Watered-down NFL sees ratings drop greatly

By Steve Sell
December 15, 2017

A report came out Thursday that indicated NFL TV viewership is down.

Way down.

According to the report, last Sunday’s thrilling game between division rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore, which the Steelers won 39-38 as Ben Roethlisberger threw for more than 500 yards, drew 17.2 million viewers. That number was down a stunning 35 percent from last year’s Sunday night game for the same week, a matchup of Dallas and the New York Giants.

CBS’ weekend games were down 27 percent. ESPN’s game also was down substantially, with Fox the only network to have a positive with a 6 percent increase.

For the year, NFL viewership is down 10 percent. But it’s still the No. 1 sport, though the NBA is starting to gain ground and even baseball, despite its slow pace, is showing signs of coming back.

There’s a simple theory to me — the NFL just isn’t very good this year. It’s watered down and there’s a lot of parity.

There have been some great stories as many teams that have been down have made a meteoric rise, such as Philadelphia, Jacksonville, the Los Angeles Rams and Minnesota Vikings. But fans haven’t warmed up to those teams, maybe just because they get little national time as their games mostly are watched on a regional basis.

When you look at the AFC, it’s New England and Pittsburgh and then everybody else. It will be a shock if those teams aren’t playing for the AFC title as they are head and shoulders above the rest. There are some really bad teams, including the comical Cleveland Browns, who probably are going to go 0-16..

In the NFC, it never helps when Dallas is not very good. The Cowboys are just a game over .500 and will have to about win out to make it, plus get some help. Dallas still carries a lot of star power with viewers, but it can’t seem to get out of its own way.

Then factor in that troubled running back Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended for six games and the league has figured out quarterback Dak Prescott and suddenly Dallas looks very pedestrian.

And where are all the superstars? Lots of great players have been injured and some, like Indy’s star quarterback Andrew Luck, haven’t played a down. Aaron Rodgers is coming back, so ratings for Green Bay should go up this week as the Packers haven’t been watchable without him. And with Carson Wentz now out for the year, the Eagles’ Super Bowl chances have dimmed somewhat, though Nick Foles is OK.

Finally, NFL fans have voiced their displeasure with the players kneeling for the National Anthem, though the story has gone away the last few weeks. Still, there were enough protestors to move the needle downward.

Maybe all will be forgotten if we have some great playoff games. And no matter what, you know the Super Bowl will still be the most watched event on television, just like it always is.