Commentary

Ranking the NFL's five international games in 2017

Originally Published: April 20, 2017
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com

First, the good news: The NFL's 2017 International Series includes four games in London -- the most ever in one season.

The bad news: The decade's worst two teams are among the participants.

The Cleveland Browns, 1-15 last season and 29-83 since the start of the 2010 season, will make their first regular-season trip to the United Kingdom for a Week 8 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. The Jacksonville Jaguars, 3-13 last season and 30-82 since 2010, will take on the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3.

In fact, the best international NFL game this year won't take place in London at all. As the NFL attempts to build an international fan base of 200 million people, let's rank the five-game slate based on how interesting the games appear -- at least here in the third week of April. (Note: All times are ET).

1. New England Patriots vs. Oakland Raiders

Sunday, Nov. 19 (4:25 p.m.) at Estadio Azteca, Mexico City

This matchup pits the Super Bowl LI champions against a 2016 wild-card playoff team that was crippled by quarterback Derek Carr's broken leg in Week 15. Carr is expected to make a full recovery in time for training camp, and with him the Raiders are probably the best team in the AFC West.

The Raiders have a huge following in Mexico, in part because of the family heritage of franchise legends Tom Flores and Jim Plunkett, and that won't change with their pending move to Las Vegas. Given its relatively late position on the schedule, this game could carry significant playoff implications.

Mexico City NFL gameAP Photo/Dario Lopez-MillsThe NFL returns to Mexico during the 2017 regular season following last season's game between the Texans and Raiders.

2. New Orleans Saints vs. Miami Dolphins

Sunday, Oct. 1 (9:30 a.m.), at Wembley Stadium

The Dolphins are an ascending team, having won nine of their final 11 games last season. Coach Adam Gase sparked Miami's first playoff appearance in eight years, and there is every reason to consider the Dolphins a playoff team in 2017. And the Saints, with quarterback Drew Brees in coach Sean Payton's offense, are never boring. Brees has thrown for at least 4,800 yards and 32 touchdowns in each of his past six seasons, and leads the league in both categories during that span by a wide margin.

3. Arizona Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Rams

Sunday, Oct. 22 (1 p.m.), at Twickenham Stadium, London

The Cardinals are giving it another go with their veteran duo of quarterback Carson Palmer, 37, and receiver Larry Fitzgerald, 33. It's fair to assume that international fans won't see them play again in London after this season. But the Cardinals have plenty of star power across their roster, from tailback David Johnson (NFL-leading 2,118 yards from scrimmage in 2016) to pass-rusher Chandler Jones to defensive backs Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook gives them 25-1 odds to win Super Bowl LII, tied for 11th-best in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Rams will also be in London for the game.

4. Baltimore Ravens vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Sunday, Sept. 24 (9:30 a.m.), at Wembley Stadium, London

The Ravens have missed the playoffs in three of four seasons since winning the Super Bowl in 2012, while the Jaguars have turned in six consecutive losing seasons. Statistically, the Jaguars do play better in London: they are 2-2 there in the past four years and 13-47 everywhere else. So there's that. As for the Ravens, you can say this much: They haven't taken their playoff absences lightly. Over the past 16 months, according to the team, it has turned over nearly 75 percent of its starting lineup. When you add those changes to the Jaguars' rehiring of Tom Coughlin, this time as executive vice president, you have reason to hope this game could be better than it appears.

NFL in LondonTim Ireland/AP PhotoThe Jaguars are playing again in London in 2017 after going 2-2 there in the past four years.

5. Minnesota Vikings vs. Cleveland Browns

Sunday, Oct. 29 (9:30 a.m.), at Twickenham Stadium, London

We don't know enough about the Browns' 2017 roster to know whether they'll be bad, really bad, awful or surprisingly not terrible. At the moment, though, Westgate gives them 300-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, tied for worst in the league. They did commit to pay their upgraded offensive line $57 million in cash this season, an NFL high and more than twice the league average, and they have the draft capital to add a premier defensive player and a franchise quarterback next week if they choose to. We shall see. The Vikings, meanwhile, are at the moment almost totally devoid of star power after the decision to allow tailback Adrian Peterson to test free agency.

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