NFL: Lions and Falcons out to impress on Wembley debut
Who would have thought it? The NFL is making a huge splash in England. American popular culture has always fascinated us English, but whilst our music charts are filled with the newest American teen stars and our TVs are constantly broadcasting American sitcoms, American sport has not had an easy ride across the Atlantic. Really, promoting the NFL in England would be about as hopeless as promoting the Premier League in the US….
So in the same month, the Premier League are exploring plans to play in the US, and on the back of Wembley hosting three NFL games this year instead of the regular one-off, there are even noises of a London NFL franchise. Finally, the best of American sport is finally beginning to capture the minds of us English. So here is your guide to this weekend’s NFL game at Wembley, and your invitation to jump on the English NFL bandwagon.
The first NFL game at Wembley this season (Miami Dolphins vs Oakland Raiders) was a particularly unglamorous matchup between two teams with slim playoff aspirations, but the Falcons vs Lions game is on a whole different level.
Falcons win +170
Lions win -200
(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)
Atlanta brings perhaps one of the most exciting NFL offenses to England, however their very leaky defense has been the catalyst for four losses in a row that has seen a promising start slump to 2-5, and Matt Ryan’s aesthetically pleasing passing game has been far less successful on the road in comparison to his scintillating home performances. The Falcons are not the team they were at the beginning of September, and some serious changes are needed, but if Ryan and their offense can find their best form, they are certainly a danger. Let’s put it this way, even on current form, they are no Oakland Raiders… It’s a big game for Atlanta, since their playoff aspirations desperately need resuscitating, and anything other than a win at Wembley to end their 0-4 slump could leave the Falcons season flatlining.
The Detroit Lions provide them with a genuinely fascinating test at Wembley, boasting the 1st ranked defense in the NFL and an impressive 5-2 record. They have a plethora of established offensive talent including last season’s Superbowl winner Golden Tate, legendary running back Reggie Bush, and ‘Megatron’, aka Calvin Johnson, a wide receiver with incredible physical prowess that more than deserves his robotic nickname (though he is doubtful for this weekend with an ankle injury). Make no mistake, this team has genuine Super Bowl potential, and could potentially be the best NFL team to ever cross the Atlantic. However, their season has been plagued by a less than impressive offensive line, which has meant that quarterback Matthew Stafford has not been able to get his talented offense going thus far, having been sacked a whopping 24 times already this season. If the Falcons defensive line can put pressure on Stafford, this game may be far closer than it’s lining up to be on paper.
Realistically the Falcons are up against it here, and statistical indicators suggest that Atlanta don’t really have the weapons to put the kind of pressure on Matthew Stafford to keep the Lions offense quiet. The Atlanta offense faces it’s toughest test yet, and on current form, the Falcons best chance of gaining any decent field position is through a repetitive series of 4th down punts. The Lions, on the other hand, could finally showcase their offensive talent against a very questionable Atlanta defense, and run out clear winners here. Expect to see plenty of points and entertainment, but Detroit to run out clear winners. It’s likely this will be the game that the NFL world starts taking the Lions’ Super Bowl chances very seriously.
Betting Instinct tip – Back the Lions -3.5 at -115 with AllYouBet.ag
SCOTT SIMPKIN is a young sports journalist from the UK with a growing interest in sports in the US, particularly American football and Baseball. He has previously contributed to publications including Palatinate Online and FourFourTwo