Remember all the hand wringing and loud noises about the NFL’s primetime ratings over the last few months? Well the sky is no longer falling, especially with the schedule the NFL has set in the upcoming weeks. There will be big name teams, playoff race match ups and the Cowboys . . . a lot of the Cowboys.
Everything starts this Thursday with the the Chiefs and the Raiders set to face off for AFC West supremacy. This game wouldn’t be on anyone’s radar in the past few years. Now it is two of the best teams in football. Thursday Night Football should see one of its best ratings numbers of the year, especially with no competition.
Then there is A LOT of Cowboys action, which makes sense on a few levels. First, they are the best team in the NFL right now — at least record wise. They have a national fan base which is a huge draw. There is great young star power in rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot — both of whom should make runs at some NFL awards at the end of the year — and the Cowboys have already been the biggest draw in ratings this year. So the NFL is ending the season with the Cowboys on two consecutive Sunday nights and a Monday night — Week 17 has not been scheduled yet.
The schedule makers are definitely getting things right when we look at other games as well. The Patriots play the Ravens this Monday night. That should bring in a lot more viewers than whatever the number was for last Monday night’s wretched Colts v. Jets game. Week 15’s Monday Night game is Washington v. Carolina. That could still bring viewers in because Washington may be on their last leg of a playoff run. Week 16 has the Cowboys on Monday night, but Sunday — Christmas day — has Pittsburgh v. Baltimore in what could be for the AFC North title, and Kansas City v. Denver in an AFC West playoff match up. Week 17 primetime Sunday Night game will no doubt be either Packers v. Lions for the NFC North title or Giants v. Redskins for an NFC wild card spot.
The problem has always been the product on the field. Yes, the election, oversaturation, cord cutters, and other market factors have influenced the NFL’s drop in ratings, but the product — and competition — on the field was putrid in the beginning of the season. That’s about to change in the upcoming weeks. The ratings will be back up — maybe not to historic levels, but they will jump — and the NFL will point to the late season ratings as a win. If the ratings don’t return, then the NFL will have a real issue.