Tag Archive: NFL

NFL in the UK

ImageFor a few years now the NFL have been heavily promoting the NFL in the UK by playing a regular season game (one that actually counts) at Wembley stadium. This seems to be gaining some momentum as this year they did it twice, and the second game in the series saw my favourite team, the San Francisco 49ers come to play against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The 49ers have a big following in the UK, probably because of the golden years in the eighties when players like Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jerry Rice were dominating and the games were shown on channel 4. They played under a coach called Bill Walsh, who developed a new way of passing called the west coast offence that revolutionised the game. The west coast offence is all about timing between the quarterback and the receiver and throwing the ball into the space that the receiver is going to be. It was extremely successful and now pretty much every team runs some variation of it in their passing game. The majority of the crowd were supporting the 49ers despite the game being set up as a “home” game for the Jaguars, with free Jaguars flags for the crowd.


This was the view from our seats an hour before the game. In the past I’ve paid a premium for sideline seats, but this year I thought I would give the nosebleeds a try. The seats were much cheaper, but I found the view was also much better. When I’ve been closer to the action I’ve found that I couldn’t see what was going on very well because I was too close. With this great view, I could really see the plays as they developed, which was fascinating for me. If I go again I’ll be booking the cheap seats again!

ImageThe Jaguars certainly put on a good show for their first international game. After the flags and national anthems Neyo performed the pregame show, and they had their mascot diving on a wire from the top of the stadium. They also had a drummer group performing to keep the crowd engaged during all the breaks for TV that seem to plague the NFL, and there was even a very familiar looking streaker that managed to get on to the field.

ImageThe game itself was great, although not the most exciting of affairs. Unfortunately the Jaguars haven’t won a game all season, whilst the 49ers still remain pretty strong contenders to make a push into the playoffs (and hopefully the Superbowl). The 49ers won 42-10 and it was clear that the crowd were uninspired by the play of the hapless Jaguars.

After the game we went to a little bar that was staying open late to show the other NFL games going on that weekend where we had paid to have a table booked. There was a great atmosphere, and it was clearly the place to be as the presenter of an TV program NFL catch up Vernon Kaye showed up along with a couple of players and some off duty cheerleaders. We had a few beers, a burger and some chicken wings before braving the storm and heading back to the hotel. 

I think the NFL making an effort to build their market in the UK and Europe is great, and they seem fully committed to it as next year three games will be played in Wembley! For the rest of this season though, the 49ers seem in reasonable shape, although their biggest rival at the moment, the Seattle Seahawks, are winning well, despite having a couple of shaky games against sub-par teams. I’m really looking forward to the 49ers playing Seattle at home in a few weeks time. Go Niners!





NFL Draft 2012!

Every year NFL teams get to select their rookies from a class of players leaving college football. They take turns through seven rounds selecting in order based on their performance the previous year. Last year the 49ers did pretty well, so they were selecting towards the end of the rounds. I was hoping that the 49ers would fill needs in the offensive line and add some more depth to the defensive line.

Just some thoughts on their picks:

Drafted two offensive linemen; Joe Looney in the fourth round and Jason Slowey in the sixth round. Hopefully they will add depth, but I doubt either can contribute a great deal right away. The departure of Guard Adam Snyder leaves a need that hasn’t been filled.

I wonder how much influence the 49ers last game had on their picks. The 49ers lost in the conference final due in part to inexperience at the return position. Ted Ginn Junior was injured and mistakes by his back up pretty much cost the 49ers the game. The 49ers drafted speedy Wide Reciever A.J. Jenkins in the first round and Running Back LaMichael James in the second. Both could contribute to the return game.

A.J. Jenkins also adds depth to a deep position at Wide Receiver. It seems that competition in training camp could be fierce. Even more so for Running Backs. Bruising Running Back Brandon Jacobs has already been added to the 49ers backfield in the off season, so rookie LaMichael James joins him along with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon. The 49ers also signed Running Back Rock Cartwright in the off season, but I expect his main contribution to be on special teams. That means right now the 49ers have six Running Backs on their roster. I’d be surprised if they didn’t cut at least one and probably two of them before the season starts.

Frank Gore is staying, but he’s getting older and injuries are becoming more of a concern. Kendall Hunter showed flashes of brilliance last year and I can’t see them immediately cutting a second round pick. I expect there to be competition between the big backs (Anthony Dixon, 6’1″, 233lbs and Brandon Jacobs, 6’4″, 264lbs) so at least one of them will be packing their bags. I expect that Rock Cartwright will have to be a hell of a contributor on special teams to justify his roster spot too.

