IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys may once again be bound for London next season, but they'll have to wait until the end of this season to know for sure.
The NFL announced its 2016 International Series schedule on Wednesday morning, introducing three matchups to be played in London next fall. This year's schedule comes with a unique quirk, though, as only five of the six teams have been announced.
Two games are set in stone. The Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Indianapolis Colts at Wembley Stadium in Week 4, and the Cincinnati Bengals will host the Washington Redskins at Twickenham Stadium in Week 8.
The quirk comes in between those two, for the Week 7 matchup. The St. Louis Rams will host a Week 7 game at Twickenham Stadium on Oct. 23, but the identity of that team remains unknown. The Rams' opponent will be an NFC East team, but who exactly won't be determined until the end of the regular season, when the league standings are final.
The reason has to do with the NFL's scheduling formula. Each season, every league division plays an entire NFC division and an entire AFC division. Those eight games, combined with six division games comprise 14 of 16 regular season games. The remaining two games are filled by matching up teams who finished in the same standing within their respective conference.
To clarify: the Cowboys will play the entire NFC North and the entire AFC North in 2016. On top of that, they'll play six division games against their NFC East rivals. Their final two games will be against the NFC West and NFC South teams that finish in the same place as the Cowboys within their division.
If Dallas and St. Louis finish in the same order this year, the Cowboys will be off to London for the second time in three years. They played Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium last fall, downing the Jaguars, 31-17, in the process.
The Philadelphia Eagles have never played a game in London, so they could face their first opportunity to play in the International Series should they draw the St. Louis game. The Giants played the Dolphins in the first game of the International Series, way back in 2007.
Interestingly enough, the Redskins could become the first NFL team to play back-to-back London games if they finish in the same order as the Rams. Washington is slated to play the Bengals in Week 8, so it's possible they could play two-straight games overseas.
The matchup will be determined at the conclusion of the regular season, when division pecking order is finalized.