Technically, there is no NFL team in Europe. The NFL tried NFL Europe a number of times and each time, it folded. However, ever since setting up the NFL International Series in 2007, there has been one franchise featured the most: the AFC South Jacksonville Jaguars.
After the tilt with the Bills in Week 5, the Jaguars have been featured in 11 games, the first team to have back-to-back London games. No other team has more than six (planned). With 11 matchups in 11 years (no 2020 matchups due to COVID-19), the Jaguars are Europe’s unofficial franchise and they’re giving their fans across the pond plenty to cheer for.
Trevor Lawrence Rising to the Top of the AFC South Quarterbacks
What better way to pick up an NFL team than to follow, as Pro Football Reference dubs, The Prince Who Was Promised? The Jaguars have been waiting for the one true quarterback who will lead them out of the cellar. David Gerrard was fun, Blake Bortles was a botched call from a Super Bowl, but Lawrence is the one.
Lawrence took a while to get going. Given, he inherited a bad roster and his rookie year was wasted thanks to Jacksonville hiring arguably the worst NFL coach in history. He grew and grew in 2021 and eventually led the greatest playoff comeback we’ve ever seen against the Chargers.
Thus far in 2023, Lawrence has been solid. Despite the loss to the Houston Texans, Jacksonville has played well. Lawrence is in the middle of the pack in terms of most passing stats. It helps that the Jags have plenty of talent and a stellar rookie offensive lineman in Anton Harrison.
Lawrence has been good and the best is yet to come.
There’s a New Toy in Calvin Ridley
Quite possibly the biggest addition to the Jaguars offense has been playmaking wide receiver, Calvin Ridley. Ridley, who was traded to Jacksonville from Atlanta, missed all of the 2022 season due to a suspension for gambling. Ridley was busted for betting on the NFL while on leave due to mental health. He ended up betting around $1,500 and even bet for the Falcons to win but the NFL’s policy was very strict.
Since then, the league softened up its policy, stating that players who wager on a bet involving their own team will receive a suspension of at least two years. Players who place a bet on an NFL game not involving their own will be suspended for at least one year. And players who wager on non-NFL games from a team facility or on team-related travel will be suspended for two games for their first violation, six games for their second, and one year for their third. Now, since Ridley had initially planned on betting on the NBA, he could utilize a list at BetterBonus.com.
Either way, Ridley is an incredibly dynamic offensive weapon. He reminded the NFL world just how good he was with a 101-yard, one-touchdown performance in Week 1. If there is a manger willing to sell Ridley low in a fantasy league, he’s worth the price.
Predictably Weak AFC South Division
While they may end up as the most competitive division in the NFL, the AFC South is not the strongest. Jacksonville has a prime opportunity to to do something they haven’t done since 1999: win back-to-back division championships.
The Titans, while shellacking the Bengals, are not a complete or good team. They have a few legit pieces like Jeffery Simmons and the ghost of Derrick Henry, but overall, they are not build to win the division or make a run.
The Colts are an interesting case. They have a few playmakers to go with rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson. Richardson picked up a shoulder injury and is listed on the IR for a minimum of four weeks, however. If they and Jonathan Taylor can manage to come together for the greater good of the franchise, they can make a little noise. Even then, they are not nearly as complete as Jacksonville.
Finally, the Texans. Houston was projected to finish as one of the worst teams in the NFL. However, nobody told QB C.J. Stroud. The rookie has gotten off to a phenomenal start with little to nothing around him. There was a fear that he only looked good at Ohio State because he was throwing to three NFL Draft first-rounders. It looks like they could make some real noise.
However, it’s still the Jaguars’ division to lose. The combo of Travis Etienne and Tank Bigsby is formidable and the defense is getting better as the weeks go by. Jacksonville is set to make the playoffs again. As they are Europe’s unofficial team, they’re going to be interested in NFL football well into January.