Three games. A new stadium. At least three new teams.
Those are among the highlights of the 2016 UK International Series schedule as the NFL will reward its incredible UK fans for their passion and support by adding a new stadium experience at Twickenham and feature at least three teams that have not previously played a regular-season game in London.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC South division matchup in Week 4 on Sunday, October 2, at Wembley Stadium; in Week 7 on Sunday, October 23, in the first-ever NFL game at Twickenham Stadium, the St. Louis Rams will host the NFC East team that finishes in the same spot in the standings as the Rams do in the NFC West based on the NFL's scheduling formula; and in Week 8 on Sunday, October 30, the Cincinnati Bengals will play their first international game when they host the Washington Redskins at Wembley.
The formula for the second game means that the Rams will face either the Philadelphia Eagles making their first regular-season trip to the UK, the Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants making return visits, or Washington becoming the first team to play in consecutive weeks in London.
"The passion our UK fans have shown for the NFL is overwhelming," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "We are very appreciative of the strong and growing fan support, not only for the games, but for all of the related NFL events we host in the UK throughout the year. We look forward to welcoming new fans to their first NFL game in 2016 and welcoming back thousands of others that are helping our sport grow to new levels of popularity in London and beyond."
The game times and a possible additional International Series game outside of the UK will be announced at a later date.
The Jaguars will return to London for a fourth consecutive year. Jacksonville first committed to playing a home game in the UK in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, all at Wembley, and last month extended that commitment through 2020. The Jaguars will play their first division game in London when they host the Colts, a first-time participant in the International Series.
The St. Louis Rams will return to London for the first time since 2012 when they play host to an NFC East opponent based upon the order of finish in the 2015 regular-season standings.
The Bengals will play the first game in franchise history beyond the borders of the United States when they host Washington. The AFC North leaders have qualified for the playoffs in each of the past four seasons.
Washington may play in consecutive weeks in London in 2016, depending on the final standings. At minimum, they will face the Bengals in Week 8. Washington will play in London in 2016 for the first time since a 1992 preseason American Bowl game at the old Wembley Stadium against the San Francisco 49ers.
At the conclusion of the 2016 season, either 23 or 24 teams will have played in London since the inception of the International Series in 2007. Since that time, the NFL has achieved accelerated growth in the UK. Sunday viewership of NFL games has more than doubled and the Super Bowl audience has increased more than 75 percent. The league also has developed new and stronger business partnerships and, according to internal research, has a UK fan base of more than 13 million.
Participation in amateur football in the UK has risen by approximately 15 percent per year since 2007, with the latest figures showing that 40,000 people age 16 or older play regularly.