, the winless teams can be counted out of playoff contention right now. A small hole for them to climb out of, but a hole all the same. As far as the undefeated teams are concerned, at least half of them should make the postseason (off the top of my head: Denver, New England, New Orleans, and Seattle look like four sustainable teams).
Fox has the doubleheader this week. In Hampton Roads, it’s Baltimore-Buffalo on CBS instead of the London game. The logical choices for Fox’s early slot are either Seattle-Houston or Chicago-Detroit, but somehow we’re stuck with New York Giants-Kansas City. Washington-Oakland is the late game.
Now let’s pick. Another 11-5 record last week brings my total to 35-13 through three weeks. The luck will run out at some point, just hopefully not anytime soon.
San Francisco over St. Louis
What a telling game. Before the season, I thought that the strength of the NFC West would be from top to bottom. But through three games, the gap between the top (Seattle and San Fran) and the bottom is much larger than expected. I never predicted great things from the Rams offense, but the defense isn’t playing up to par either.
Baltimore over Buffalo
The Ravens offense has reverted back to their regular season style of play: nothing flashy, but enough to win. The defense is still just as solid as 2012′s (if not better) and should handle E.J. Manuel and the Bills.
Cincinnati over Cleveland
Pro Football Talk headlined it best: “Injuries suck.” Though Browns fans may favor Brian Hoyer over Brandon Weeden after last week, they’ll almost certainly see the error of their ways after this week.
Chicago over Detroit
For Detroit, the gameplan will be to get to Jay Cutler early and often and put him off his game. Though the Bears offensive line has improved since last season, I still like their chances to pressure him. But if Charles Tillman and the Bears secondary and shut down Calvin Johnson the way they did last season, the Lions don’t stand a chance.
Kansas City over New York Giants
Justin Houston has had a perfect storm of o-lines to begin the season. After seeing what Carolina did to the Giants front last week, Houston may rack up ten sacks through the first four weeks of the season.
Pittsburgh over Minnesota
Who would’ve thought this game would get the “somebody has to win it” label? Overall, I like Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers receivers to score enough through the air.
Arizona over Tampa Bay
Neither team is playing well on either side of the ball, but the fact that Tampa Bay is favored to win is laughable to me. I’d take the Cards nine times out of ten, especially with rookie Mike Glennon under center for the Bucs.
Indianapolis over Jacksonville
Andrew Luck and the Colts usually don’t go for style points in their wins. But last week’s win in San Francisco was very impressive. This week they should return to form, however: a close, yet manageable win.
Seattle over Houston
New York Jets over Tennessee
Denver over Philadelphia
Yes, the Eagles offense has lost some of its luster from the season opener, but what about their defense which looked great in the first half against Washington and deteriorated ever since? Peyton Manning should roll again today.
Washington over Oakland
The Redskins finally get their first win of the season, but only by default. Losing to the Raiders looks just as bad as it sounds.
San Diego over Dallas
Dallas looked great at home last week against St. Louis, but what are we to make of the Rams now? I’m not sure what will happen exactly, but something will go wrong for them on the road.
Atlanta over New England
New Orleans over Miami
The MNF game sells itself as a battle of 3-0 teams, but does anyone outside of Miami really see the Dolphins going into the Superdome and beating the Saints? They may keep it close, but my money’s still on Drew Brees and company.
Record (Week): 10-6
Record (Season): 45-19