Michael J. Igyarto
In some severe brainstorm before the 2007 NFL season, executives decided that it would be spectacularly profitable and well-received if one game each year was played at Wembley Stadium in London, England. After the roaring success of Major League Soccer jumping the pond into the U.S., really, how could they not make this assumption.
Turns out, it was quite profitable. And actually rather amusing to watch. Nothing quite as enjoyable as seeing chaps in Eli Manning jerseys while rocking a Cheesehead, and the classic English past time of streaking finally making its way into an NFL end zone.
The games on the other hand, have been borderline torture. Often covered by relentless rain, stats and big plays are few and far between. And if you were a fantasy owner, you were screaming "Bloody Wanker," and knocking over your bowl of crisps more often than cheering.
In the first game in London, in Week 8 of the 2007 NFL season, The New York Giants took on the Miami Dolphins. The rousing performance included an aerial display as Eli Manning threw eight completions for 59 yards, while Miami QB Cleo Lemon (Blimey! Cleo Lemon!) put up a staggering 149 with a score.
Brandon Jacobs was the lone bright spot of the day with 131 yards rushing in perhaps the sloppiest game of the season. Top receiving performance, 42 yards on six receptions from tight end Justin Peelle. After a game highlighting 65 total rushes, the New York Giants walked away the victors, 13-10.
One year later, the Chargers met the Saints in Wembley, and the game went off a bit better than its predecessor. Quarterbacks Drew Brees and Philip Rivers combined for 680 passing yards and six scores. Then Charger, LaDainian Tomlinson put up over 100 yards rushing with a receiving and rushing touchdown.
Overall not a bad fantasy day. Weather was good, teams were great. Definitely a memorable one.
In 2009, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers squared off with the New England Patriots, apparently a favorite overseas. But outside of a big day from the Brady to Welker combo, fantasy owners were again left crying over their bangers and mash.
The quarterback combined for five interceptions and the rushing performance was a split between Laurence Maroney and Derrick Ward with 43 yards apiece.
And finally, a trip back to last season for a Halloween game. The weather was very similar to the first London game as rain poured over the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos. The first three quarters of play saw 10 total points. When many had turned off the telly to succumb to trick-or-treaters, the game opened up and ended 24-16, 49ers.
Like much of the first half of the NFL season, Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd were the big winners, and Frank Gore owners checked their scores Monday morning with a smile, but beyond that, the fantasy outcome was pretty bleak.
And here we are, Week 7 of the 2011 NFL season and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears are packing their bags to head back to Wembley. So what do we have in store?
London's forecast is calling for cloudy skies with winds between 15-20 miles per hour. Glorious football weather, indeed. On top of that, both the Bears and the Bucs have been fighting through sloppy seasons.
In nearly every statistical category the two teams are average at best. Bears are 21st yards per game, Bucs 16th. Bears have given up the 5th most yards in the NFL, Bucs 8th.
The teams have just 21 combined offensive touchdowns this year, that is one fewer than the Packers offense. They also have a combined 12 turnovers and 28 sacks.
Outside of Matt Forte, I would avoid Chicago and Tampa Bay players altogether. Based on the history of the London games, and the statistics of these two team, you can expect sloppy individual play when either of these teams have the ball.
Both defenses are porous, but able to create turnovers, so they are worth avoiding too. I predict the game to remain low scoring with a lot of sacks, incompletions, punts and Cutler tantrums.
Overall Outlook: Dodgy. Prediction: Chicago Bears 17-Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13
Start'em: Matt Forte
Yellow Light: Jay Cutler, Earnest Graham, Kellen Winslow, Johnny Knox, Mike Williams, Chicago Defense, Tampa Defense
Sit'em: Josh Freeman, Devin Hester, Roy Williams, Preston Parker, Aurelious Benn, Marion Barber
Andrew Norton appears as a guest writer to Fantasy Football Life. Follow Andrew on Twitter @godhateslosers and check out his writing at http://www.godhateslosers.blogspot.com/