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  • Writer's pictureWyatt Bose

A Feasible Solution to NFL's International Games

The 2024 NFL season will showcase five international games, all featuring competitive disadvantages that deprive certain teams of home-field advantage. These games also pose logistical hurdles for teams, from time zone adjustments to lengthy roundtrip travel times. When teams play internationally in London, England and Munich, Germany, they not only face a disadvantage during the game itself by playing at a neutral site but also encounter challenges in the subsequent week’s game.

One first solution to international play is to ensure that both teams participating in an international game receive a bye week immediately following the game. 

This year, three games are scheduled in London, one in Munich, and one in Sao Paolo, Brazil. While the specific dates for the games in Europe have not been announced, the NFL has released the bye weeks for the teams involved. For instance, both the Bears and Vikings are schedule to play games in London, yet they share the same bye week, week 13. Typically, only one international game is scheduled per week, so one of these NFC North teams will have to play immediately after their game in London. The Jaguars will play the other game in London, and the Panthers will play in Munich. Ideally, the NFL has scheduled these two games to align with the teams’ bye weeks, which fall in weeks 8 and 6, respectively.

The Eagles will “host” the Packers on opening night in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Fortunately, the game falls on a Wednesday, so the Eagles and Packers will have a mini-bye ahead of week 2. Given that week 2 is too early in the season for a bye week, scheduling the game on a Wednesday was a wise decision by the league. See, I don’t just hate on everything the NFL does!

Moving on… despite successful navigation of most time zone issues – although I believe it should be mandatory for a team’s bye to follow their international game – there remain concerns about competitive advantages and playoff implications associated with games played away from “home field.”

For example, the Eagles must sacrifice their home opener to play in Brazil, where the Packers are the most popular NFL team. According to NFL Brazil, more than 12% of NFL fans in Brazil are Packers supporters, likely due to Green Bay’s green and yellow color scheme. The entire situation is unfair for the Eagles, who not only lose a home game but must play at a “neutral” site, overrun by fans of the other team. An immediate solution could be to designate this as a Packers’ home game, but a broader one is needed for all international games that disadvantage the home team.

The NFL wants to spread the game, and international play is not going anywhere. So, instead of dwelling on the league’s shortcomings, let’s fix them:

First, designate two divisions to play overseas each year, one from each conference. This approach minimizes playoff implications, since each game will feature teams from opposing conferences. Matchups like the Eagles versus Packers have significant playoff implications, as both teams could be vying for a Wild Card spot. Therefore, it’s unfair for Philadelphia to lose a home game, especially against a conference playoff contender. 

Second, the NFL should rotate the two divisions selected for international play each year. For example, this year could feature the NFC East and AFC East, preventing teams like the Jaguars from playing in London every year, which has been unfair.

Third, the matchups should be determined based on each team’s final division position from the previous year. Since two teams from each division will lose a home game and two will not, the top two teams in each division from the previous year will forfeit a home game but will face the bottom two teams from the other division. 

Continuing with the example of the NFC East and AFC East, four games would be played, “hosted” by the Eagles, Cowboys, Bills, and Dolphins. Since the Cowboys won the NFC East, they would host the Patriots, and the Eagles would host the Jets. Similarly, as winners of the AFC East, the Bills would host the Giants, and the Dolphins would host the Commanders, all on neutral sites overseas.

This format allows the NFL to expand the game internationally but mitigates the impact of losing home games. Finally, by determining matchups based on the previous year’s standings, the NFL can somewhat compensate the “host” teams with favorable matchups to justify the loss of a home game.

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