Why Is The NFL Going To London?

The San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos will be playing in Wembley Stadium today. Obviously, the league didn’t anticipate the complete collapse of the 49ers and that they’d be starting Troy Smith at QB, or that Denver would be coming off a game where they gave up 59 points to Oakland. But setting aside the specifically quality of the matchups, why did they choose San Francisco and Denver?

These teams face some of the more difficult travel schedules anyway, without an additional game overseas.  Denver is the only team that plays virtually every road game, every year, in a different time zone (well, with the extremely rare occasion of games against Arizona with the daylight savings shift).

Three years ago, Doug Drinen posted late season versus early season splits.  The aforementioned Denver showed the largest decline late in the year, while second on the list is Dallas. I’m guessing nothing they’ve done in the last three seasons has changed that (but don’t blame Romo, McDaniel or whoever else, it has been happening for years).  I opined that it may have something to do with cumulative travel fatigue, with Denver always playing in other time zones, and Dallas geographically misplaced in the NFC East.  Here’s a statistic (outcome? it involves wins):

  • Teams that have played six games outside their own time zone in the first 12 weeks are only 17-41 (0.293) on the road for the rest of the season.
  • Teams that have played one or fewer games outside their own time zone in the first 12 weeks are 28-23 (0.549) on the road for the rest of the season.

Some of that is probably also tied up in playing teams from similar climates for teams that rarely change time zones, but still.  I’m not going to complain about the general idea of playing a game in London to expand markets.  I am, though, wondering why they don’t send East Coast teams that often get to take bus trips and rarely make lengthy road trips.

* Photo of Jimmy Clausen as a Teletubby for Halloween via

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