For the second year in a row, the NFL has sent a strong lineup of games to London (less said about the Browns vs Vikings, Kizer vs Keenum blowout of two years ago the better). Some of the players on show within the next month will be entering Canton once their careers have come to an end, and it will be a pleasure to watch them act out their craft. In addition, some of the games we will see have playoff implications, with various teams having an evident chance of playing competitive football in January. The following articles over the next few weeks will identify some key things to look out for in the British section of the International Series 2019. Where better to start than the first game, Bears v Raiders at White Hart Lane (No prizes for guessing who I support 😊).
Bears @ Raiders Week 5
A truly remarkable defence come to White Hart Lane in week 5.
The Chicago Bears are fresh off a mauling of the Vikings, where they were able to dominate Kirk Cousins and his Minnesota offence. The Bears are built upon the ethos to dominate the opposition offence, constantly turning the ball over or giving their own offence preferable starting positions.
The Bears succeed when the score is kept low, therefore it will be interesting what game we are in for. Chase Daniel will lead the Bears offence, a player capable of managing the game effectively so the defence can cause enough disruption. Daniel, a career backup, performed to an acceptable level to defeat the Lions last Thanksgiving, will look to stabilise the offence by not taking risks and keeping turnovers low. Matt Nagy’s team will look to run the ball frequently with Cohen and Montgomery, controlling the time of possession on a wet London turf.
The Raiders have been a pleasant surprise this year. While not the most talented on paper, they have shown great heart to defeat the Colts and Broncos.
They may (now) lack household names, but they are well coached and set up. They look destined for an average year, partly because they reside in an ultra-strong AFC West, and in part because they lack playmakers in their side. Derek Carr is a more than capable QB, but he has not been able to regain the form he showed in 2016. He is a likeable guy to root for, and it is a shame that he has not got a world-class wide receiver to throw to. A win in London would take the Raiders to 3-2 and competitive in the AFC wildcard race. Worse teams than the Raiders have made playoff pushes, but before the Vegas move it is more likely that they finish middle of the pack. Todays game is a nice way to send a message that the Raiders are on the right track.
Key player to watch
Khalil Mack revenge game!
It was a major surprise when the Oakland Raiders decided to trade Khalil Mack rather than make him highest paid defensive player in the NFL. The haul they received for Mack (two first round picks) has aided the transition of the youthful Raiders, however Mack’s constant week-by-week quality for the Bears still make you question the decision of Oaklands front office. Mack will be aiming to cause destruction for the Raiders O-Line and get to Derek Carr as much as possible. His ability to rush the passer makes him one of the premiere players in the sport. Whether we will see a showcase of his skills at White Hart Lane on Sunday is something to be seen. If he is at his world-class best at Tottenham, it would be hard to look past a Bears victory.
Bold Prediction that will be laughed at within 10 minutes of the game starting
London games have a tradition of being a bit sluggish and slow to start. This plays well into the hands of the Bears. Chase Daniel will not take risks and allow a steady controlled progress built upon the Chicago running game. I predict that the Bears will be successful 23-10 on a cloudy London afternoon.