The first of four NFL games in London will take place on Sunday when the Chicago Bears take on the Oakland Raiders in the brand-new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Home to the Tottenham Hotspur F.C. of the Premier League, this will be the first American football game in the 62,000-seat soccer stadium, which officially opened in April. This venue also will host Carolina vs. Tampa Bay in Week 6 with the two other games in London set to be played in Wembley Stadium in Weeks 8 and 9.
This will be just the second London appearance for the Bears (they defeated Tampa Bay in 2011), while the Raiders are making this trip for the fifth time (1-3 record). Chicago (3-1) has been on a roll as of late. The Bears have won three in a row, including last week's domination of the Minnesota Vikings, after starting the season with a frustrating loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Bears are tied with their archrivals for first place in the NFC North, and they can grab the top spot for themselves with a win and a Packers loss to Dallas later Sunday afternoon.
Oakland (2-2) broke a two-game losing streak last week by holding off a fourth-quarter rally by the Indianapolis Colts. The Raiders are tied with the Los Angeles Chargers for second place in the AFC West, as both teams trail the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.
NFL International Series: Chicago vs. Oakland
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. ET
Where: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (London, England)
Spread: Bears -5.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Who will be available for the Bears?
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was pulled from the Vikings game early in the first quarter after suffering a dislocated left (non-throwing) shoulder and a partially torn labrum. He'll fly with the team to London (with his arm in a sling), but head coach Matt Nagy says, "He's going to end up most likely missing this game." It won't be a surprise if that is the case, but backup Chase Daniel (22-of-30 passing for 195 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota) is more than ready to start under center. What the Bears haven't done yet is elevate Tyler Bray from the practice squad to serve as Daniel's backup, a move that should be announced soon.
Linebacker Roquan Smith returned to practice on Wednesday after being pulled from last week's game right before kickoff for unspecified personal reasons. Nagy says that Smith "is day-to-day," but the second-year linebacker from Georgia told the media on Wednesday, "I will play Sunday." When asked directly about what led to Sunday's removal from the field, Smith responded, "Like coach said, it was a personal reason." Both Smith and the team have refused to dive into details, but reports say that there was concern for Smith's well being heading into last week's game. Nick Kwiatkoski (10 tackles, sack, forced fumble) will be ready to start for Smith again if needed.
Defensive ends Akiem Hicks (knee) and Bilal Nichols (hand), along with linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe (hamstring) have not practiced this week and are currently listed as questionable. Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion) and offensive lineman Ted Larsen (knee) have not only been ruled out for Sunday's game, but they won't even travel with the team. Kyle Long (hip) returned to practice this week, albeit in a limited fashion, while kicker Eddy Pineiro (knee) returned to full practice sessions. The Bears have proved that they have the depth and talent to fill in for injured players when called upon.
2. Khalil Mack's reunion tour
Sunday will mark the first time that Mack has faced his former team since the Raiders traded him to the Bears last September. As soon as Mack arrived in Chicago, he was given a six-year contract extension worth $141 million, the richest contract in team history. Mack missed all of training camp and the preseason in 2018 as he sought a new contract. But the Raiders decided to let Mack go rather than give him a long-term deal. Raiders fans have been questioning that move ever since, as their pass rush hasn't been the same without him (the Raiders have posted just 18 sacks since the trade).
During his four seasons in the Bay Area (2014-17), Mack registered 304 tackles, 73 tackles for a loss, 40.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, one interception, one defensive touchdown, and 11 pass deflections. He also made three straight Pro Bowl appearances in a Raiders uniform (2015, '16, '17), earned two All-Pro selections (2015, '16), and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2016). Rest assured that Mack is looking forward to getting after Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, his former teammate.
3. Derek Carr gives the Raiders a chance to win
Speaking of Mack's former teammate, Carr ranks third in the league in completion percentage (72.1), he's tied for fifth in touchdown passes (6), and he ranks in the top 15 in passer rating (96.7). Carr is averaging 222 passing yards per game, averages close to seven yards per attempt, and has 888 passing yards on the season. He gets a huge assist from running back Josh Jacobs (307 rushing yards, 57 receiving yards, 2 TDs), wide receiver Tyrell Williams (17 receptions, 216 yards, 4 TDs), and tight end Darren Waller (33, 320). The Raiders will likely be without linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who is facing a season-long suspension for his latest helmet-to-helmet hit (he's appealing the ruling). But fellow linebacker Tahir Whitehead (team-leading 25 tackles and 3.5 TFL) and defensive end Benson Mayowa (team-leading 3.5 sacks) are there to lead this defense.
The Raiders have lost on their last two trips across the pond, but they've split their last two meetings with the Bears. Chicago, however, has posted a 4-1 record in its last five games against the AFC West (outscoring the division 93-87). Oakland, on the other hand, has lost its last five games against NFC North opposition (they've been outscored 134-81). Carr will throw a couple of touchdown passes in London, but the Bears defense will win out in the end.
Prediction: Bears 24, Raiders 20
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.