Here’s What to Expect From London
When in London, any self-respecting Ravens fan will surely visit the Tower of London – also known as the ‘Bloody Tower’ for its murderous past – to see the captive ravens who reside in its grounds.
Legend has it that if the birds fly their nest, the monarchy and kingdom will fall. Next time you see “London Has Fallen” in a poster, the prefix “the blockbuster sequel to”, may not be there. You’ll know why, Baltimore; you’ll know why.
You can’t escape towers of London. Wembley Stadium, the jewel in Britain’s sporting crown, previously had twin towers forming an iconic sight as you walked up Wembley Way with the throng toward the stadium. They are gone now, replaced by an arch visible from thirty miles away on Surrey’s North Downs on a sunny day.
Football has been big over here since the mid-80s when the Giants had Bill Parcells and a decent side. We’ve been with you from Dan Marino and Joe Montana all the way through to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. We even know about ‘Deflategate’ and we even know who the pundits are. Or were in their playing days, which is probably the biggest sign of progress.
The first game staged in London, outside of the maligned NFL Europe, was a decade ago when the Giants beat the Dolphins 13 – 10. Since then, the annual shindig averages a crowd of 84k which in a 92,000-seat capacity stadium (a) is good, and (b) close to putting the “Sold Out” signs over the ticket office.
As opposed to the “Souled Out” criticism which met the initial decision of the NFL to stage a regular season game abroad. We feel your pain; English soccer contemplated a ‘39th game’ in much the same way the NFL considered the ‘17th game’. Ours has gone away, for the moment but it will rear its’ head again in the future.
Ravens set to fly?
You’ll find all the familiar names over here: hotdogs, burgers, Budweiser; sorry, we’re not perfect. The Superbowl is a big event, covered live on television but we don’t go overboard. No tailgate barbeques for us. Not, as you might think, through a display of ‘British reserve’. It’s bloody cold at 2am on a February morning and aside from hypothermia, you’ll also get the police knocking on the door.
We do, however, watch the game and follow the sport generally. Most people will have their favorite football team. The popularity of the matches, expanded to four matches in London last year, underlines the strength of the NFL’s UK footprint.
And there’s real interest in the Ravens at the Jaguars. It may seem that this is notionally a home game but it’s the fourth year Jacksonville has crossed the pond to London. Their record of 2 and 2 fits with their overall record in recent years. In fact, it’s considerably better than their overall record and it’s not hard to see why they are 33/1 to win the AFC outright. Even as an each-way bet, it’s a punt.
Their defense improved last season but they needed to improve their offense in the draft. To some extent they did with the acquisition of Cam Robinson, the Alabama Tackle, and LSU Running back, Leonard Fournette. The interesting addition came later in the draft with Blair Brown, Ohio’s Linebacker. It’s a formidable trio on paper with Myles Jack and Tevin Smith. The question is whether Brown’s pace is the missing ingredient which lifts the Jaguars off the foot of the AFC South table at the end of the regular season.
And what of the Ravens? Superbowl XLVII still lives in our memory and many favor a good season at M&T Bank Stadium. Quite what you’ll make of Wembley if you choose to visit is interesting. It’s not in the centre of London and a schlep; around thirty minutes by underground train; half that on the overground.
Returning to that level this season isn’t out of the question, just a long shot. At +1600.00 to win the AFC North outright according to bookies (odds correct as of May 8th), the Ravens look good for a wild card place at the very least.
The draft reinforces that view although overall, the division seemed to make a good set of picks. Nico Siragusa looks set to drop into the starters on the offensive line. The concern must be that no wide receiver arrived. Can they ‘make do and mend’ as we like to say?
The game will be interesting and coming relatively early into the season, offers the prospect of a quick recovery for the defeated.
And Baltimore, when the headcount is carried out on the players return, if you’re a six short and you’ve checked the plane thoroughly, contact the Royal Family. The Ravens, after all, can never leave the Tower.