In the seventh round the 49ers drafted Defensive End Cam Johnson. It’s encouraging that he was predicted to be taken higher than the seventh. This guy could add the depth needed on the defensive line. The 49ers also drafted another Linebacker, adding depth to what I consider to be the best group of linebackers in the league.

Roll on preseason!

49ers Schedule Released

The NFL team’s 2012-13 schedule was announced in the past few days, the 49ers included…

It’s not so much about the teams that they play – that’s been known for a while now. It’s more about who they play and when. For me, the first question is the order of home and away games. Then comes the question of where does the bye week (a week where they don’t play anyone) fall. I also think that it’s important to looks at who they are playing out of the block (the first four games say) and who they are playing in the final stretch (the last four games). I suppose an American would also be concerned with how many televised games they will be playing, but that is of little odds for me. Sometimes I wonder how wise it was to choose to support a team on the west coast (GMT – 8) rather than the east coast (GMT – 5).

Anyway, here’s my arm chair football analysis of the things that matter to me:

Home, Away and Bye


Well that looks to be a pretty even split. Each half of the season includes four home games and four away games, and there are no more that two away games in a row. Last year to avoid time zone issues the team made an unorthodox move and spent the week between consecutive east coast games actually on the east coast, rather than flying east, back west and then back east. The two away games together both offer the opportunity to do that again, although I haven’t considered the time of day of the games themselves. The bye week is slap bang in the middle of the season, which assuming all goes well is a good place for a bye week. If things don’t go well early then you might want the bye week to regroup, but that aside the middle of the season is a good place to have a bye.

First 4 games out of the blocks

Green Bay Away, Detroit Lions at Home, Minnesota Vikings Away, New York Jets Away.

Green Bay Away will be a tough start, and the Lions will be a tough game too. The Vikings have not been consistent recently, and so is the easiest game of the four, and the Jets may well be in the middle of a quarterback controversy as struggling current QB Mark Sanchez contends with living in the looming shadow of the Jets’ big off season acquisition Tim Tebow. I think the 49ers stand a good chance of being 4-0 after the first four games, but 3-1 is probably a more realistic prediction.

Last 4 games – the final stretch

Miami Dolphins at Home, New England Patriots Away, Seattle Seahawks Away, Arizona Cardinals at Home

The last four games are important because teams sometimes start to lose momentum around this time. You hear analysts talking a lot about teams “peaking too early”. One big factor that it’s definitely worth considering though, is where the away games are in December. Weather is a big equaliser and playing in the cold and wet can really have an effect on the game. New England Patriots Away is probably the hardest match, and playing Seattle in their own house is never any fun anyway, but being divisional rivals the 49ers are used to playing them there every year. The NFL have started scheduling more divisional matches towards the end of the season to make games more meaningful later in the season, in the hopes that the divisional crowns will still be in contention during the final weeks of the season. I’m not going to make a prediction for these games because so much can happen over the course of the season, but I’m not too unhappy with the way the schedule looks so far.

Days of the week

The only other thing to note is the days of the week games are held on. Games are mostly played on Sundays, but sometime they are played on a Thursday, and occasionally on Monday nights (Monday night football is a big – nationally televised stage to play on). The thing I think impacts teams most is the number of days between the games. Sometimes you hear teams talking about the short week to prepare in between a Sunday game and a Thursday game, or between Monday night and Sunday. The 49ers have two Monday night games and one Thursday night game, so lets have a closer look at those small stretches either side of the bye week:

New York Giants at Home (Sun), Seattle Seahawks at Home (Thur), Arizona Cardinals Away (Mon), bye

It’s nice that the short week is between two home games, and anyone who followed the NFL last year knows that revenge will motivate the 49ers in the game against the Giants, after losing a close game to them in the NFC championship game. It’s really good to have a long time to prepare for the Monday night game. 11 days between games is almost like having an extra bye week!

bye, St Louis Rams at Home (Sun), Chicago Bears at Home (Mon), New Orleans Saints Away (Sun)

A monday night football home game is nice. New Orleans Away could be tough, but New Orleans may well be struggling due to an off season scandal in which coaches were caught offering players financial rewards to try to injure other players last year. As a result large parts of their coaching team have been suspended for this season (or longer), and that will likely impact the Saints entire season. Sometimes teams manage to rally against such adversity but I’d sooner bet that they will collapse with some many leaders removed.

Overall it’s probably about as good a schedule as it was ever going to get.

Bring on the draft!