JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It took three years, but the Jacksonville Jaguars finally found a formula that works for their annual trip to London.
Instead of spending a week overseas, as they did in 2013-14, the Jaguars left Thursday evening and will spend just three days in London. They tried it last season and posted their first victory in the United Kingdom, so they are sticking with it.
"You take some of that into account, that you went over and had some success," coach Gus Bradley said. "I think just going through it, we really wanted to take different options. Leaving on a Sunday, leave on a Monday, leave on a Thursday and then just talk to our players about how they felt and how their bodies responded going into the game, not after the game.
"For us, for our team, we felt like Thursday was the better option. Now, every team is different from where they travel and how they respond. For us, we felt like this gave us the best for our players."
This is the fourth year in a row the Jaguars are making the overseas trip. In 2013, the team left the Monday before the game. The following season they played a road game in Cincinnati and left for London immediately after that game. The Jaguars lost both of those games by a combined 46 points.
That played a role in the team’s decision to leave on Thursday last year. The Jaguars beat Buffalo 34-31 -- after blowing a 27-3 lead and winning on Blake Bortles’ 39-yard touchdown pass to Allen Hurns with 2:16 remaining -- and that pretty much cemented the plan for 2016.
The experiences of the past three seasons, and especially 2015, might give them an advantage over Indianapolis, which is making its first trip overseas. All but 12 of the non-rookies on the Jaguars’ 53-man roster have made the trip at some point, and that familiarity is very helpful.
"A bunch of guys in this locker room do have experience going over to London and playing over there," said left guard Luke Joeckel, who is making his third trip to London (he didn’t go as a rookie because of a broken ankle). "I don’t know how many guys on their team have that experience. … We know what it’s like. We know it’s a long flight. It’s a little bit of a grind when you get over there, but I don’t know if it’s an advantage."
It would certainly seem to be in terms of how the players handle the travel and understanding how their bodies will respond on Friday and Saturday, especially when it comes to the approximately nine-hour flight.
London is five hours ahead of Jacksonville, so when the Jaguars arrived at 7 a.m. local time, the players’ bodies are still functioning as if it’s 2 a.m. ET. That’s why the coaching and training staff is making it mandatory that the players sleep approximately an hour into the flight. Otherwise, they won’t get enough sleep.
"I know on Friday, they feel a little bit sluggish," Bradley said. "On Saturday they feel a little bit better, but Sunday is the day you are concerned about and they all felt pretty good last year."
That’s something that most of the Colts players will be experiencing for the first time, yet receiver T.Y. Hilton doesn’t think that’s a big deal.
"We have a couple guys on our team that have played there before, so they have told us about it," Hilton said. "The atmosphere, the plane ride, playing there, and the different times. I think they told us what we need to know."