London rebound: 2016 NFL games were actually good

Andy Dalton had 284 yards and a touchdown in the Bengals' 27-27 tie with Washington on Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London. AP Photo/Tim Ireland

Week 8 marked the conclusion of the NFL's 2016 tripleheader in London, and here is the most genuine assessment I can make: The trans-Atlantic games were the least of the league's concerns in this troubled season.

As usual for the NFL International Series, the league's best teams remained stateside. Only one of the six participants this season arrived in London with a winning record. The Washington Redskins were 4-3 upon arriving and maintained their above-.500 record by managing a 27-27 tie with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Regardless, all three games were decided by one score, and Sunday's matchup -- the first-ever overtime game in London -- was riveting before getting bogged down late. Call it a "progression to the mean" -- and don't get on for making clueless data jokes.

So with one game remaining on the NFL's 2016 out-of-country schedule, a Week 11 game in Mexico City, let's take stock of the league's efforts across the pond. The key numbers are listed in the chart.

1. If you like offense, you probably weren't disappointed. Four of the six teams scored above the NFL's average of 22.7 points per game. Three of the six gained more than the league average of 355.5 yards per game.

Fantasy was a different story, however. There were no 100-yard rushers, and the only 300-yard passer (the Redskins' Kirk Cousins) came courtesy of Sunday's overtime affair. The same is true for 100-yard receivers: There were three Sunday -- the Bengals' A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, and the Redskins' Jamison Crowder -- and none in the others.

2. If you're repulsed by sloppy play, a hallmark of the NFL's games in London, you saw some bad pockets mixed into an otherwise normal NFL spread.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Case Keenum threw four interceptions, and his teammates put the ball on the ground another four times. Four of the six teams involved committed more penalties, and lost more yards via those fouls, than the league average.

3. If you like competitive games, you got your fill. Entering this season, the NFL's London games had been decided by an average score of 32-17. In 2016, it was 24-21.

The Indianapolis Colts staged a comeback from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit in the first game before losing 30-27 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Rams and New York Giants were tied at the start of the fourth quarter in Week 7, and Sunday's Week 8 game featured two lead changes in the fourth quarter -- along with a game-tying field goal with 1:07 remaining.

(We'll leave out Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins' 34-yard FG miss in overtime to avoid clouding this relatively rosy analysis.)

4. It was fascinating to hear the number -- or at least the volume -- of Bengals fans on the Fox broadcast at Sunday's game. The franchise isn't remotely one of the NFL's most popular, having ranked a composite No. 25 in the annual Harris Poll that measures team fandom over the past 15 years. If nothing else, this development suggests a deepening of NFL knowledge and interest from overseas.

Oh, and attendance Sunday broke an NFL record in London: 84,488. In total, the three games -- two at Wembley Stadium and one at Twickenham Stadium -- drew 242,373 fans.

5. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has ramped up relocation rhetoric as the league fine-tunes and streamlines its game operations. Earlier this month, Goodell told BBC: "We want a team to play here and compete on the same level as you could if you were in the States. I'm getting more confident in that because we're looking at the challenges, and we're finding solutions for them."

Travel and other logistics still seem a significant obstacle, at least until the aerospace industry resurrects supersonic flight, and NFL officials said this year that they don't expect a feasibility decision for at least another six years. A cynic might suggest that London is merely taking the place of Los Angeles as the "open" market the NFL uses as leverage for franchises seeking new stadiums.

But there has been without question a normalization of such discussion and a steady move from a position of "impossible" to "maybe." As Goodell himself told the BBC: "I expect we'll see more games here and, who knows, maybe a franchise someday."