Start, Sit & London Has Risen
“Start, Sit & Seth” is the original column of In-Between Media, bridging feel-good lifestyle advice with redraft fantasy football analysis. Consistently following Seth Woolcock’s journey as a young creator, this series is now in its fifth season. Join him in this edition as he jumps across the Atlantic discussing NFL international games in 2022, as well as the fantasy football origins of the fans there. He gives his starts and sits for Week 17 to help you nail your fantasy football championships.
Our patriotic tendencies don’t like to admit it, but the U.S. took a lot more than just its independence from the U.K.
We took Edgar Allen Poe from Scotland, Liam Neeson from Northern Ireland and part of the Santa Claus legend from the Dutch. Hell, England alone gave us TV, the internet and – of course – the entire cast of “Harry Potter.”
However, 200-plus years in and we are finally giving back to our country’s birthland in the form of football.
The first NFL International game was held in London’s Wembley Stadium on Oct. 28, 2007. According to ESPN, the game’s first 40,000 tickets sold out in the first 90 minutes.
Roger Goodell and company expanded to two annual London games in 2013 and have held three games there since 2014. With the game’s popularity only continuing to grow, not only in the U.K. but all across Europe, the only question now is: What’s next for our British brothers and sisters?
Finding the Community
To do our best Sherlock Holmes impression and crack this case, we meet Adam Murfet, aka Murf, 37, of Northamptonshire – just more than 70 miles north of England.
He is one of the minds behind 5 Yard Rush and a two-time Amazon best-selling author of “The Fantasy Football Playbook.” In addition to being a correspondent for FantasyPros, Murf is one of the more well-known fantasy football analysts from the U.K.
Though Murf got his first taste of the NFL after moving to Orlando, Fla., during high school in 2000, he credits the London games for increasing awareness and fans. Tom Brady’s first London game in 2009 brought a wave of new fans – as did the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, since viewers didn’t need to commute to work the next day.
“Five years ago, most people in the UK were needing to join random NFL.com leagues or play in leagues with Americans, as they didn’t have 10-12 friends to start a league with,” Murf said in a Dec. 22 Twitter direct message (DM). “Now, the fantasy community is booming, and there is a lot of connectivity and a lot of leagues hosted by pioneers in the U.K. fantasy space.”
Sleepless for the Super Bowl
These pioneers in the U.K. fantasy football community, as Murf describes them are really just that – pioneers. They trudge through their Sundays, wiping their brow, knowing that “NFL Redzone” and seven hours of commercial-free football is just after supper time, kicking off at 6:00 p.m. GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
Night games mean 1:20 a.m. GMT kickoffs for our friends across the pond. But it doesn’t stop U.K. fans from finding a way to catch a primetime game.
Perhaps nobody knows this better than Tom Strachan, 37, of Gateshead, England. Tom’s primary occupation is a TV drama editor, and he serves as a fantasy analyst for Football Outsiders and featured writer for FantasyPros.
“I came across the NFL around 2005 when as a student I had nothing better to do on a Sunday evening than sit in pubs,” Tom said in a Dec. 22 Twitter DM. “One day, there happened to be no football/soccer on, and the NFL was instead. One of the first plays I saw was a kickoff returned for a touchdown, and it caught my interest straight away.”
While at university, his college soccer team would host a Super Bowl party. However, after college, Tom didn’t know any U.K. NFL fans for a while. It was during this time in early 2013 that his Baltimore Ravens made a run to the Super Bowl. Wanting to soak it up, Tom watched it live, trying to keep it down as his wife slept upstairs.
“As the blackout hit, I became increasingly aware I had less than four hours before I had to get up for work,” Tom said. “Nevertheless, I wasn’t about to go to bed. When that clock finally hit zeroes as Sam Koch took an intentional safety. I was euphoric. I couldn’t believe the Ravens had won it all. Two hours later, I had to get up for work. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.”
Aside from his Ravens’ primetime games – causing him to go dark and turn off notifications until he watches the recording the next day – Tom actually enjoys the time difference. With his kids’ bedtimes being at 7 p.m. GMT, Tom watches the majority of games kid-free.
“If they kicked off during the day like in America, I’d be busy taking them to swimming, ballet and cheerleading, so in some ways, it benefits me,” he said.
The Game Inside the Game
This bending to meet kickoff times has certainly instilled a general love for the game across the Commonwealth. Even fans my age, like Liam Humpage, 24, another member of the 5 Yard Rush team, have found their place in the UK NFL community.
