The NFL has released the list of designated teams that will be participating in the 2023 International Series, with five games set to be played in Europe throughout the regular season.
Germany was treated to its first-ever regular-season game in 2022, with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers putting on a show in Munich against the Seahawks. Apparently it was such a hit that the league will be returning with more heavyweight power for two separate games in Deutschland, one featuring Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs and the other with Bill Belichick’s Patriots.
London once again will host an NFL trilogy: the Bills and Titans will each play a game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, while the Jaguars will pay another visit to Wembley Stadium.
The times, dates and opponents — along with the locations for the Germany games — will be released at a later date. But the initial announcement got us thinking: Which games would we like to see overseas? After consulting with our travel agent and cross-referencing the list of each team’s 2023 opponents, we’ve cooked up five possible matchups that we think might suit the European crowds pretty well.
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LOCATION: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Finding the right matchup with Tennessee is tricky, as this is a franchise that could be going through some transition this coming offseason. Plus, a lot of the teams the Titans are slated to play next season also face some measure of uncertainty, and these European tilts have tended to be conference (but non-divisional) matchups in recent years.
With that in mind, probably the surest bet would be the Bengals. They’re a young team loaded with firepower and have marketable stars in Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. In a few weeks, for all we know, we could be talking about them as the Super Bowl champion Bengals.
Believe it or not, Cincy has won all three games against Mike Vrabel’s Titans since he became head coach, despite the last two being played in Nashville. But if it were up to us, we’d love to see this one in North London.
LOCATION: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
No shortage of enticing opponents to consider here, including the Cowboys, but we’ll take a gamble on the Raiders in what could be a showcase showdown if the right dominoes fall in the right places this offseason.
Hey, you’ve heard the Tom Brady-to-Vegas rumors, right? And that he might even bring Rob Gronkowski with him? We don’t have any additional reporting on those, but we can say that we hope Josh McDaniels and Co. have some big plans at quarterback after defenestrating Derek Carr.
If it is Brady, he’d be facing a Bills team that he’s dominated for years, with his squads going 33-3 in games vs. Buffalo. One of those wins came in 2021 as a member of the Bucs, so Brady would be trying to beat them with three different teams — and on two different continents. But Josh Allen and the explosive Bills have come a long way in recent years and would figure to be heavy favorites in this one, even if those massive offseason acquisitions come to pass.
LOCATION: Wembley Stadium
The 49ers did just play a game in Mexico back in November, so it’s quite possible they get bypassed for this assignment in favor of, say, the Ravens or Bengals. Either one would make for a very fine opponent.
But the 49ers are just such an attractive team right now. That defense, that offensive diversity and talent, plus a legacy coach in Kyle Shanahan? They’re a no-brainer. And the Jaguars are becoming quite the catch, too, with Trevor Lawrence and Doug Pederson proving to be an excellent match, and Jacksonville is just replete with young talent.
As for which quarterback might be playing for the 49ers, we honestly don’t know. But (Brock) Purdy is a name with Middle English origins, and (Trey) Lance makes us think of Lancelot. So either way, we’re covered.
Our German friends deserve something special. Yes, typically these games pair teams from the same conference, but we feel the need to bend the rules. After all, we want to send our best for the return to Germany, and what could top Patrick Mahomes and the world-beating Chiefs vs. the Motor City Knee-biters?
The Dolphins would make a great matchup, too. We considered the Eagles, as well, but think it’s only right to see that matchup — and possible Super Bowl LVII rematch? — in Kansas City after Andy Reid most recently faced his former team in Philadelphia. Ultimately, we settled on the Lions, who could be true contenders in 2023. Plus, we believe other countries need to experience Dan Campbell firsthand.
Let’s nominate Amon-Ra St. Brown as the game’s honorary spokesman. The emerging Lions star is the son of a German-born mother who insisted on having trilingual children, speaking to her boys in Deutsch as they were growing up.
Oh, and save a brat for Coach Reid, please.
This is another game where we easily could have selected the Eagles and called it a day. That’s a marketable matchup, whether it’s played in Frankfurt or even Fortaleza, for that matter — but we like it best in Foxborough. We also scanned the other possible opponents’ rosters for natural German ties, but the closest we came was the Colts’ Bernhard Raimann, who was born and raised in Austria. Not quite.
We’re willing to speculate on the Chargers being an appealing Patriots opponent for one big reason: Justin Herbert. He’s one of the most gifted young quarterback talents we have in the game, so that carries some heft by itself. Bill Belichick’s defense has befuddled Herbert in two previous meetings, piling up two picks and three sacks in each Pats win at SoFi Stadium.
New England no longer has a German import in Sebastian Vollmer or Jakob Johnson on the roster, which is too bad for this one. But as one of four NFL teams to be granted International Home Marketing Area (IHMA) rights for Germany, the Pats should be well-represented in the stands.
Follow Eric Edholm on Twitter.
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