London’s Calling! The Seahawks and Raiders answered. That’s right folks, the annual event that is the NFL UK games officially starts on Sunday evening, and promises to be a smash hit. Unlike the early years of the NFL UK series, this game will be played at 6pm, to slot in with the rest of the games stateside. UK fans will get the chance to see two struggling teams fight to keep their seasons alive tomorrow.
The Oakland Raiders, in what is possibly their last year as the Oakland Raiders, not the Las Vegas Raiders, are having a poor season. They sit bottom of the AFC West with a 1-4 record. Big things were expected of the Raiders due to the return of Jon Gruden as head coach, but things have gone south fast.
Gruden got rid of star defensive player Khalil Mack during preseason, a move which thoroughly angered the Raiders fans. The fans were upset at a heavy 33-13 loss to the Rams on opening day, though they weren’t thoroughly surprised given the strength of their opposition. A last second defeat to divisional rivals the Denver Broncos hurt their pride, with a shock loss to the Miami Dolphins denting their confidence even lower. They got their first win of the year in OT against a tiring Cleveland Browns side, but last weekend’s loss to the LA Chargers has made their playoff hunt a near impossibility.
The Seattle Seahawks are faring better than their Sunday opponents, though are still well off the pace. Despite their mediocre 2-3 record, they sit second in the NFC West. They started the season 0-2 after defeats to the Broncos and the Bears. They fought back to 2-2 after wins over the Cowboys and Cardinals before losing narrowly to the Rams last weekend.
So who are the ones to watch this weekend? The big star in this game is Marshawn Lynch. Beast Mode was a big player for the Seattle Seahawks for years, helping them win their first and only Super Bowl in 2014. He is getting on in years, but he still has his magic. When he runs, players bounce off him. He might not be the 100+ yard-a-game back that he used to be, but he can still cross the goal line.
Neither quarterback has been vintage in the early weeks of the year. The Seahawks have lost Jimmy Graham to the Packers, while Michael Crabtree has swapped Oakland for Baltimore. Derek Carr is rated 21st in the ESPN QB rating chart, while Russell Wilson is rated 15th.
The Oakland @Raiders are rolling into town! ???
Keep a look out for this on the streets of London on Friday… ? pic.twitter.com/qkKoDZTb7H
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) October 11, 2018
On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks defence/special teams are rated 14th in the league, with the Raiders ranked 23rd. While neither offencee is exactly stacked, the so-so defence should mean that this is an open contest with plenty of points being scored.
It is hard to call the winner in this matchup. The Raiders are the home side, on paper, but with about 5000 miles separating both teams from their homes to Wembley, home and away are just words on a team sheet. The Seahawks have picked up a lot of neutral fans in recent years due to their Legion Of Boom from a few years ago, so will likely have the bulk of the crowd cheering them on.
The Seahawks have never played competitively outside the US, however, while the Raiders have played a number of games in Mexico City over the last couple of seasons. Due to this, and with the strength of Marshawn Lynch’s goal-line prowess, I tip the Raiders to win narrowly.