Liam began watching the NFL about 10 years ago with his dad, who had some friends who have been watching since the 90s. Five years later, someone in the group mentioned trying fantasy football, so the group did just that, starting a league on NFL.com and giving legs to Liam’s new-found hobby.
Today Liam is one of the founders and organizers of the UK Fantasy Football Collective (UKFFC), an annual fantasy football charity event in the U.K. with the goal of bringing the community together and grow fantasy football in the U.K.
“I feel U.K. fans just love the game,” Liam said in a Dec. 21 Twitter DM. “We have our own team fandoms and, of course, rivalries. But on the most part, we come together so quickly to enjoy the game… Teams do not stop any two fans from coming together in the U.K. Whether it’s going for a drink, watching the game, whatever. The teams you support somewhat become secondary to the game itself.”
The UKFFC held its first-ever event in July, raising more than 2,050 pounds for MIND – an English mental health charity – through a fantasy football draft, raffles and what appeared to be many cheered pints.
You might want to sit down. We told you something big was coming…
Sound on🔊 pic.twitter.com/SgbzouS3Jd
— UK Fantasy Football Collective (@_UKFFC) August 23, 2022
The Demand for More NFL International Games
U.K. fans have been happy to see the NFL putting more of an emphasis on international games, but there is still more work to be done.
“The big thing about games is we never get especially important games, like the latter stages of the regular season or the postseason,” Liam said.
Regardless, U.S. fans can see the electricity and passion flowing through the London stadiums. Having a big rivalry game like the Vikings-Saints this season helped. And having the likes of a legend in Aaron Rodgers and young phenom in Trevor Lawrence playing there also didn’t hurt.
But the fans, rightfully so, are still left wanting more.
“[My hope for the NFL’s future in the U.K. is] to have eight regular season games over here every season,” Murf said. “We have the infrastructure, the fan base and the demand to do it. If we could get half the teams over here for one game a season, that would be truly an incredible thing.”
Murf isn’t alone on his stance for more London games.
“Most U.K. fans don’t want a franchise here, I think that’s a common misconception,” Tom said. “We all have our fandoms and we all aren’t about to switch any time soon. Instead, we’d like the amount of games to grow to the point where most of the regular season, we had a game a week here. “
Other items on the wishlists from fans is to see more U.K.-based games outside of London in cities like Manchester, Newcastle and Cardiff. Apparently, the tailgating also leaves a lot to be desired, partially because of the space around the stadium isn’t as vast as most American stadiums.
Yes, there’s still a ways to go for the NFL in the U.K., but the progressive steps the league is taking to grow the game is certainly helping.
Fan groups and podcasts like the “49ers Faithful UK” have been around for some time, stoking the less proverbial flames of international NFL fandom. Paul Hope, 42, of Middlesbrough, England, is a contributor for the site who notices the wave of U.K. NFL fandom that he’s a part of.
“The vibe has definitely developed from a niche hobby to a more mainstream audience,” he said in a Dec. 22 Twitter DM. “Social media has helped, and fantasy football is huge! We had two watch parties in Leeds [England] this year, and the vibe was awesome. Many non-NFL fans were intrigued and asking us questions.”
“You can tell from the demand for tickets at the London games that the U.K. has a strong taste for NFL, and that interest is only growing year over year,” he said in a Dec. 21 Twitter DM. “But I didn’t realize until this past summer just how big the fantasy community is in the UK.”
Doing Our Part As American Fans
If there was one common theme the U.K. fans deal with, it’s the fear of being stereotyped by U.S. fans for being less knowledgeable because they never played the game.
Instead of questioning the game’s expansion, let’s support it.
If you have the means one day, travel to London, and catch a game with their fans. If they’re anything like the gentlemen featured in this column, they’re sure to treat you with kindness and an unforgettable experience.
This offseason, when seeking out new leagues, maybe ask some fans from the U.K. or other countries to join in. When you have football experiences like attending the NFL Draft, preseason games or The Fantasy Football Expo in football’s birthplace, be grateful and don’t forget about our friends overseas who would love to be there, too.
Next year, let’s complain less about the inconveniences of a London game and make a morning out of it. Fire up the griddle, pour a mimosa or roll something up – however you choose to enjoy your Sunday morning – and take in the sights and sounds of the greatest game on earth being enjoyed afar.
And as for what’s left of the 2022 fantasy football season – this week only for most leagues – soak it in. We’re lucky to have it and be a part of such great communities surrounding it.
