Barely 15 hours after Sunday’s defeat at the Carolina Panthers, and despite a three-hour flight delay holding up their departure, New Orleans Saints touched down in London on Monday to signal the start of the NFL’s International Series.
“[I don’t know] what day it is,” defensive end Cameron Jordan tweeted. “But we are here.”
Teams have, since the London Games began in 2007, experimented with different logistical formulas, largely to tackle jet-lag, and in recent years — and, in particular, last year’s Covid-restricted series — the ‘get in, get out’ method has become increasingly popular.
Minnesota Vikings, the Saints’ opponents at Tottenham on Sunday, do not arrive until Friday. Quite aside from the fact that, to any American tourist, a week in London looks a rather more inviting financial proposition than it did a week ago, New Orleans have reverted to the timetable which secured victory in each of their past two trips to the capital, in 2008 and 2017.
Perhaps, they owe it to London, too: Sunday’s upset in Charlotte means the series retains a remarkable record of never having seen two teams with winning records meet.
That could all change next week, however, in what is the most eagerly anticipated game in the capital in years as the Green Bay Packers play their first ever London game and thus complete the full set of 32 NFL franchises visiting the UK.
Both they and the New York Giants sit at 2-1, meaning if both win again this weekend the hoodoo will finally be broken, neatly, at the 32nd time of asking.
The Packers will, of course, bring with them Aaron Rodgers, the first time a reigning MVP will have played in London since running back Adrian Peterson did so for the Vikings almost a decade ago.
The presence of the Packers and Rodgers gives the series the pizzazz it was missing in last year’s underwhelming line up, while the Jaguars’ return to Wembley (they face the Denver Broncos in the third game) seeds familiarity and offers the sense that after several years of disruption, the London Games are ready to return to the high of their debut season at Tottenham in 2019.