NFL International Series 2014 @ Wembley Stadium part II

This will be the first International Series game from Wembley Stadium screened live across all of America and a great chance for the European’s (because we’d be kidding ourselves if we just thought the plucky Brit’s know how to get to London) to show NFL fans in the USA that we can put down our cups of tea long enough to enjoy 3 hours of football and make some (a lot of) noise.
20 14 is the 8th year of the International Series at Wembley and the first time 3 regular season games are played in London, so the NFL certainly seem to think there’s a future for the game here and with talk of a franchise taking up residence in Wembley before the decade is out this week’s announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gorge Osborne that the British Government would help the NFL in any way they can to start a franchise in London (anyone would think there was an election coming up) was certainly exciting. Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith said the NFL is an “expansion mode” it seems like the NFL owners and Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell, albeit more circumspectly said “Absolutely, I do think it’s possible”. So that’s the Government and the coaches on board too, after the Dolphins win earlier in the season Mike Wallace said he’d certainly like to play at Wembley more often and 2010 49ers defensive back Nate Clements said the atmosphere at Wembley was one of the best he’s ever played in, looks like the players like it too. Just the fans and the journalists to convince then, although I’ve met 2 American fans in the last 2 seasons who seemed to enjoy themselves, one was a guy flying back from his honeymoon in Italy who happened to be a Vikings fan so surprised his new wife with a trip to watch the Vikings play the Steelers and the other was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan so taken by the by the beer at Wembley he couldn’t speak by the end of the Dolphins and Raiders game last month.
The first episode of the 2014 International Series was embarrassing for the Raiders who lost 38-14 to an, until then fairly average Dolphins team, the NFL and must have been completely mortifying for Dennis Allen who was fired when he returned to Oakland (although many of the fans at Wembley would have preferred it if that’d happened at the end of the 2nd Quarter, not the end of their bye week). I like to think of the NFL as a benevolent Grandparent, you know the sort, the ones who fill you full of cake and fizzy drinks before returning you to your fraught parents just in time for dinner, so they can’t have been overly pleased with the demonstration the UK had of their product on that occasion either. This is their chance to atone for what became a one-sided tragedy for the nominal home team in October, this time promises a clash of 2 teams full of superstars (although if they’re fit to play is another story). Lions major downfield threat in the pass game Calvin Johnson is doubtful with an ankle injury he’s been carrying since week 3, in turn the Falcons star wide receiver has been struggling with an injury since week 6.
The most fascinating part of this game will be how the Falcons 5th ranked passing attack will fare against the Lions 6th ranked pass defence because only the Lions run defence is ranked higher in the league. The Lions run defence is the 3rd best in the league and the Falcons rushing attack has been pretty ordinary so far this season and is ranked 24th, the Lions own running game has been even worse though and they’re ranked 31st!
It’s impossible to predict the winner of this game because while the Falcons are coming off the back of 4 losses the Lions haven’t really played a team with the Falcons ability to score big points quickly. If the Lions are insouciant with possession as they have been early in the season then the Falcons defence will capitalise and the Lions defence might be tested more than they have been by most teams this season.
Both teams have played the Saints this season and both games went to the wire, with the Lions winning by the odd point in 47 and the Falcons going on to win 37-34 in OT, so if history is anything to go by this should be a closer contest than the Dolphins and Raiders provided us overseas fans with in October.

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