The Jacksonville Jaguars will once again play overseas, taking one home game to London. Now the question is who will Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer face in their first international game?
The news of the Jaguars having a London home game scheduled for 2021 was first reported by The Athletic's Dan Kaplan. The Jaguars were supposed to play two of their eight home games in London last year before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all international games. Now, they are seemingly set to host one of nine home games overseas in one of the most anticipated Jaguars seasons in some time.
The Jaguars are 3-4 in games played in London since 2013, including a 26-3 loss to the Houston Texans in 2019. The history in London hasn't always been kind, but the Jaguars have remained a fixture and look set to do the same in 2021.
So, which teams make the most sense as the Jaguars' opponent in London? We look at the potential options below.
The only AFC South opponent the Jaguars haven't played overseas, the Jaguars are bound to lose a home game against their bitter divisional rivals sooner than later. The Titans have played in London recently, though, playing the Chargers in a 20-19 loss in October 2018. Still, Derrick Henry is one of the NFL's biggest stars and he has a history of giant games against the Jaguars, which could play a factor all by itself.
This should be a low likelihood since the Jaguars already lost a home divisional game to the Colts in 2016. Jaguars fans should also hope this game is played in Jacksonville since the Colts haven't won at TIAA Bank Field since the 2014 season. With that said, that is the only time the Colts have ever played in an international game. They are due for another one soon, so this may be a bit more likely than a few other options.
I don't think we see the Jaguars and Texans play in London for a few reasons. Firstly, the Texans are widely projected to be one of the NFL's worst teams in 2021 and it remains to be seen who their starting quarterback will be. It just isn't a very attractive game to send to London, especially now that the Jalen Ramsey vs. DeAndre Hopkins matchup is no more. The Texans were also the Jaguars' most recent opponent in London, beating the Jaguars 26-3 in an anticlimatic blowout in November 2019.
One of the teams that haven't played an international game in the last five seasons, the Buffalo Bills seem destined to play outside of the United States sooner than later. The Bills last played in an international game in 2015, but that game was against the Jaguars. The matchup is now much, much more enticing than it was in 2015 considering the quarterbacks will be Trevor Lawrence and Josh Allen instead of Blake Bortles and E.J. Manuel, so that could sway things. Ultimately this doesn't scream like a likely matchup but it seems more probable than most of the other teams on this list.
This one is easy. The Dolphins have one of the biggest identities in the NFL in international games, playing four games outside the United States -- but the last game was in 2017. The Dolphins already had a London date in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all NFL international games and were set to be a designated home team in a contest at Hotspur Stadium in Tottenham. The Dolphins didn't get that game last year, so sending two state rivals with young first-round quarterbacks to London to play each other would make sense. This would be my pick to be the game.
Another team that has played in just one international game, the Cardinals played the Rams in London in 2017 but have otherwise kept all of their games in the United States. The Cardinals were supposed to be a designated home team for a game in Mexico City last year, however, so perhaps the NFL attempts to once again give them a placement on the NFL's international schedule. Plus, this is an easy game to sell to fans overseas due to Kyler Murray and Trevor Lawrence.
The Falcons are technically the Jaguars' extra home game this year, being added this offseason as the NFL made its preparations to move toward a 17-game regular season for each team. The Falcons have only played in London once (2014) and are frequently playing in Jacksonville so in most cases, they would seem like a logical pick to send to London. With this in mind, the Falcons are the other team The Athletic has reported plans to play a home game in London in 2021. The NFL likely wouldn't make them play a home and an away game there in the same season.
San Francisco 49ers
While watching Trevor Lawrence and Trey Lance, the 2021 NFL Draft's No. 1 and No. 3 overall picks respectively, duel overseas would make for an exciting game for the NFL's international fans, I am a bit skeptical the NFL would make this game the London matchup for two reasons. For one, we have already seen the 49ers and the Jaguars play in London. Yes, it was in October 2013 and the two teams have changed dramatically since, but it ultimately just isn't a fresh matchup. Secondly, the 49ers' game against the Jaguars in London eight years ago is the last time the 49ers played the Jaguars in a game in which the Jaguars were the "home" team. As a result, the 49ers haven't played a game in Jacksonville since 2005. As a result, I would expect the NFL puts an end to that 16-year streak in 2021.
Every team in the NFL has played in at least one international game except the Green Bay Packers, but only one team has avoided having to make the trek outside of the United States' borders for a game in the last decade: the Denver Broncos. The Broncos haven't played in an international game since they played the 49ers in London in 2010 -- 11 years ago. With each team having to play at least one game there every eight years starting in 2022, now would be a good time to break up the Broncos' international drought. The Jaguars and Broncos would be a legitimately fresh matchup.