I’d like to go international for the Blog Log Blog this week.
In 1977, I went to London with my parents. I slept all the way on the plane, listening on headphones to something called “Pierre Panda” and his adventures in Europe. My mom was bent on exploring churches, cloisters and historical buildings, all of which was right in the wheelhouse of a seven-year-old kid who just wanted to know if the New York Mets were going to be on TV in England.
Traveling abroad can be a dizzying experience — unfamiliar territory, customs and forget about getting a cold beer (that one was my dad’s big thing). But is this travel really the logistical and weather nightmare we think it is for the NFL?
The Buccaneers and Bears will play overseas on Sunday at London’s Wembley Stadium. Yet, Wayne Rooney will still be the No. 1 fantasy option this week.
With the experience entailing long travel, PR duties, sight-seeing and players being outside of their comfort zones, are you in for a fantasy dive from players you might have in your lineup? Because we all have visions of precipitation and slogging through bad weather — which give you the fantasy football chills. Let’s examine the games since the NFL began playing regular-season contests across the pond four years ago and see what we can glean for Sunday and going forward for future contests in England.
2007: The inaugural tilt saw the Giants edge the Dolphins (and the large Jason Taylor robot), 13-10. The game was played in rain, mud and sloppy conditions (like mud could ever be a “clean condition”). Eli Manning threw for just 59 yards on the day. Brandon Jacobs went for 131 on the ground in the only notable performance as the Giants had just 238 yards of total offense. The Cleo Lemon-led Dolphins (Cleo Lemon!) had just 254 yards.
2008: The Saints beat the Chargers, 37-32. There was consistent rain throughout the day, but the wet stuff ended before the game began. The field was in better shape than the year before, and as a result both Drew Brees and Philip Rivers were over 330 yards each in passing, and LaDainian Tomlinson was over the century mark in rushing. Remember, these were two high-scoring offenses going at it.
2009: The Patriots defeated the Buccaneers, 35-7. Tom Brady‘s in London! Tom Brady’s in London! Oh, I swoon! Entering the London game, New England was fresh off that 59-0 pasting of the Titans in the snow. Brady threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns — one to Wes Welker, who caught 10 passes for 107 yards. For the Bucs, the game will be remembered as Josh Freeman‘s debut, where he went just 2 of 4 for 16 yards. The weather was dry and not a factor (the same can be said for the Bucs).
2010: The 49ers beat the Broncos, 24-16. It rained leading up to the game but not during it. A 3-0 game at halftime turned into a shootout in the second half. Kyle Orton threw for 370 and a touchdown, Brandon Lloyd caught 11 passes for 169 yards and a score, and Frank Gore ran for 118 and a touchdown.
So, what to take away from this? Now that we’re in Year 5 of these games, players know what to expect when they travel there. Yes, you’re going to be out of your routine. However, when you know some of the things that will occur and your team takes care of them, then you’re much more comfortable. Just like with tourists, the difference between traveling abroad for the first time versus the fifth time is immense.
We’ve also seen that big players still put up big numbers — as long as it’s not in the driving rain or mud. Orton (who, along with Lloyd, was in a white-hot streak when the game was played last year), Gore, Brady, Welker, Brees, Rivers and LT all performed huge. Treat this just like you would any other game — play who you’d normally play, and sit who you’d normally sit.
Wembley’s pitch (soccer term) has been much-maligned over the last few years, but the field is kept in much better condition for this game — and was even laid with partly-artificial grass last season. Unless it’s a torrential downpour (weather term), you’re OK. So monitor the weather, watch BBC America for updates (in between episodes of “The EastEnders”) and plan accordingly.
There’s no condition that would stop me from playing Matt Forte, and if you happen to be starting Jay Cutler, Dane Sanzenbacher, Devin Hester, Josh Freeman or Mike Williams South (though that would be Mike Williams UK this week), yes, I feel sorry for you because you have to start them, but that wouldn’t make me shy away from them for any other reason. What if the rain turns out to be heavy, and heavy throughout the game? Then I’d sit everyone not named Forte, but only then.*
*The author can’t believe he just did so much on London and didn’t make one “A Fish Called Wanda” reference. But it would have felt forced, so instead of going deep into double coverage, I dumped the ball off to Ken out of the backfield who was c-c-c-coming to k-k-k-kill me. There, I feel better.
See Jason Smith on NFL Fantasy Live, airing Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on the Red Zone Channel, and Tuesday-Friday on NFL Network at 2 p.m. ET and 12 a.m. ET/9 p.m. PT. He writes Fantasy and other NFL pith on NFL.com daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.