The NFL International Series intends to drive up European interest in American football so the league can eventually place a team full-time team in London.
If Roger Goodell wants to globalize the NFL, however, this Sunday’s subpar matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings, both with 0-3 records, might not be the most exciting way to achieve that goal.
Since 2007, the NFL has played one regular-season game per year across the Atlantic. This year, with eyes locked on to the profits of a Euro-based team more than ever, the league will play two games at Wembley Stadium.
This year, there are two overseas games, the second on Oct. 27, between the San Francisco 49ers and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars franchise has been thrown around in conversations about relocating an existing NFL team overseas.
Goodell can only just sit there and hope Adrian Peterson has a remarkable day or else this game won’t quite pan out to how it was billed when the teams were first announced in October of last year.
After that announcement, the Vikings went 10-6, making it to the first round of the playoffs on the back of an MVP season for Peterson. The Steelers had an 8-8 season, and though they missed out on the playoffs, they were far from the team they are right now. They still had some star power.
The Vikings can and should continue to rely on Peterson’s legs as long as they are attached to his hips. He is the only shining light on the offensive side of the ball they have.
The Vikings are having a severe lack of quarterback production with Christian Ponder only throwing for two touchdowns so far this season. To make matters worse, it has been reported back-up Matt Cassel will start on Sunday to replace Ponder, who has a fractured rib.
In Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger has the same load to carry as Peterson. The only problem is Roethlisberger, now 31, is much closer to his breaking point. While he is still a tremendous athlete, he doesn’t have much to work with anymore now that his deep threat receiver Mike Wallace is gone, and the Steelers running game is virtually non-existent.
Steelers rookie running back Le’Veon Bell will be in the lineup for the first time this regular season after suffering a foot injury. This could provide some sort of life for the Steelers offense, but like everything else about this game on Sunday, there is no way of knowing what will happen. Roethlisberger, for one, remains skeptical about Bell’s potential impact.
There is a lot of uncertainty heading into the first act of the 2013 NFL International Series on Sunday. One thing that should be clear, however, is that either the Vikings or the Steelers will be leaving London with their first win of the season.
Unless the game ends in a tie, in which case the NFL should just forget about London all together.