International games have unfairly affected the AFC East since becoming a thing back in October 2005, when the Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Estadio Azteca, Mexico. Since the first matchup back in the early 2000s, there have been 40 international NFL games, 30 of which took place in the United Kingdom.
For smaller market teams, it’s become a fascinating way to grow around the globe, but the consequences have been paramount, as more evidence has been collected over the last decade.
Based on the previous 18 regular-season games played outside the United States through 2015, 20 of the 21 designated home teams failed to reach the playoffs, while 11 of the 21 designated visitors eclipsed postseason eligibility that year.
Coincidence? It’s possible, but those numbers are staggering. Missing out on a home game to play on a neutral site creates a massive disadvantage for the international hosts.
Another key factor of international games is the exhausting cross-world travel, which just about always makes the teams that participate in them accumulate the most travel miles in the league.
As far as this season goes, the following teams are scheduled to participate in an international game in 2022:
The full slate of NFL International games this year:
October 2: Vikings-Saints in London
October 9: Giants-Packers in London
October 30: Jaguars-Broncos in London
November 13: Seahawks-Bucs in Munich
November 21: 49ers-Cardinals in Mexico City
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) May 4, 2022
Unsurprisingly, 4 of the top 5 teams based on total travel miles for the upcoming season, play an international game. That would be the Seahawks who have to travel the most with 29,446 total miles, the Broncos with 27,398 miles, the Jaguars with 25,398 miles, and the Saints with 24,976 miles.
Compared to the teams with the least amount of travel, the Steelers with a whopping 6,442 miles, the Lions with 8,348 miles, the Ravens with 9,500 miles, the Browns with 9,986 miles, and the Bears with 10,086 miles, you can see the massive advantage of not playing internationally.
Now each season only a select handful of teams feel the effect of international games at once. But how about the last two decades, which teams have been punished the most? Let’s take a look at every single team and division, and break down how much they’ve each been asked to make the long, dreaded trip.
AFC East Total – 19
Buffalo Bills – 7
Miami Dolphins – 6
New England Patriots – 3
New York Jets – 3
No division in football has partaken in more international games than the AFC East. The Bills haven’t played a game internationally since 2015, but in the first decade of holding these games, it felt like Buffalo took part in one every single season. This year, however, the AFC East gets a much-needed break from international games.
AFC North Total – 5
Baltimore Ravens – 1
Cincinnati Bengals – 2
Cleveland Browns – 1
Pittsburgh Steelers – 1
The AFC North has gotten extremely fortunate with its trips across the world. For a division that used to play a good amount of preseason games internationally back in the 1990s, it’s interesting they haven’t been scheduled for more regular-season games. The Cincinnati Bengals were the last team to represent the North in London, back in 2019.
AFC South Total – 13
Houston Texans – 2
Indianapolis Colts – 1
Jacksonville Jaguars – 9
Tennessee Titans – 1
The AFC South total isn’t really surprising when you think about it. The Jaguars owner, Shahid Khan, signed a partnership with the English Football Association back in 2012, to play a game in London for four straight seasons. After the deal expired, Khan re-signed for another five years, but it’s set to expire a year late because of the 2020 game being canceled due to Covid-19. It’ll be interesting to see if Khan extends the partnership again.
AFC West Total – 12
Denver Broncos – 2
Kansas City Chiefs – 2
Las Vegas Raiders – 5
Los Angeles Chargers – 3
In 3 out of the 4 international games played in Mexico, at least one AFC West team has participated, which makes sense when you consider geographical location. The Broncos will be the only team from this division making their way out of the states this season.
NFC East Total – 6
Dallas Cowboys – 1
New York Giants – 3
Philadelphia Eagles – 1
Washington Commanders – 2
Another supremely lucky division is the NFC East. I’m quite surprised the Cowboys haven’t played a game in Mexico yet, but maybe that’s on the horizon. These teams hold a combined 4-1-1 record in international games, and the Giants will get a chance to improve that record when they head to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in October.
NFC North Total – 9
Chicago Bears – 3
Detroit Lions – 2
Green Bay Packers – 1
Minnesota Vikings – 3
The Green Bay Packers are the only team in the NFL who have not made the trip out to London. Fortunately for Cheese Head fans across the globe, the Packers will be making their debut this season. The NFC North is actually the only division with two games in London in 2022, as the Vikings will kick off the international slate versus the Saints.
Thoroughly enjoyed this afternoon’s London NFL game. Such a great atmosphere. Now we just need to get the Packers to London!!! pic.twitter.com/9RLP0hnN1y
— Tracey Crouch (@tracey_crouch) October 17, 2021
NFC South Total – 11
Atlanta Falcons – 3
Carolina Panthers – 1
New Orleans Saints – 3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 4
If you’re the Carolina Panthers, you’ve been happy with the international schedule. The Panthers made it out to London back in 2019 for the first time in Franchise history, and will again be given a break from the trip. Much like the NFC North, this division also has two separate teams participating in international games. The Saints will host the Vikings in London, and the Buccaneers will host the first-ever NFL game in Germany, versus the Seahawks.
NFC West Total – 14
Arizona Cardinals – 3
Los Angeles Rams – 4
San Francisco 49ers – 4
Seattle Seahawks – 3
The second most international games for a division goes to the NFC West. As mentioned earlier, the 49ers and Cardinals were the first-ever matchup for an international regular-season game. The NFL wisely made that a rematch this year in the same exact stadium the first game was hosted, Estadio Azteca. The Super Bowl Champs were the only team from this division able to escape playing in another country.
Overall, the idea of international games is a great idea. American Football is not the main sport in any other country but the United States, and continuing to grow the sport elsewhere will only bode well for the game.
However, if the NFL is serious about playing in even more countries and possibly even hosting a Super Bowl in one of them, they better learn to execute these games properly. The variance among the teams is too wide, and it must be addressed to even the playing field.
Premier League club Tottenham is lining up a historic bid to host the 2026 Super Bowl, per @DailyMail.
The London stadium currently hosts 2 NFL games each year as part of a 10-year, $54M deal.
The NFL says it’s open to eventually taking the event overseas for the first time 🏟 pic.twitter.com/9b1bMWrMXM
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) February 10, 2022
The league average of international games played per division is 11, and the average per team is about 3 games.
Theoretically, that means the AFC East (19), NFC West (14), and the AFC West (12), have dealt with the most disadvantages when it comes to travel the last two decades.
When it comes down to specific teams, that would be the Dolphins (6), Bills (7), and Raiders (5). (Not counting the Jaguars, they signed up for this).
On the contrary, the AFC North (5), NFC East (6), and the NFC North (9), have been the most fortunate divisions.
The most favorable individual teams are the Panthers (1), Packers (1), Eagles (1), Cowboys (1), Titans (1), Colts (1), Browns (1), Steelers (1), and Ravens (1).
Hopefully the NFL realizes the inequality of their scheduling and begins to balance out the assessment of international games over the next few years.
Follow me on Twitter, @MathisReports to stay connected with future articles.