Struggling NFL Steelers and Vikings face must-win match in London
The US NFL is back in London boasting the star power of Adrian Peterson and Ben Roethlisberger. The trouble is that their teams have nothing to brag about.
The Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers are both 0-3 heading into Sunday's game at Wembley Stadium, and a fourth loss will all but put the play-offs out of reach for one of them.
The first of two regular-season NFL games is expected to be a sellout despite the teams' woes.
"It doesn't bother me. I love the atmosphere," said Rachel Green, who with husband Matt has been to all six of the NFL games played at Wembley. "I prefer it to be close, which it will more likely be with them both 0-3."
The Vikings arrived in London on Tuesday and were already mixing with local schoolchildren and fans as part of the duties of the designated home team. The Steelers arrive tomorrow.
All eyes will be on Peterson, the Vikings running back, and Roethlisberger, the Steelers quarterback, as they look to lead their clubs to victory with their seasons teetering on the brink.
The Vikings went 10-6 last season and made the play-offs, while the Steelers finished 8-8. When they were selected to play in London, no one could have expected they would be a combined 0-6 heading into this week's game.
"For me, the chance to see a team as storied and famous as the Steelers is a big draw," said Matt Green, 30, who counts the Green Bay Packers as his favourite team. "It'll be interesting to see how a franchise that has been challenging year in, year out will cope with the difficulties they have been facing recently.
"To be honest, I would go regardless of the teams playing. The chance to hang out and chat with so many like-minded NFL fans is one of my favourite parts of the day."
The second game, scheduled for October 27, features two teams that are also struggling. The Jacksonville Jaguars' 0-3 start is not a big surprise, but the reigning NFC champion San Francisco 49ers are unexpectedly 1-2 after two straight losses.
That game is sold out, which bodes well for building the Jaguars' fan base in Britain. Jacksonville has signed up to play one of their home games at Wembley over the next three seasons. London also is talked about as a home for an NFL franchise.