This Sunday sees the first of four NFL London games this autumn, with the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium playing the role of host. With the Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders in town, we’ve picked out what football fans should be keeping their eyes on at the weekend.
Khalil Mack is the man good enough to get a $141 million contract, more than any other defensive player in the NFL. And he’s worth every penny. What’s more, he came from the Raiders last season in a trade that seemed odd at the time, and even more baffling today, given his talent.
But it’s not just Mack. While he’s the talisman of this Bears defense, it’s a fearsome unit and arguably the most destructive in the league. Factor in the likes of Roy Robertson-Harris and Roquan Smith and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will need a whole heap of protection in London on Sunday. Last week, in their match against the Vikings, the Bears defense didn’t allow a point until the 2:58 mark of the fourth quarter. The Monsters of the Midway are well and truly back.
The Raiders head coach is not for everyone. Considered an offensive innovator during his first stint in Oakland and the Bucs he then spent 10 years away from the field working as an analyst at ESPN for Monday Night Football. Hugely insightful and extremely popular in his broadcasting role, the decision to rehire him – with a 10-year, $100 million contract, no less – raised a lot of eyebrows.
This is now the man expected to lead the team when they move to their new home in Las Vegas next season, and he certainly has the charisma to do that, the question is whether he’s been left behind tactically given his time out of the game. Either way, he’s box office, and any casual fans tuning in should be steered towards his entertaining press conferences.
In the NFL, “getting the W” or “getting the dub”, means winning. And should the Bears win on Sunday, their players will be heading to the “Club Dub” – a ritual that sees their locker room filled with a dj, smoke machines and strobe lighting so everyone can celebrate the “dub” in style.
Currently sitting at 3-1, entry for Club Dub is becoming increasingly popular. Having begun last season, it’s properly kicked on with the team’s winning record thus far. There could be a north London branch of the club opening come Sunday night.
In 2015 Tottenham Hotspur signed an agreement with the NFL that ensured they’d host a minimum of two NFL games per year for the next 10 years. In the design for the new stadium there was a hefty NFL focus, with the retractable soccer pitch making way for an artificial football field underneath. There are NFL-specific locker rooms and an NFL-specific media centre, while its NFL Shop is the largest NFL retail space outside of the US.
Games at Wembley have been incredibly successful, so there’s a lot to live up to, but Spurs have pitched their stadium as the future home of NFL in this country. They’ve invested a huge amount of time and money into this, and it’s already a year behind given the delay in completing construction, so this has to get well for the club. Expect them to put on a show.
Chicago Bears @ Oakland Raiders
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Kickoff 18:00 BST
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