It’s about that time again – the NFL International Series will return in an expanded format for the 2022 NFL season. With Munich also on the horizon, it is a great time to be an NFL fan in Europe and beyond.
What we know so far
As first reported by Ben Fischer from the Sports Business Journal, the NFL will announce the home teams for the London, Germany and Mexico games this coming Monday [February 28th]. This announcement will happen on Monday around 2:30PM Ireland/UK time.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will return to London in 2022, to play their ninth game in the UK. The game will take place at Wembley Stadium. The Jaguars played at Tottenham last year and many fans in the UK, Ireland and beyond will welcome the opportunity to attend a game at Wembley. With a capacity of 90,000, Wembley is considerably larger than Tottenham [62,850] and has hosted NFL regular season games since 2007.
Jeff Duncan, a columnist with The Times-Picayune in Louisiana has stated that the New Orleans Saints expect to play in London in 2022.
With the new scheduling formula approved by NFL owners last year, it seems that the four international matchups in London, Germany and Mexico for 2022 will involve games between NFC and AFC teams directly. For the New Orleans Saints, this would make games against the Bengals, Raiders and Ravens the most likely to be considered for Tottenham Hotspur stadium. The final decision will not be announced until around the NFL schedule release which is usually in mid May.
The other London team for 2022? At the time of writing, this is anyone's guess. However, it is important to look at the new NFL International marketing agreement - The International Home Marketing Areas (IHMA).
The teams that have selected the UK territory include the Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers. If we look at the new agreement and focus on a potential NFC-AFC Matchup, a number of teams stand out due to the new 17 game schedule. Jacksonville are already playing in London this coming season. The Miami Dolphins played in London in 2021, along with the New York Jets. It would not be impossible to suggest that either team would give up a home game again - due to the added focus that both franchises have placed on the international market since the IHMA was launched - for example dedicated social media pages for certain territories - but it would seem that other teams such as the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears would have a better chance due to hosting nine home games this coming season. That being said - New York or Miami could potentially be selected as an away team. We will have to wait until Monday to learn about the final home team for London - with the opponent being announced in the next few months.
Fresh off record viewing figures for Super Bowl LVI, the German market is celebrating the official announcement of Munich and Frankfurt hosting regular season NFL games (in alternate years). The first game will take place at the home of FC Bayern Munich this Autumn. Over 400,000 NFL fans have registered an interest to purchase tickets for the first game. It should be noted that in the first International Series game in 2007, London welcomed the New York Giants (who went on to win the Super Bowl that season) and the Miami Dolphins - two historic franchises in a marquee matchup (Miami finished the season 1-15, though!). There is no doubt that Munich is going to have a big game to kick off the NFL regular season games in Germany. With the success of the European League of Football and huge growth in the market, it is time for the DACH region to enjoy some football on their own turf.
The home team for the first German game will be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Super Bowl Champions in 2020. While Tom Brady has recently retired, the Bucs possess a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball. Tampa Bay selected Germany as part of their international marketing agreement and look set to forfeit one home game in 2022.
The most probable opponent? The Kansas City Chiefs. BILD have reported that this is the most likely scenario for the first game in Germany, before the game moves to Frankfurt for 2023. The prospect of Patrick Mahomes, Mike Evans and Shaquil Barrett playing in Germany should see NFL fans from around Europe flock to Munich for a historic first game in the DACH region. The opponent for the game has not been confirmed and will be disclosed in due course.
The Estadio Azteca will welcome the NFL back after a considerable absence due to COVID-19. The home team is expected to be announced this coming Monday. Reports suggest that the Arizona Cardinals are expected to be named the home team, however this has not been confirmed. The Arizona Cardinals were due to face the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico in 2020, but this was cancelled due to the pandemic. While the new International rules seem to state NFC-AFC matchups, this game could potentially go ahead to rectify this delay - but this is all TBC. There is no indication of either team yet from a reliable source. Note, the Cardinals were the first team to trade a home regular season game to play in Mexico City, beating the 49ers there in 2005.
This has been an intriguing one to analyse and predict. It is great to see not only three London games, but the Munich game is really one to look forward to and I know it will be an incredible moment for the hundreds of thousands of NFL fans in the DACH region when this happens later on in the year. With the home teams being announced this coming Monday, here is my final predictions for the four NFL International Games this year:
Dallas Cowboys at Jacksonville Jaguars [London]
Yes, I think the Cowboys will play in London. I have taken a little bit of heat from fellow Denver Broncos fans for this [the Denver Broncos were slated to play the Atlanta Falcons in 2020 before COVID-19 cancelled] - but I think a marquee team in Dallas coming to London to play in Wembley would be great news for Irish and UK NFL fans. In terms of other NFC teams, sources from Atlanta indicate that while the Falcons would welcome playing in London again soon, they would want to be specified as the away team. The Denver Broncos have placed a considerable amount of resources in the Mexican market and I would expect them to play there. I cannot see the Denver Broncos giving up a home game to play in London. Of course, there is potential here - also with the Las Vegas Raiders and New York Giants for this game. Watch this space. I think the Cowboys would be a game that the NFL fanbase here would be happy about - especially if KC and TB play in Munich.
Cincinnati Bengals at New Orleans Saints [London]
It seems pretty nailed on that we are going to see the Saints be announced as a home team this Monday. Local media are very confident that the team has been notified of this. I honestly can see this game happening in London as I think the ownership of the Saints will want to avoid the Joe Burrow - Ja'Marr Chase LSU invasion at a Saints home game. Neither player is a member of the New Orleans Saints team and the sheer distraction could be a reason to move this game. Also, it is an AFC-NFC matchup per new NFL international rules. If this wasn’t to happen - look for the Saints going up against a Baltimore Ravens or Las Vegas Raiders team. If the Bengals play the Saints in Tottenham - what a matchup in store for fans on this side of the pond.
Miami Dolphins at Chicago Bears [London]
Now this is a much harder one to predict. Both teams are part of the International Marketing initiative for the UK. The Miami Dolphins played in London just last season. The Chicago Bears have nine home games this coming year. There is no way the Bears or the NFL will move the Green Bay Packers game to London (sorry, Packers fans) - would a Miami Dolphins franchise who is clearly trying to develop internationally suit? They have engaged fans in the UK market with dedicated social accounts and have stated the desire to expand. If this game doesn’t happen - it is an intriguing situation, where you could see any team from Minnesota or even the New York Jets make the trip back over. This is one to watch and the path will become more clear on Monday.
Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers [Munich]
What a game. Seriously - what a moment for the German fan base if this happens! - BILD have reported that this game is very likely to happen. It is important to note that BILD were correct with the host cities and other information on the bidding process and they also mentioned this game before Tampa Bay were more deeply rumoured to have been selected. A couple of people/outlets that I have spoken with in the Kansas City market think the game is going to happen and it seems that Munich is destined for an incredible game to kick things off in the DACH region.
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals [Mexico]
The announcement on Monday in regards to home teams will be very interesting - if Arizona is picked for Mexico, I can see the NFL going back on the NFC-AFC rule and giving this game to the Mexican public after it didn't happen due to COVID-19. Time will tell - various teams are interested in the Mexican market, including the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos.
You can follow me on Twitter @Michael_NFL | Note these are predictions until any NFL announcement.