The Jacksonville Jaguars will be playing at least one game per year in London for the foreseeable future. In the past, those games have been against teams we play infrequently. The first two against the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys were awful because the Jaguars were awful and those teams weren't. And while this year's game against the Buffalo Bills was close, it was still two struggling teams taking swings at one another. Fortunately for London fans, the final swing came with a diving catch by Allen Hurns in the final minute of the game.
But on Wednesday morning, the NFL announced that the Jaguars would be taking one of their 2016 home division games against the Indianapolis Colts and moving it to London. While the initial reaction was negative because, well, it's a divisional rivalry, my initial reaction was somewhere between neutral and positive.
This was going to happen eventually. It had to. There's no way the NFL would have let Shad Khan just keep cashing the Wembley checks without giving up a little more. Now fans in London get to see a game that actually means a little more. They know division record could come into play when deciding who goes to the playoffs.
But more than that, London fans get a game where the two teams know each other better. When I talked with Stevie Howlin (@IrishJaguar) at the Thursday Night Football tailgate, he said what got him into football in the first place was the strategy of it all. He compared it to a chess game.
Unlike free-flowing sports that dominate the UK like soccer, rugby, and hurling, there's a start-and-stop quality to football that is completely unique. I'd imagine many in London are like Stevie in that they enjoy the strategic aspect of American football and would like a game where that strategy is deepened due to these teams playing each other twice a year every year.
Second, taking the Colts game away from the home schedule doesn't put you at the ticket-selling disadvantage moving most other games would. Plus, most of the other home games are actually pretty attractive matchups that would be a bummer to miss out on.
The home opponents for the Jaguars next year are as follows:
Green Bay Packers
AFC North opponent
As far as the Texans and Titans, one of those will probably be our annual nationally televised game.
That leaves the Packers whose fans travel incredibly well, the Raiders and Vikings (and why would you want to give up Blake Bortles vs. Derek Carr or Blake Bortles vs. Teddy Bridgewater?), the Denver Broncos who will be AFC West winners by season's end, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, or Baltimore Ravens.
tl;dr -- I don't mind an AFC South game moving to London because it gives UK fans a better game and most of our other home opponents would help with selling tickets more than the Colts.