Alright, and here we go.
The following start/sit selections are based on stats, trends and film research, reflecting value in Points Per Reception (PPR) Redraft Leagues.
Quarterback I’d Start in Week 17:
Daniel Jones (New York Giants): Daniel Jones has appeared often in “Start, Sit & Seth” this season as my start selection. In the championship, I’m going to dance with who got me here. Jones is the QB10 on the season and has been the QB8 since the Giants’ Week 9 bye.
The Colts have completely fallen apart, especially in the secondary, where they have been the best matchup for opposing WRs over the past month. Additionally, they’re a top-12 matchup for QBs in the last two weeks, month and season. With averaging 41.1 rushing yards per game this season, Jones’ safe floor meets a high ceiling in fantasy football championships.
Quarterback I’d Sit in Week 17:
Geno Smith (Seattle): There aren’t too many defenses I’m running away from playing quarterbacks against at this point. But the New York Jets are one of them. They’ve allowed just three passing TDs and exactly 200 yards per game in the past month. And that’s been against the likes of Josh Allen, Kirk Cousins, Lawrence and Jared Goff – all of whom have been dealing as of late.
Geno Smith has slowed down himself the last few weeks, posting back-to-back sub-15-point performances, despite averaging 42 attempts per game. With Quinnen Williams back nearing 100 percent supplying pressure and D.J. Reed and Sauce Gardner play-off lockdown coverage, I’m avoiding the Seahawks where I can.
Running Back I’d Start in Week 17:
Tyler Allgeier (Atlanta): If there’s been one benefit of Desmond Ridder taking over, it’s been the team leaning on rookie Tyler Allgeier. Allgeier has averaged 20.5 touches with Ridder under center and has back-to-back PPR RB1 performances to show for it.
He faces the hapless Cardinals, who have all but mailed it in for the season. They’ve allowed an average of 128.3 rushing yards over their last three games, with Latavius Murray and Pierre Strong posting season highs in rushing yards and PPR points. With Allgeier coming off a career-high five targets last week, he’s a safe RB2 option with RB1 upside.
Running Back I’d Sit in Week 17:
J.K. Dobbins (Baltimore): Unless J.K. Dobbins has a homerun touchdown play, he will likely bust for fantasy managers. He’s maxed out at 15 touches and a 43 percent snap share since returning from injury in Week 14.
He faces the Steelers’ defense this week that’s been the second stingiest to RBs over the past month and the stingiest in the last two weeks. They just held Josh Jacobs, the PPR RB3 on the season, to six PPR points on 16 touches. Lamar Jackson doesn’t look like he’ll be out there this week, leaving the RBs and Mark Andrews as the only real threats the Steelers need to key in on. The Ravens will likely be conservative with Dobbins and others this week, with an AFC North title-deciding matchup looming with the Bengals in Week 18.
Wide Receiver I’d Start in Week 17:
Allen Lazard (Green Bay): Look, it hasn’t always been great for Allen Lazard this season, but he’s got the job done more times than not. He’s coming off an 11-target game and finds himself in a must-win divisional matchup for the Packers. Christian Watson didn’t practice today, and Aaron Jones logged another limited practice.
Lazard could be the focal point against a Minnesota defense that’s been cooked by WRs, allowing the third-most PPR points in the last month and the most on the season to the position. With a trip to the playoffs still within reach for the Packers, I’m betting on the back-t0-back NFL MVP, Rodgers, to key in on his No. 1 option when it matters most.
Wide Receiver I’d Sit in Week 17:
Adam Thielen (Minnesota): It’s almost as if Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry has been reading this column, as he has finally been deploying his secondary more effectively. This includes having Jaire Alexander follow opposing teams’ No. 1 options and allowing CBs Rasul Douglas, Keisean Nixon and Rudy Ford to make plays on the ball.
As a result, the Packers have become the 11th worst matchup for WRs over the past month – allowing just one TD to them in that span. That doesn’t bode well for Adam Thielen, who’s scored double-digit PPR points only twice this season in games he hasn’t scored. With tight end T.J. Hockenson seeing an average of 7.3 targets since joining the Vikings and 16 last week, there isn’t enough volume for Thielen to have steady production.
If you have a feel-good story that you would like to share for an opportunity to be featured in an upcoming edition of “Start, Sit & Seth,” please reach out.
And for more fantasy football playoff and uplifting content, especially start/sit advice, you can find me on Twitter @Between_SethFF.